Don­ald Trump, the great uniter?

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - KATH­LEEN PARKER kath­leen­parker@wash­

Even the least pop­u­lar pres­i­dents some­times do great things.

What might Don­ald Trump’s great thing be? He has uni­fied a di­vided na­tion.

He has brought Repub­li­cans and Democrats to­gether as only just wars can. He’s brought women, sci­en­tists, mi­nori­ties, teach­ers, jour­nal­ists, pro­fes­sors — and no, they’re not all lib­eral — out of their fa­vorite lap­top seats and moved them to march, protest and, most im­por­tant, run for pub­lic of­fice.

The pink-capped Women’s March is fa­mil­iar to all but the dead. On Earth Day in April, sci­en­tists around the world staged ral­lies to protest Trump’s ap­par­ent lack of in­ter­est in re­search­backed facts.

A few prom­i­nent con­ser­va­tives — Post colum­nists George F. Will and Joe Scar­bor­ough among them — have left the GOP, while Democrats have of­fered to take dras­tic ac­tion.

A ma­jor­ity say they would for­swear drink­ing for life if it would mean Trump’s im­peach­ment, ac­cord­ing to a story in the Hill. This seems a tad ex­ces­sive, though given the in­creased al­co­hol con­sump­tion (anec­do­tally) since Trump took of­fice, a long-term wagon ride might be just what the doc­tor would or­der. Re­lat­edly, if not causatively, Ne­vada nearly ran out of mar­i­juana prod­ucts a few days af­ter the state le­gal­ized recre­ational use.

When have so many Amer­i­cans of so many stripes been so united in a shared mis­sion? And, no, Woodstock doesn’t count.

Other gifts from the pres­i­dent in­clude an in­creased na­tional in­ter­est in pol­i­tics, civic par­tic­i­pa­tion and elec­toral of­fice. Trump’s name seems to be on the tip of ev­ery­one’s tongue, even among those who have never ex­pressed any in­ter­est in pol­i­tics. Chris Clark, an artist in this moun­tain vil­lage, echoed the sen­ti­ments one hears sev­eral times on any given day. “I’m ob­sessed with the news,” he told me dur­ing a re­cent visit to his gallery.

“All I do is watch TV now,” he said, laugh­ing. “It’s like watch­ing a train wreck, you can’t look away. It’s hard to go to work, re­ally!”

Mean­while, count­less Repub­li­cans and Democrats and in­de­pen­dents, the non­po­lit­i­cal, as well as sci­en­tists, teach­ers and, sure, a freshly em­bold­ened out­lier class (Jay-Z?), are con­sid­er­ing run­ning for pub­lic of­fice, a goal pre­vi­ously not on the radar.

A newly formed po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee — 314 Ac­tion — is urg­ing sci­en­tists to “Get Elected” and of­fers help with fund­ing and lo­gis­tics. Hun­dreds have signed up. Sim­i­larly, Silicon Val­ley tech mag­nate Sam Alt­man — pres­i­dent of Y Com­bi­na­tor, which in­vests in start-ups such as Drop­box and Airbnb — is of­fer­ing to fund good can­di­dates for statewide of­fice to cre­ate “pros­per­ity through tech­nol­ogy, eco­nomic fair­ness and main­tain­ing per­sonal lib­erty.”

Na­tion­ally, a cen­trist move­ment is gain­ing trac­tion un­der the self­ex­plain­ing name of No La­bels, which may yet prove to be a coun­ter­force in the zero-sum sport of current pol­i­tics. The group or­ga­nized in 2010 and is co-chaired by for­mer Utah gov­er­nor Jon Hunts­man, a Repub­li­can, and for­mer Con­necti­cut se­na­tor Joe Lieber­man, a Demo­crat (later in­de­pen­dent).

More than 70 mem­bers of Congress from both par­ties have formed a bi­par­ti­san coali­tion called the No La­bels Prob­lem Solvers, pledg­ing to work to­gether on leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tives. This month, the con­gres­sional group re­leased its first bi­par­ti­san ef­fort — a Make Gov­ern­ment Work! leg­isla­tive pack­age aimed at re­duc­ing gov­ern­ment waste and in­ef­fi­ciency. In Septem­ber, No La­bels will host an in­ter­na­tional ideas sum­mit to co­in­cide with the U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion in New York.

Thus, though our na­tional po­lit­i­cal nar­ra­tive is that we’re more di­vided than ever, a dis­pas­sion­ate se­cond look sug­gests oth­er­wise. We’re not so much di­vided as stuck. Run­ning in mud. That’s not the swamp drain­ing; it’s the muck of money, greed, self-in­ter­est and one-up­man­ship — Wash­ing­ton’s unique art of the deal.

We don’t have only Trump to thank. The ecosys­tem of me­dia-gen­er­ated con­flict and Amer­ica’s pen­chant for spec­ta­tor sports has en­sured a per­sis­tent game of war­ring fac­tions — a per­fect mi­lieu for some­one such as Trump, with his par­tic­u­lar tal­ents. He merely strolled to the lectern, called ev­ery­body else a loser, and plowed his way to the presidency on a whim and the most golden of prom­ises — to make Amer­ica great again.

We have work to do. There is hope. A trend seems to be tak­ing shape if mo­men­tum can be nour­ished. What an irony if Trump’s presidency made Amer­ica great again by in­spir­ing peo­ple to get elected whose civil­ian lives have been cir­cum­scribed by the pur­suit of knowl­edge, wis­dom and truth, which is not, in fact, rel­a­tive.

Trump would go down as one of the great­est uni­fy­ing pres­i­dents in his­tory — the sooner the bet­ter.

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