Can Division in America Be a Good Thing?

Can Division in America Be a Good Thing?

Every president wants to be the “one” who unites the country. But, maybe the country doesn’t need uniting; at least, not in the way we think about unity.

Our form of government was designed for debate, confrontation, and persuasion. It’s designed to create a consensus, or a majority, in agreement upon something.

America has always been divided; is that necessarily a bad thing?

Every division in American history has led to something exceptional about America.

Divisions in American History

In every period of America’s history, there have been major divisions:

  • The US Constitution could not be passed without gerrymandering.
  • Maryland and Virginia had cannons pointed at one another in the early 1800s to protect their trade interests.
  • The Civil War was fought over deep divisions regarding slavery and states rights issues.
  • The women’s suffrage movement over women’s right to vote, run for office, and work lasted from 1848 until the 1920s.
  • The Great Depression led to a division between the poor and middle working-class and big business.
  • The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
  • There were major protests over the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Political partisanship increased after Watergate and President Nixon’s resignation.
  • Political divisions increased after President Clinton’s election(s) and impeachment.
  • The Obama era saw divisions around income inequality, race, big government programs, the Tea Party movement, and a quickly expanding global trade network.
  • The Trump era is experiencing deep political partisanship that has led to impeachment by the House of Representatives, the strongest economy in decades, a return to nationalism, and the decoupling of globalism.

Divisions Today

Yes, America is divided.

We’re divided by income, where we live, where we worship or don’t worship, by age, education levels, and political beliefs.

We’re divided on social issues such as education, immigration, LGTBQ, and abortion.

We’re divided politically about what to do with healthcare, college education and debt, and how to pay for retirement in a changing economic world.

We’re divided over what is corruption in government and what is not corruption.

These divisions are deep and they are real. It seems we don’t agree on much of anything. Demographers and economists warn that polarization is defining the present and the future. However, as the historical events above demonstrate, we’ve always been polarized and divided.

The truth is that America has been through worse times than its currently experiencing.

If America Is So Flawed, Why Is it Exceptional?

America is a work in progress. It’s the greatest experiment in the history of the world and no other nation has ever accomplished as much for its people in such a short period of time.

Yet, it’s flawed and imperfect. The framers recognized that in the preamble of the Constitution, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”

We are chasing perfection with a realization that we may never be perfect, but we can be exceptional. America’s divisions have helped us do what other nations have not: correct our mistakes and flaws and make life better for every American.

In each case above, America was made stronger while going through the pain of the moment. It’s easy to see the negativity in isolation without the full picture. Perspective is everything.

Landmarks of Improvements

For example, today, women can do what women a hundred years ago could not. This includes getting the same education as men, competing for the same jobs, and pursuing their own dreams as they see fit.

Ten years ago, could anyone have imagined a black man named Barack Obama could be elected President of the United States? Conservatives shouldn’t agree with his policies but should appreciate how far the country has come as he shattered a glass ceiling as the first black president of the United States.

Today, the economy is the best it has been in decades thanks to conservative policies put in place by Trump. Bad global deals are being reworked and America is benefiting from sound conservative, fiscal policies. Does everyone agree? No, but they can’t deny the results.

There will always be divisions and challenges to overcome.

In our pursuit of perfection, American’s don’t need to be told they are exceptional. America is exceptional because we believe ourselves to be so as we strive to “form a more perfect union” in spite of our divisions.

Division is where we derive our strength from and it’s what makes us exceptional.

By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor

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