Partisan polarization is festering to the point where it poses a real threat to America’s unity. It definitely impedes solution to the panoply of problems that exist even without it. Non-partisan discourse badly needs persistent promotion at every opportunity.
How can anyone open the topic of Donald Trump in a non-partisan manner? Just saying the name puts everyone in America on edge, either in allegiance to or abhorrence of the man, or over the reaction from whomever is listening. And the topic cannot be avoided.
Non-partisanship does not mean that each side’s expressions must always receive “equal time” or imply that both sides’ arguments carry mechanistic moral equivalence. Nor does it mean never agreeing or disagreeing with one or the other. Shallow politeness only leaves both camps smug in their premises. It does not alter our divisive public discourse.
What non-partisanship does require is a consistent and independent frame of reference. For America that frame of reference, our national common ground, follows from the nation’s self-conception in the Declaration of Independence and its creed. The creed identified this “People” by our holding of “self-evident” truths – of unalienable rights equally endowed, and that government exists to secure those rights. This creed and its implications define the nation, and forms common ground for all.
From this perspective, populist resentment of technocratic elites can be understood, as our institutions impose ever more disjointed and onerous bureaucracy, legalisms, forms to be filled out, and costs, on the general population. So can a Black person’s frustration with discrimination that could arise at any time and is so often masked or overlooked. Thus also the patient’s exasperation with obscure, often inadequate and often nonsensical health insurance plans, or conversely the doctor’s with vaccine deniers. Too many rights are transgressed and too much respect is denied, too often, to too many Americans, in too many ways. Taken all together, these wrongs are utterly non-partisan. Any one of them, or any set of them, merit opposition.
Generally in our discourse, one side would like to repair the breaches in our observance of rights; many of its adherents have come to look at America for the deficiencies, and denigrate the nation over them. The other side sees existing ways of life wrecked by demands for radical change, while many of its members ignore our faults. The one side has recruited advocates, lawyers, philanthropists and ideologues over several decades. The other has nurtured its own activists in the last two or three decades. And it is this last side to which Donald Trump has made his appeal.
All well and good in itself; politics are never genteel, while all manner of political positions, from the extreme to the apathetic to the irrelevant, have their place in public discourse.
That said, Trump himself, viewed through an independent non-partisan lens, displays unique failings that would be failings whatever his politics. Trump’s demonstrated disrespect for Constitutional process, particularly as exhibited around the events of the January 6, 2021 insurrection, disqualify him morally from holding a position of governing authority.
A non-partisan view would disqualify Trump himself without pronouncing on the political views he professes. From the standpoint of the right, it may also be that Trump is not a reliable leader. If his narrow self-interest could lead him to turn on Mike Pence on January 6, he could conceivably betray his followers at some point. Conservative figures do not need to ignore or excuse his culpability to champion the politics of the right, and they shouldn’t.
Similarly, disqualifying Trump for his moral failings does not endorse the views or candidates of Democrats and progressives. In fact, that partisan camp should not look to rally support by tying Trump to the right. No one should use the topic of Donald Trump to mire America further in our political divisions. We all should focus first on our common interest in rule of law and constitutional order.