We need steady leadership—not fire-starters—to guide a divided nation

Armstrong Williams | 11/7/2019, 11:49 a.m.
The current state of American politics is eerily reminiscent of the wildfires currently engulfing the State of California.
Armstrong Williams

The current state of American politics is eerily reminiscent of the wildfires currently engulfing the State of California. The conditions are right, the tinder is dry, the crosswinds are high and the landscape is ripe for conflagration. This is why it is incumbent upon our political leadership to refrain from lighting a match at this critical time.

Pointing out that America is more sharply divided than ever before is an understatement hidden within an obvious truth. The latest polls show that Americans are sharply divided along party lines over the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The divisions are becoming factious—as some are calling for the president’s head on a platter for alleged “high crimes and misdemeanors,” while the other half of the electorate views the process as a fraudulent end-around the democratic process that elected the president.

And yet, despite the tension, politicians on both sides of the aisle continue to fan the flames with combustible rhetoric and brazen stunts designed to further infuriate an already volatile polity. The GOP leadership in Congress has notably engaged in several outrageous stunts, ranging from obstructing closed-door testimony from a witness into the president’s alleged misdeeds, to sending empty packing boxes to the offices of several Congressional Democrats which sparked a minor security scare for which the Capitol police had to be called in to investigate.

Meanwhile, the president continues to lead the charge with incendiary accusations against members of Congress that he views as his mortal enemies. Contrast this growing political crisis against the robust but in some respects slowing economic growth that the country is experiencing and one can see how a political crisis can easily spill over into a social upheaval. For most Americans, gaining an economic foothold and continuing to benefit from full employment and rising wages trumps their concerns over the machinations of an insider political fight that seems remarkably distant from their everyday lives.

The Democrats aren’t doing any better in terms of their handling of the impeachment inquiry. Their continued failure to disclose evidence and key witnesses, including the shielding of testimony for the anonymous whistleblower whose damning allegations initially sparked the congressional impeachment inquiry, seems, from the perspective of Trump supporters, clear evidence of a deep state run amok. Adding to the secrecy of the process, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff committed an unforced error in mischaracterizing the president’s communications with Ukraine, which goes directly to the substance of the Committee’s inquiry. Schiff’s gaffe was a serious opening for the president to accuse the whole process of being a kind of “kangaroo” court, in which the fact-finding mission of the Congress had already been subsumed by a foregone conclusion that the president is guilty as charged.

As a result, both sides find themselves in an escalating war of rhetoric and legal chicanery that threatens to derail the steady progress America has made on the economic front since President Trump was elected. Signs are already pointing to the fact that political uncertainty—over impeachment, trade deals, and economic investment—is affecting the stock market and other barometers of economic health.