Crippling Division

Division and hostility pervade American politics. The timing couldn’t be worse.

George Orwell once said, “In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia” (Politics and the English Language). Critics of Orwell’s statement need only look at the present state of American politics to see its truth.

Divisions within the U.S. government are becoming more vicious. Politicians from both major parties are increasingly expressing unwarranted criticism, blind bias, arrogance and even hatred for those they oppose. Crude and offensive remarks are commonplace. Politicians have grown more passionate and personal in their assassination of opponents’ character and principles.

Former members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, say the political atmosphere is worse than ever and has become so poisonous and hostile that it is actually hurting the government’s ability to manage crises.

Timothy Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana, said, “There is not only a poisonous partisan attitude in Washington, but it seems to be paralyzing Congress from acting on some of the most important national security, economic and energy-related issues facing Americans. … It is more divisive than I have seen in my 20 years in Washington” (Washington Times, June 27).

The American government is under intense pressure from many varying forces, including terrorism and natural disasters. Of all the problems it faces, however, internal division is the most debilitating—and unnecessary.

Retired New Hampshire senator Warren Rudman recently highlighted the growing wedge between the Republicans and Democrats: “There is a lack of trust and a lack of collegiality between people. I saw it on occasion when I was in the Senate, but nothing like it is now. The whole atmosphere has changed. You walk onto the Senate floor and in many ways it’s like walking into a fire pit, literally” (ibid., June 30). This is an embarrassing condemnation of the state of American politics.

“Washington seems to be totally immersed in a ‘gotcha’ kind of gamesmanship that is not in any way conducive to finding solutions to these kinds of problems,” stated former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta. “Everybody is locked in this battle for power, as opposed to any effort to govern the country. When I go to Washington and talk to my former colleagues on both sides of the aisle, they don’t see any effort to try to deal with these major issues. It is really all about how you can beat the other side” (ibid.; emphasis mine).

The disunity among Washington’s politicians was further exposed by Hurricane Katrina. The catastrophe was an opportunity for both parties to unify in leadership—to set aside personal and party interests and work together for the good of the Gulf Coast and the nation. Instead, the conduct of both parties exacerbated the festering wedge of disunity between them. While Democrats exploited Katrina as an opportunity to kneecap Republican leadership, many Republicans circumvented accountability and largely ignored criticism.

Selfishness and personal bias are increasingly becoming the pervading attitudes. Too many politicians care more about “assassinating” each other than about destroying terrorists and others that threaten national security. Too many pay more attention to handicapping and shredding the opposing party than about establishing and maintaining a prosperous, free and safe America.

These problems are particularly on parade before elections. Remember the hostile atmosphere surrounding the 2004 presidential race: Over a period of months, politicians from both parties worked tirelessly—and expensively—to tear down the character, in addition to the policies, of their opponents. Using the media as their primary instruments of brutality, they fired verbal assaults, gashed open old wounds, and peppered television screens with openly hostile commercials.

Charles Krauthammer summed up American election politics this way: “[E]very two years the American politics industry fills the airwaves with the most virulent, scurrilous, wall-to-wall character assassination of nearly every political practitioner in the country—and then declares itself puzzled that America has lost trust in its politicians” (Chicago Tribune, Oct. 28, 1994).

Robert Reischauer, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, pointed out the part the media plays in this. “There has been a steady deterioration in the level of discourse and the standards of politeness that are used in discussion. The participants don’t seem to care what their opponents think of them as politicians and individuals,” he said. “Part of it quite frankly is attributable to the media. To glean the attention of the media, you have to shout louder and have more extreme views” (Washington Times, June 27).

This torrent of hostility, divisiveness and arrogance among America’s politicians is sweeping away the government’s effectiveness. The United States faces a stinging leadership crisis, and it is hurting the health of the nation.

Divided We Fall

Over 2,500 years ago, the Prophet Amos highlighted the importance of unity in leadership to the health of any nation, community or family. Consider, in light of the present condition of America’s government, his statement—“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3).

The U.S. government was designed with a checks-and-balances system in order to foster fair and equitable government—but this has made the very nature of American politics one of opposition, criticism, debate and compromise.

Strong, fair and righteous leadership is increasingly difficult to find in America. This leadership crisis is described in Isaiah 3: “For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away … the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator” (verses 1-3). Our leaders have degenerated to a child’s level in judgments and decisions. “And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them” (verse 4).

Isn’t this an apt analogy? Politicians are becoming more childish in more ways than one. Seeing our nation’s leaders lambast one another with childish names and personal abuses—doesn’t this remind you of children arguing?

A leadership crisis is the last thing that America needs right now. The nation faces a mounting tally of internal and external crises. To face these, the government needs to be more united, stable and efficient than ever. Instead, political dissent is only intensifying.

The selfish nature within humans is the foundational cause of this leadership crisis. The conduct of our leaders and politicians is simply a manifestation of the carnal nature inherent within all humans. Until this inherent selfishness is banished, American politics will grow increasingly hostile and disunited.

Our free book The Incredible Human Potential reveals the source of human nature. It also discusses the only way this carnal influence can be removed. It reveals that the time is quickly approaching when politics will be conducted, at long last, with a prevailing spirit of unity, agreement and love.