Unifying a divided United States

Question of the Week:

What can the President-elect, a Republican-controlled Congress, and the Democratic minority do to unify out increasingly divided United States?

Piper O’Keefe ’17 – Gettysburg College Democrats

As this election has clearly shown through the very different campaign messages of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, as well as the opposing reactions of unbounded joy and absolute horror to the election results, the United States in this moment is nowhere near as “united” as our nation’s name implies. Regardless of political views, it is in the best interest of everyone in our nation to not further this division. Unifying our country should start with the federal government. With this election, Republicans have kept their majority in Congress, and Donald Trump is the President-elect; however, Republicans are nowhere near to having received a “mandate” from Americans in this election cycle. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote for president by over two million votes and counting, and Democrats gained 6 seats in the House and 2 seats in the Senate. This composition of the federal government calls for bi-partisanship instead of continuing trends at polarization with both parties. This does not mean that either side should completely abandon their ideals but rather that both sides need to actually negotiate with each other and produce bills together that will work for the betterment of our nation as a whole instead of simply catering to their bases.

It is problematic to say the least that our government officials are so focused on being reelected that they forget to effectively govern while they are elected. State and local governments must also follow this idea and create bills by stepping across the aisle instead of running towards the left and right walls. Government officials on every level additionally need to work to ensure that the rights of everyone in our country are protected. Continuing or even increasing unequal treatment towards marginalized groups will only serve to create more divisions. This unification, however, does not need to start and stop with the government. No matter which box we checked at the polls on November 8th, we need to remember that we are all Americans first and Democrats/Republicans/etc second. Our nation truly is strongest when we all work together to ensure that the rights of everyone in our nation are protected by law and respected by society; and when we all work to ensure that everyone in our nation gets the opportunities they deserve. Making the United States “united” begins with effective, efficient, non-partisan governance and truly becomes implemented through active, engaged, caring individuals.

Alex Engelsman ’18 – Gettysburg College Independents

The United States has been divided because of one major failing in the American psyche. We have started to demonize the other side. We see those that disagree with us as either having nefarious purposes or being unintelligent. We have decided that those that vote for the other are either being misled, or are unintelligent. This divide has come from a refusal to see the other side for what they really are; patriots. Americans that want America to be the best it can be, and giving Americans the ability to live their best life. This coming administration, the Congressional majority, and the Congressional minority can unify our great nation by ending this demonization and hatred. This will be difficult; negative campaigns are far more effective at winning elections than positive campaigns. But both sides of the aisle right now should work to shoring up their own image, and stop poking holes in the other party’s. Make sure every American knows what they stand for, and how their party can benefit the American people. The best way to end this yourself is to set the dichotomy differently. Don’t frame the other party as the opposition, but as the other wing of your own party. The American party. They want the same things as you do, they just have slightly different ideas on how to get there. They want to end poverty. They want to keep Americans safe. They want to keep Americans free. They want to make America the best country it can be.

Corinne Day ’17 – Gettysburg College Republicans 

In order to unify the divided country, President-elect Trump, the Republican-majority in Congress, and the Democratic minority ought to lead by example in getting the country passed the disheartening rhetoric, behavior, and standards held by both candidates in the race for the White House. President-elect Donald Trump has already taken steps that seek to unify the broken climate and perspective of the country. First, Trump’s decision not to appoint a special prosecutor to pursue an investigation into Clinton’s private email server during her time as Secretary of State demonstrates his desire to move the country passed the tone of the election and instead look towards the future and the transition. Similarly, while Trump campaigned passionately about the full repeal of Obamacare, since winning the election he has referred to specific aspects of the ACA that will be maintained such as the rule that children will remain on their parent’s healthcare plan until age twenty-six which demonstrates a willingness to compromise. The President-elect and all members of Congress can unite the country by seeking reform of the electoral college system as well.

It is equally critical that the Democrats and Republicans in Congress support Trump’s cabinet appointments to demonstrate bipartisanship and the willingness to work together for the nation. With President-elect Trump being such a non-traditional candidate for the party, some issues he campaigned on align with Democratic goals. Trump has said he wants increased spending on roads, bridges and railways, punish American companies that move jobs overseas, end lucrative tax breaks for hedge fund and private equity giants, and establish mandatory paid maternity leave. With the Republican majority in Congress being less than overwhelming, Trump and Congressmen of both parties must work together to be effective.

Liam Kerr ’19 – Young Americans for Liberty

At Young Americans for Liberty, we do not necessarily believe in bipartisanship in Congress or the government. As Gettysburg Alum and longtime Congressman Ron Paul once said, “It’s the bipartisanship of the welfare system, the warfare system…it all goes through with support from both parties.” This being said, it is vital to recognize the importance of Americans from all walks of life to come together and accept our duly elected President-elect. In terms of the newly elected government, however, it seems unlikely that they will be attempting to unite Americans anytime soon. When Democrats took control of both the Legislative and Executive branches in 2008, there was absolutely no attempt to unite the country and reach across the aisle in a bipartisan fashion. Instead, they passed a plethora of partisan legislation before the 2010 midterms which alienated Republicans and further divided the nation. Why would Republicans do anything different now that they have won control of the government? In fact, it was the Democratic majority in the Senate in 2013 that made a simple 51 seat majority needed to end a filibuster. Now that the Democrats are in the Senate minority, their voice will be marginalized because of their own thoughtless actions. From the perspective of YAL, a Republican government provides only a small hope of reducing taxes and reducing spending just as a Democratic government provided us a hope for the end to foreign intervention and respecting our civil liberties. Under President Obama, none of this was achieved. Similarly, we do not expect any of our other goals to be achieved under President Trump. This nation has been divided by our leaders for years, it would be unrealistic to expect our newly elected government to transcend politics and do anything different than what has been done in the past.


The views and opinions expressed are the students and the organizations whom they represent and do not necessarily represent the views of The Eisenhower Institute or Gettysburg College.