Unity in politics is an illusion in search of a definition, but it is a concept that has been weaponized in a verbal war of word bombs hurled by both parties recently.   What may look like unity in one sense can be disunity in another. By any measure, the Republicans in Congress are playing a unified partisan effort that has put them out of step with public opinion. That kind of disunity is not an ultimate winner in the larger picture of who gets the most votes in the next election.  

The GOP’s recent strategy is to paint the new president, Joe Biden, as a person who talked bipartisanship and promised to unify the nation but is a failure because he cannot achieve it.  To make sure they succeed in stopping Biden from succeeding, they have set out to beat down every Democrat proposal, whether it is COVID relief or a guilty vote in the impeachment process and trial.   They see unity only as it applies to the Senate and the House. In reality, the voters and public opinion are the ones who come closest to being unified in support of what Biden wants to achieve.  So out of step with public sentiment is the GOP, their narrow vision confined to the halls of Congress will likely come to haunt them in the midterms in 2022. 

Democrats in Congress control both houses by either narrow margins in the House and an even split in the Senate. However, the public is much more unified in its wide support of Biden and his immediate goals. 

A recent PEW poll gave Biden a 61%job approval rating and over 70% approval for specific parts of the Biden COVID stimulus plan. Trump’s approval in his best days was never above 50% and as he left office, it was in the high 30’s. Polls showing public support for a guilty finding in the impeachment trial varies from high to mid-’50s.    Actually, per these polls,  public opinion is about as unified in favor of the direction Biden is taking as we have seen in the modern era.  

The public thinks in terms of their every day struggles to make ends meet in the COVID disasters, while many in Congress are trying to avoid being primaried in a party structure still controlled by Trumpsters dedicated to kneecapping Biden. 

As a reality-check to temper great expectations followed by disillusion, I came up with my definition of unity and this yardstick for determining success and failure. This is based on what I observed in sixty years of being active in politics. Unity will never be 100% in this diverse nation and it never has been.  Regardless of whoever is in office, any poll with approval in the upper 50%s is a mandate, and over 60% is a landslide. On many public policy issues, a minimum of 30% will often oppose it no matter which side favors it or what the substance of the issue concerns. Looking at unity with that perspective, Joe Biden’s first weeks in office is a mandate for him and a landslide for his agenda. Why? Voters are more interested in getting their kitchen table financial and health issues addressed than they are in a political strategy of “just say no.”

The other disunity game in politics is taking pleasure in the other side’s split among their ranks.  The left points to many traditional conservatives leaving the GOP and re-registering as independents.  

Polls of those still maintaining their partisan affiliation show overwhelming support for the Trumpists, but it is a percentage of a smaller-sized pie resulting in reduced total numbers of registered affiliated voters.  Per Colorado Public Radio analysis, shortly after the Capitol riots in January, 4600 Republicans in Colorado changed their affiliation from Republican mostly to independent. That is happening elsewhere per CPR.” News outlets documented about 6,000 defections from the party in North Carolina, 10,000 in Pennsylvania, and 5,000 in Arizona.”  In close elections, that could make a  significant difference statewide or in some Congressional election races. Registered Republicans Ditch Party After Capitol Riot : NPR

The right end of the political spectrum is taking delight in what they see as a deepening schism in the Democratic party with the issue of the  $15 minimum wage that exposed a difference in strategy and priorities between moderates and progressives.  Biden is still pledged to get the $15 enacted someway, somehow, though his priority is clearly getting his COVID legislation passed before mid-March and temporary benefits run out. His administration and his allies in Congress are examining a variety of options since the Senate parliamentarian ruled the $15 minimum wage could not be included in the COVID package. Stay tuned. The fat lady has not sung on that one.  

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