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Let's hope we can return to an era when our political debate is more about policy than people

This Wednesday, Joe Biden will become the 46th president of the United States. His inaugural address – given amid thousands of military personnel providing now-sadly needed security – is expected to focus on unity.

At this point, days before the transition, does unity stand a chance?

The fact that it's Joe Biden giving that speech is a disappointment to most voters in our community, as roughly 70% supported President Trump in November. It's likely, even after the events of Jan. 6, that if the vote was held today, Trump would still outpoll Joe Biden in the county. That's how entrenched we are in political lanes.

The Republican Party strengthened in rural Central Oregon under Trump, just as it has in rural regions across the nation. In Oregon, COVID restrictions from an unpopular Democratic governor helped deepen the chasm between red and blue, and in the rural areas, the red wall grew taller and thicker. But after Trump's defeat, and certainly after the insurrection which he fueled, even Republicans are realizing that the party needs a makeover, or at least needs a hard reassessment with Trump leaving office.

Maybe the most highly regarded GOP strategist, Carl Rove, told Chris Wallace Sunday on Fox News to expect maybe eight or more years for a Republican Party overhaul to take place. The general take by the conservative panel was that, right now, Republicans can't win nationally without Trump's base, as they need its energy, raw numbers and motivation, and they can't win with Trump's base, as the majority of Americans are either tired of Trump or repulsed by him and want nothing to do with his political brand. His approval rating as he leaves office: 34%.

So, it's upon that tightrope that the GOP moves forward from Jan. 20. Those hoping to emerge as new national Republican leaders, maybe even 2024 presidential candidates, will have to dance between being tagged a RINO (Republican in Name Only) if they try to attract centrists, or coming across as so conservative that the Proud Boys take note and stand by. That message likely isn't a winner. If it is, then we're in more trouble that I care to consider.

However the GOP emerges post-Trump — if he indeed does fade from the scene, and he may not — let's hope we can return to an era when our political debate is more about policy than people. But right now, at the dawn of 2021, that's as much pie in the sky wishful thinking as is the likelihood of Joe Biden making nonpartisanship the new rage in Washington. I doubt "works well with the Biden Administration" will be a selling point for any future GOP national leader.

Bi-partisanism is a dead art in Washington, in Salem as well — heck, in many living rooms, too.

Former Arizona Republican senator Jeff Flake, now a pariah in his party for not bowing to President Trump's style early in the president's term, recently said something that well frames our current political structure. He said there was no longer any "political capital to be gained from working across the aisle." Now, a politician only gets grief by his or her hardcore constituents or party leadership for working with the "hated" other side. Left or right, it's better to not do anything, to get nothing done, than to give any leeway to the other party or its representatives.

Statesmanship used to mean conducting government business with respect and effectiveness. I have no idea what it means now.

The gator-invested moat to keep the nation from initially attaining any type of unity will be the Trump impeachment proceedings. Most everyone wishes it weren't happening, but then again most everyone wishes Jan. 6 didn't happen. Trump is already leaving the White House, so why impeach? It seems Democrats merely want to stain Trump supporters in Congress, to tar them politically. On some level, those who admire Trump may be secretly happy about an impending impeachment trial as it will keep him relevant, keep Trump and the insurrection spirit in the news.

Whether necessary or not, the impeachment trial is the antithesis of moving forward.

The new president is spot on to focus on the importance of unity. Our lack of it is the greatest threat to our nation right now and presents maybe our gravest long-term challenge. In our current hyper-partisan age, one fueled by side-choosing major media that can border on propaganda, and social media that too often foments lies and conspiracies and is designed to create private realities, propagating unity, to say the least, is difficult.

The silver lining? Lack of unity is a problem that we as citizens have the capacity to address, by how we think and act as individuals, and through what we demand from our leaders. In our great country, we get to choose. Let's go about that wisely moving forward.


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