We The People: When Did This Happen?


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The battle between the right and the left is nothing new, and “We the People” have been a nation divided over many issues. 

But is it the same now, or even worse than in years past?  And what issues caused us to be so divided?

Our political analyst, Dr. Brian Calfano, took a closer look.

We all recall from history class that Americans haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, but the past shows an ebb and flow in national disagreement.

The first big split was on the decision to fight for our freedom from the British.

Then, after Washington D.C. burned to the ground in 1812, President Monroe helped usher in an era of good feelings and political agreement that extended through Andrew Jackson’s years in the White House.

The national debate over slavery picked up steam in 1848, leading to the Civil War and our worst period of internal strife.

Southern reconstruction and industrial expansion in the late 19th century, followed by the war to end all wars, made our political differences pale in comparison to these seminal events.

But beneath the surface, racial and economic disparities punctuated our national harmony, even before the onset of national media coverage on radio and television.

The great depression consolidated political power behind Franklin Roosevelt’s Democratic party, and World War II and the Cold War meant that, for the first time, Americans looked beyond their shores on a daily basis.

But, the politicization of abortion, gun laws and gay rights, and Ronald Reagan’s success in ending the Cold War combined to form the political context we inhabit today.

I’m talking about the hyper-partisan, blame the other side for everything approach to governing.

Missouri’s Republican Senator Roy Blunt weights in with his perspective.

“Just because I can find things with Democrats that I can get done, that doesn’t mean that that’s the normal way that people are able to work in Washington today,” Blunt said.

Without a broader sense of national purpose, like defeating Communism, politicians and party leaders have discovered that going all out to demonize political opponents is a great substitute for a sense of national purpose.

If there’s any comfort here, it’s that we’ve been divided before. And though we haven’t been this polarized in a long time, at least we’re aware that things are moving too far in this caustic direction, which means we the people can do something about it.

“We need to get back to where the daily work of the government is done in a bipartisan way,” Blunt said. “Doesn’t mean the minority wins every day, but it means they might occasionally get an amendment. They certainly get to make their case, and we’re not seeing that now.” 

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