Putting ‘united’ back in the United States

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE -

Unity is the most im­por­tant job fac­ing the pres­i­dent and this new di­vided Congress.

Wash­ing­ton cer­tainly will look dif­fer­ent come Jan­uary. But will it act dif­fer­ently? Don’t look for that ex­am­ple to come from the White House. Pres­i­dent Trump wasted lit­tle time at this wild press con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day be­fore tak­ing credit for what he re­ferred to as a great Re­pub­li­can vic­tory.

This de­spite Democrats re­tak­ing the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

The dan­ger from Tues­day’s midterm elec­tion is that the les­son may be lost on us. We re­main a di­vided na­tion. And this is now ev­i­dent con­cretely on Capi­tol Hill. But our di­vide goes much deeper than that.

Democrats re­took the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, led in part by a Blue Wave of women vot­ers that saw un­prece­dented num­bers of women elected to the House. Here in south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia, four women Democrats won key Con­gres­sional races.

At the same time, Trump and Repub­li­cans not only did not lose the Se­nate, they ac­tu­ally added to their ma­jor­ity there.

The re­sult: Gov­ern­ment will re­main just as di­vided as the peo­ple it rep­re­sents.

The pres­i­dent down­played what many be­lieved was go­ing to be a Blue Wave, say­ing it ap­peared more like a trickle. He may be right.

Aside from the grid­lock that likely will con­tinue to grip Wash­ing­ton, there is an­other more fright­en­ing as­pect of this ugly, nasty cam­paign that could have a far greater ef­fect on the na­tion.

The pol­i­tics of di­vi­sion works. At least on some lev­els.

The pres­i­dent spent the weeks lead­ing up to the elec­tion preach­ing to his faith­ful about what pulls us apart, not what brings us to­gether.

He con­stantly warned of an in­vad­ing “horde” of im­mi­grants, peo­ple flee­ing strife in their na­tive Hon­duras and seek­ing what all of us can trace back in our fam­ily trees, a slice of the Amer­i­can dream.

Trump used that “dream” as a cud­gel to paint a night­mar­ish scene of “us” vs. them.

It was a bla­tant plat­ter of red meat for his base. And they ate it up.

The pres­i­dent, who had trou­ble deal­ing with mem­bers of his own party when they con­trolled both the House and Se­nate, will see a new threat to his pro­gram with a House that is now con­trolled by Democrats.

When he wasn’t at­tack­ing the me­dia, the pres­i­dent at his press con­fer­ence seemed ready to work with Democrats. He even com­pli­mented ex­pected new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

He sug­gested his prow­ess as a deal maker will al­low him to work with Democrats on some of the big is­sues fac­ing the coun­try, the con­tin­u­ing health care war and the evolv­ing pop­u­lar­ity of the Af­ford­able Care Act; spik­ing pre­scrip­tion drug costs; a plan to at­tack Amer­ica’s crum­bling in­fra­struc­ture; and mid­dle-class tax re­lief.

Both par­ties spent much of the day after the elec­tion crow­ing about their vic­to­ries – and let there be no doubt, there were win­ners on both sides.

Democrats made big gains in ur­ban and sub­ur­ban ar­eas. The pres­i­dent’s ap­peal clearly res­onated in more ru­ral, con­ser­va­tive ar­eas.

The di­vide was put in per­spec­tive by a per­son who knows it well – and has de­cided to walk away.

Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6 of Ch­ester County, took a look at the num­bers after the state Supreme Court re­drew the state’s con­gres­sional dis­tricts and saw the writ­ing on the wall. He opted not to run for re-elec­tion.

Not sur­pris­ingly, Demo­crat Chrissy Houla­han rode those fa­vor­able num­bers to an easy win over Re­pub­li­can Greg McCauley. In the process she joined Mary Kay Scan­lon in do­ing some­thing that has never done be­fore.

Just as Scan­lon will be the first wo­man ever to rep­re­sent Delaware County, Houla­han be­comes a sim­i­lar bar­rier crasher in Ch­ester County.

“This elec­tion prob­a­bly more neatly or­ga­nized the in­sti­tu­tions of the Se­nate and the House into Trump and nonTrump ar­eas,” said Costello, who has grown in­creas­ingly crit­i­cal of the pres­i­dent and his poli­cies since de­cid­ing not to run for re-elec­tion.

That’s also part of the un­der­ly­ing di­vi­sions. Trump made a point at his press con­fer­ence to note that those Repub­li­cans who lined up with him won, while those who es­chewed his sup­port fell.

The most im­por­tant job fac­ing the pres­i­dent and this new di­vided Congress?

Putting the united back in the United States.

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