Editorial: Test of leadership now is whether president, others are serious about unity

  • President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday.

    President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday. Associated Press Photo

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted2/5/2020 6:16 PM

It is an odd thing to seek unity at the outset of a heated presidential campaign, but, on the heels of a historic impeachment vote and a contentious State of the Union address, oh, how we yearn for something like it.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump took the annual victory lap afforded to presidents with a State of the Union speech that stressed the policies he considers his achievements -- the economy, immigration, military strength and more, all of them issues deserving our review and our thoughtful evaluation.


But it is the topic the president judiciously refused to raise, a topic unavoidably conspicuous by its absence, that most demands our attention. That topic is not just impeachment, but the larger condition of which impeachment is a symptom, the deep divisions within the nation.

The U.S. Senate has spoken on the matter of whether President Trump should be removed from office because of his request to a foreign power and his reaction to congressional inquiries about that request. It has said he should not, and it reached that conclusion in a partisan fashion so steeped in bitterness, resentment and prejudgment that it has been hard to take seriously the arguments or actions of politicians on either side. Even the renegade vote to remove by Republican Mitt Romney, for whom an action so clearly in conflict with his best personal interests seems to resound with sincerity, was greeted in many corners with disdain and suspicion.

But speak the Senate did, and now we are left with a weighty, perhaps uncomfortable question. How do we heal? How do we come together, even with our difference?

That is the issue that most strongly calls out to our president, our political leaders, our social observers and our commentators today. And to us all.

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Are we willing to heal?

That does not mean to acquiesce, of course. It does not mean to stop working for the causes in which we believe. But it does mean respecting those whom our constitutional republic guarantees the right to disagree with us. It does mean shaking our adversary's hand. It does mean abstaining from making a show of ripping up a prominent speech. It does mean, on a political level, striving to rise to statesmanlike dialogue rather than stooping to juvenile personal exchanges by tweet.

In the 2016 campaign, President Trump portrayed himself as the "great unifier." He vowed to bring us all together. Where do we find ourselves now? What realist among us would not acknowledge that we are less unified today than in November 2016. If the president is sincere about unifying the country, we're eager to see him start, but tweets ridiculing Romney or crowing about the end of the "impeachment hoax" are not how it will get done.

As the leader of a country riven by animus -- a condition for which he shares no small amount of blame -- we need more from him. And, we need more from all our leaders and all our candidates and all their supporters as we head into a momentous election.

We are troubled to admit we aren't counting on it from any of them. But, oh, how we yearn for it.

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