What we need is a president who wants to do the hard, necessary work of uniting.
NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE ‘I voted for Obama twice and Hillary once. But I tell you, I’m going to vote for that knucklehead Donald Trump again.” My Uber driver made that declaration without much of an invitation. We were passing protesters in Midtown Manhattan. As best I can tell, they were protesting inhuman work hours. The few protesters who weren’t wearing masks were Asian, so I’m going to take a not-so-wild guess and assume they were protesting a Chinese company with offices in the building. We are well aware of slave labor and worse in China. But my Uber driver didn’t really care what they were protesting — he only saw “woke.” He feels powerless and fed up.
The outburst took me down memory lane. The first time Donald Trump ran for president, I would make it a point to talk with everyone I could. Often, they themselves would bring up the elections. Muslims, Mexicans, black, immigrants — all were saying some version of the same: They were fed up. I would hear some version of: Donald Trump doesn’t care, he will take on the media and everyone else. They felt as if the American dream they so loved was fading — the chance for a better life, compared with the homeland they had fled for one reason or another.
That’s one of the reasons I recoiled when President Joe Biden kept attacking not only Donald Trump, but MAGA Republicans. I agree with him that the Republican Party right now continues to be dominated and intimidated by Trump. I agree with him that Trump’s behavior since the election he lost is reprehensible (not for the first time, but on a whole new level). I stand chastened, having early on in the primary in 2016 thought that Republicans would get their act together and surely reject Trump. I just thought Americans were too decent to elect him.
But there are many decent Americans who voted for Trump. And who probably will again if he wins the Republican nomination again. And Biden is responsible for some of that.
In a speech in which he claimed to be seeking to unite America, he talked about abortion and contraception. Yes, I am a Catholic who believes that a lot of Church teaching can help women as well as men. In fact, there are people on the left, feminists, who are increasingly finding that the sexual revolution lied to women and hurt them. (See Louise Perry’s The Case against the Sexual Revolution: A New Guide to Sex in the 21st Century.) But no one in politics is seriously trying to take anyone’s contraception away. Biden insists that abortion is necessary to move forward. Well, if you want to unite our country, you might acknowledge that many Americans believe that opposition to abortion is about following the science, something he told us to do throughout Covid. You might acknowledge that more than a few of us believe that abortion is the human-rights issue of our lifetimes. Instead, Biden insists America is at an “inflection point,” comparing abortion to abolition, women’s suffrage, and the civil-rights movement. How about acknowledging that there are some fundamental disagreements in the United States today? And the only way to unite, is to find places to meet: common ground for people of goodwill.
Biden rebuked Trump (rightly) for insisting that he won in 2020. But Biden is insisting that there is only one American way. You can’t undo anger by insisting we have to be a country that embraces abortion — making us an outlier in the world, in the company of China and North Korea. (Speaking of China.)
And that contraception canard is an underhanded way to pledge to trample on the conscience rights of people who disagree with him — on contraception and marriage and confusing children about their identities and even doing them harm, pressuring parents to make medical decisions no one is ready for.
I want a United States of America, too. But we’re not going to have one until we have leaders who actually believe in pluralism.
Just the day after I met the Uber driver who told me that he was radicalized by the Covid shutdowns and the vaccine mandates, I talked with a man who explained how his pious, prayerful mother was also ready to vote for Donald Trump again. The more Joe Biden insists on being the most extreme version of himself on issues that divide, the more he is setting the stage for Trump’s comeback.
Wouldn’t it be something to have a president — Democrat or Republican — who clearly respected people who disagree with him, recognizing that he is their president, too? That’s the kind of president we should pray for, “for the soul of America.” Neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump is that person.
This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.