Joe Henderson: Can America bridge the Great Divide?

politicians arguing divide (Large)

Pundits and political pros have been talking about the Great Divide among Americans, and we all know it is there. It always has been. People in a country this large and diverse are going to have different ways of looking at things, but we usually come together at some point and work out the problems.

At least, that’s how it used to be.

I’m starting to wonder, though, if those days are gone for good. For Exhibit A, I bring you The Washington Post/ABC News poll released Sunday. The Post wrote, “Never in the history of the Post-ABC poll have the two major party nominees been viewed as harshly as (Hillary) Clinton and (Donald) Trump.”

That’s some plain talk, but let’s make it even more blunt. Boiled down to its essence, this poll indicates about half of the registered voters in America will literally hate whoever wins the election to lead this country.

When Clinton supporters were asked why they would vote for her, 48 percent said it’s because they oppose Trump. It was the same story with Trump, where 53 percent of respondents said they’ll go for him because they can’t stomach Clinton.

And 86 percent of those people said they could never vote for Clinton. Also, there’s this nugget: 48 percent of Trump’s supporters said he doesn’t represent the GOP’s core values, but they’ll vote for him anyway because they hate Hillary that much.

Maybe we should have seen this coming, because there is no compromise on some of the sharpest issues that divide us.

There is never going to be middle ground on a hot-button issue like abortion, but now you stir divisive topics like LGBT rights, immigration, climate change, gun control, police behavior and, yes, even the national debt into the stew.

With so many information outlets available masquerading as “news services,” people aligned with one side or the other can find a source that reinforces their beliefs. And discourse being what it is — Trump has raised shouting and debasement to an art form — voila!

Hatred becomes a platform.

Bringing the nation together is a noble sentiment, and either Trump or Clinton will vow to do that come November. The numbers say that will be just another campaign promise neither can keep.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


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