As red, white, and blue fireworks burst into the sky Monday night, politics may not come first for most people.
Yet a disrupted partisan age undeniably permeates everyone’s lives.
Another example of startling political disruption: An activist Supreme Court, protected behind tall metal fences in its marble rooms in Washington, has just taken away millions of women’s constitutional rights to abortion. The decision confirms a half-century campaign by conservative activists, many of whom have genuine moral objections to abortion, equating them with the murder of an unborn child.
More reasons for gloom
Social tensions are exacerbated by economic pressures.
Gun crime in cities is a reminder of a more violent past, and every Monday brings a grim account of the weekend’s mass shootings.
The shadow of Trump’s violent coup attempt hangs over the country.
A flurry of voting restrictions in many conservative-led states and the GOP’s refusal to renew voting rights legislation hint at a poisoned era of racial repression. Liberals who once dreamed of a new Franklin Roosevelt are dissatisfied with the results of their petty monopoly on political power in Biden’s Washington. But their radicalism also threatens to alienate the critical middle ground of voters who should be up for grabs if the GOP ducks to the right.
Incredibly, the country is struggling to make enough infant formula to feed its babies — and has to fly emergency supplies from abroad — a metaphor if there ever was one for a time when things just don’t seem to be going quite right.
A deeply divided nation
Almost every day there is a controversy or political struggle that underscores the contradiction between more moderate, diverse and socially tolerant American cities and suburbs and the conservatism of rural America.
Many leaders on both sides of the aisle are accentuating differences for political gain, only adding to the sense of anger sweeping across the country. Elected leaders who want to bring people of differing views together are an endangered species.
For those who think about politics, each side of the divide increasingly sees each other as an existentialist threat to their idea of America — a rift of perception demonstrated in recent weeks especially by the struggle between pro- and anti-abortion rights advocates.
On the right, disillusionment with the administration itself — which has fueled Trump’s rise and is exacerbated by its electoral fraud lies — is a driving force in a Republican party that is giving up democracy.
On the left, more and more people see a Supreme Court openly ignoring majority opinion as illegitimate. The Supreme Court was once seen as above the partisan flames. But even his judges have been caught up in a wave of anger, with sniping more characteristic of social media than Supreme Court opinions. During pleas for the historic annulment of Roe v. Wade last month, Liberal Judge Sonia Sotomayor wondered if the court could survive the stench of taking away abortion rights. In his majority view that did just that, Judge Samuel Alito reveled in dismissing the reasoning behind Roe as “very wrong.”
The Supreme Court was once seen as a moderating force for stability. But in its newfound zeal to tear up precedents, the conservative majority has turned it into yet another destabilizing force in society.
Reasons for hope
So what reasons are there for hope on this Independence Day? Biden insists that things aren’t as bad as they seem, and tries to fulfill that part of a president’s duties that puts the country to the test.
“You haven’t found one person, one world leader, who says America is going backwards,” the president insisted as he completed a visit to Europe last week.
“America is better positioned to lead the world than we’ve ever been. We have the strongest economy in the world. Our inflation rates are lower than in other countries around the world,” he said, sparing the truth. to the peak in inflation he once rejected.
Biden obviously has an interest in presenting things in a better light than they are, especially as the midterm elections approach, with Democrats likely to suffer from his less than 40% approval rating.
But it’s not all darkness. Biden has steered the United States out of the depths of the pandemic recession. Prices may be high and wage increases necessitate, but unemployment is at its lowest point in 50 years. This could cushion the impact of a recession that many experts fear.
Washington may not be as irreparably broken as it seems. Since last year, Republicans and Democrats have teamed up to pass a massive new law that will restore the country’s aging infrastructure — a task the recent presidents dodged before Biden. And after a deal between Republicans and Democrats, the Senate passed one of the most sweeping firearms safety laws in a generation. The measure would fall far short of pleas from grieving relatives of the victims of mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas. But it was a sign that even in this brutal political climate, incremental change shaped by political institutions is not impossible.
For the first time in two decades, Americans are not waging major wars abroad. And Biden’s leadership of the West in resisting the Russian invasion of Ukraine is arguably the most important show of American global leadership since the Cold War.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former Trump White House aide, shamed many more senior colleagues by showing how one person can stand up for the truth with her televised testimony before the House committee investigating the Capitol insurgency.
And if the majority of the country that didn’t want Roe back wants an example of turning demoralizing defeat into eventual victory, they can look to the anti-abortion movement’s years of activism to see how political change can be forged. by generations of activists who remain committed to the cause.
Because on July 4, America still has a democratic political system that can be molded by the people.
At least it does for now.