What SHOULD "Uniting, not Dividing" Mean?

Now, as a solid right-winger, I’m generally inclined to scoff at concepts like “a uniter, not a divider,” even when they come from politicians I’m generally inclined to support. I’m always wary of moderate Republicans, who seem to use phrases like “unity” and “inclusivenes” and “being part of the process” as an excuse to knuckle under, and give the Democrats ALMOST everything they want.

I mean, there’s a good reason that Congressional Democrats still wine and dine and toast former Republican leaders like Gerald Ford and Bob Michel. Guys like Ford and Michel would have been not only content but delitiously HAPPY to stay Minority Leader forever. Michel’s philosophy: when liberal Democrats proposed a ten billion dollar expenditure, and conservative Republicans called it a waste of money, Michel would negotiate, say, an 8 billion dollar expenditure… which gave the Democrats pretty much everything they wanted, but allwoed him to go back to his constituents and boast that he’d saved them 2 billion (when he’d ACTUALLY cost them 8 billion).

But back to the original point. George W. Bush claimed that he’d be a “uniter, and not a divider.” Thus, when he did things like appoint John Ashcroft, take action against abortion, and endorse federal spending on faith-based programs, a lot of liberals acted as if they’d been betrayed… as if, by trying to implement a conservative agenda, Bush was breaking his promise to be a uniter.

What I’m wondering, though, is this:

Assuming a politician of ANY persuasion really WANTED to be a “uniter”… how, exactly, would he/she go about it?

I KNOW, I’ve been baiting liberals here, but my question is serious. How the heck does ANYONE “unite” America on an issue like abortion (just to take one example)? By ignoring it? By maintaining the status quo? If you don’t like Bush’s approach, fine… but what WOULD you consider a “uniting” action? In my opinion, there is absolutely NO way to be a “uniter” on this issue.

Fact is, virtually EVERYONE who tries to find “middle ground” is dishonest. Invariably, the “middle ground” comes down squarely on the pro- or anti- side.

This is true not only of the abortion issue but of MOST contentious issues. How can you “unite” people who don’t share anything resembling similar values?

How can you “unite” socialists and passionate capitalists? How can anyone find common ground there? How can one “unite” Earth Firsters and loggers? How can one “unite” people who don’t speak the same language or hold the same things sacred?

In my opinion, the answer is… you DON’T! You fight as hard as you can for what you believe in (knowing full well that you won’t get everything you want, or even most of it), and take no prisoners. You fight like hell, when need be, and you don’t worry about being called “a fanatic” or “mean-spirited.”

In short, I think things like “unity” and “bipartisanship” are highly overrated. If George W. likes Tom Daschle on a personal level, and wants to invite him over for barbecues on the weekend, swell… but he’s nuts if he ever forgets for even a second that, from 9 to 5, Daschle is his enemy.

I’m reminded of an exchange supposedly occurring in the House of Representatives during the 1950s. A freshman Democrat casually referred to the Republicans as, “the enemy”. He was rebuked by a senior member as follows: “The Republicans are not the enemy. The Senate is the enemy.”

For any poor sucker that actually believed Dubya, it meant:
That highly polar people like Ashcroft weren’t likely to be nominated.

That the separation of church and state (as defined in the constitution) would will not be traversed or blurred.

That spiteful partisan (let’s ignore the stupid Clinton staff highjinks) politics that have an almost overt cast to them would not occur.

That someone who took office under the most significant election disputes in our nation’s history might show more restraint in his choice of policy, words and nominations.
Not to be too bent about it, but Shrub has deflated every possibility that our nation won’t endure a reversion to turn-of-the-century political mentality.

I truly wish that I could be more optimistic about this. As a Republican, you are to be congratulated for having the intestinal fortitude to start this thread. I am a devoted capitalist, yet Junior’s idea of how to “unite” the country is just plain offensive. His repeated invocations of faith in his campaign and ceremonies was plainly replusive to people of other creeds and philosophies. This is no way to unite. Again, I commend you for polling on this topic.

I was actually surprised that Bush used that slogan at all.
It seemed to imply that Clinton was, in fact, a divider (since it compares one to prior government).

But wasn’t the thing that pissed most left-wingers off the most about Clinton was his tendency to accede to Republican demands, as well as have Republican advisors?

Dunno, it seems to me that most of politics is about compromising/uniting. Although I don’t see Bush as doing much of that. I expect his presidency will polarize a great deal of this country.

Gosh, I’m glad I’m Canadian. And I’m really glad the C.A. lost back home. Even if it was to the Liberals…

Astorian, in part you’re correct – there are some things that we will never “unite” about. However, that doesn’t mean you have to “divide” even further by, for example, nominating somebody like Ashcroft. It is possible to continue to be anti-abortion without choosing such a, well, divider as one of your head honchos. This should especially have been true for Bush, who lost the popular vote, has a 50/50 split in the Senate, etc.

But, overall, the phrase is really a meaningless one – like most catch-phrases used in politics. It sounded good, but anybody who knew anything about Bush knew it was bullshit from the moment he said it.

Disagree. “Uniter Not Devider” means to not needlesly provoke elements of the country to hate each other in order to get them to support you. It does not mean capitulating on what you believe in. So far Bush has lived up to this admirably.

IzzyR, how were the Ashcroft and Norton nominations, and the review of the RU-486 approval (about which Quincy plainly lied in the debates, btw) not “needlessly provocative”?


Sorry, the fact that you and many others happen to find a certain set of principles repugnant does not make their implementation “needlessly provocative”. Bush won the election, and the cabinet as a whole does not differ greatly from the image that Bush portrayed during the campaign. The Democrats were provocative by choosing to hone in on the few cabinet members that they objected to most strenuously, and portray them as maniacs. This is a tactic that they have been using since Bork.

An example of Bush being “needlessly provocative” would be if he attempted to pressure the Democrats by portraying them as liberal extremists out to undermine the country. This type of thing has not been happening at all. Basically, you (and others) find the very existence of conservatives to be provocative. Nothing that can be done about that, except to hope that one day you can accept the fact that viewpoints that oppose your own can also be legitimate.

“Sorry, the fact that you and many others happen to find a certain set of principles repugnant does not make their implementation “needlessly provocative””

Sure it does, when you claim to be a “uniter” it is the perception of your enemies that counts.

See its about SHOES!

What our language impaired president Really meant was untier, not uniter.
He’s talking about untying his shoes ya see.

A matter of some disagreement. But what matters is this: What set of policies, and philosophies, did We the People pick? You’d have a hard time saying it’s the hard right’s.

Isn’t that what you yourself are doing in that very post?

Change the word “Conservative” to “Moderate” and you have my reply to that statement.

Izzy, your definition of “uniting” seems to be “getting the ‘other side’ to compliantly surrender” - is that a fair assessment?

Don’t you think that it is time to stop referring to late 19th century/early 20th century as “turn-of-the-century”?

Does this mean that the election is to be treated as a sort of opinion poll? That if 49% of the population voted for Gore we get to have 49% of cabinet positions and policy positions in line with Gore’s? Not how we work it in this country.

No, it’s not. Also, though my true identity is a carefully guarded secret, I can reveal to you that I am not GW Bush.


I hardly think that’s a fair characterization of everyone who thinks Bush’s record of being a uniter isn’t so stellar Izzy. I hardly think that the very existence of conservatives is provocative, nor do I think that their viewpoints are not legitimately held. Some of them I agree with, and some are wrong in my opinion. I dislike Ashcroft’s views on certain subjects quite a bit, and his political opportunism regarding the whole White nomination stank, although it was certainly not the most outrageous or egregious thing to come out of Washington. Certainly I do not want that man to hold the office of Attorney General, but I have little say in the matter.

The fact of the matter is that Bush ran on the promise to be a “uniter, not a divider,” and it is incumbent upon him to live up to that. There are two parts to that promise. To be a uniter, he has to actively work to unite the two sides, and it seems he is trying to do so in some ways. On a personal level, he does frequently visit with the Democrats in congress, and he certainly seems to be conciliatory and reasonable in his public dialogue when he speaks of the Democrats. Many of his cabinet members seem to be chosen in an attempt to represent a diverse populace both ethnically and idealogically.

The second part of his promise is to refrain from being a divider. Here he is less than successful in my opinion. He has immediately waded right into two of the most divisive issues in America, abortion and SOCAS. He has nominated a man whose far right wing viewpoints may have direct bearing on how he performs the job. All of these things are easily foreseeable as divisive moves.

Now, Bush certainly has an obligaion to those voters whose agendas he was elected to enact, and the religious right certainly helped put W in office. His choice seems to be between avoiding the most divisive issues altogether or moving policy in the direction favored by less moderate members of his party on inherently divisive issues. Either way, somebody ends up with a grievance. So, W chooses to toss out his promise to unite, not divide. shrug I am not going to feign surprise, because I didn’t believe it when he said it anyway. However, when people point out that some of his actions run counter to his “unite, not divide” promises, I have to agree with them.

My take on it: a “uniter, not divider” will

a) deal with issues based on substance, not on political calculation (i.e., “I do believe this is a good law to pass, but if I pass it, I won’t be able to generate outrage on the issue next election, so I’ll let it sit”)

b) not demonize opposite party members due to political disagreements (“They want to trim the rate of growth in Medicare; I’ll tell people they’re actually cutting Medicare and that they want poor old people to starve”)

Hmm. I’m sure there’s more, but that’s a start.


I disagree with your distinction between “uniter” and “not divider” - they are flip sides of the same concept.

To reiterate, I don’t think there is any reason for Bush to compromise on his principles in the name of being a uniter. There is nothing in the promise other than to avoid needlessly (i.e. for a non-substantive motive) antagonize, or demonize the opposition, or various population groups in this country. But the fact that many, such as (apparently) yourself and Elvis, find the presence of a rightwinger in the AG’s position to be something that enflames your passions, is regrettable, but them’s the breaks.

A uniter, someone that doesen’t try to demonize the other side to try to ruin them. A divider would be something like Gore did to Nader.

They are related, sure, but not identical. A uniter must act to bring unity. Someone who does not divide must avoid divisive action. Bush could coast along without doing much of anything and qualify as someone who was not a divider, but he wouldn’t be uniting anyone.

What it should mean: To reach a middle ground on issues through compromise and respect, giving something to each side of an issue (but recognizing that not everything will be granted, since compromises are required), without demonizing or antagonizing one group in the process.

What Dubya thinks it means: Take a hard-line stance on position, wait for your enemies to howl, then ease up on your requirements a little. Repeat until the howling dies down, then call this a “bipartisan” solution. Oh, and insist that your foes shouldn’t criticize your actions, because that’d break the spirit of “unity.”

Sigh Two weeks in office, and he’s already proving dumber than I had feared. But then, I guess this is what you get when leaders aren’t duly elected…

IzzyR, I asked you several direct questions, and you have declined to give a direct answer to any of them. Until you yourself can stop demonizing anyone who doesn’t share your views, your comments would fit better in the Pit.