As conversations continue to circulate about the future of the Republican Party, understandably much of the attention has been focused on the ups and downs of the relationship between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP hammers Democrats on Iowa Democrats’ election challenge Future of the GOP? The Art, the Promise, and the Lesson of Politics Facebook’s Hill’s Morning report Biden delivers 100 million snapshots in 58 days, doses to MORE neighbors (R-Ky.) And former President Donald Trump. Following a trajectory similar to other relations between President Trump Donald Trump Biden hampered by lack of confirmations Letlow wins Louisiana special election to replace her late husband Number of migrant children detained in the United States has exceeded 15,000 : MORE report and longtime Republican Party standard-bearers, Sen. McConnell has, at various recent times, embraced Trump, distanced himself from him, condemned him, and signaled an opening to overcome the previous acrimony. While it’s unlikely that Trump and McConnell will share lunch or campaign together anytime soon, a look at American political history reminds us that even some of the most bickering here can be quick to thaw out.
Even for those who follow politics religiously, the haste with which rivalries can turn into alliances and even apparent friendships continues to surprise. This is true even for those who have already clashed in the presidential primaries, the political struggles that are often the most caustic. Sen. Ted Cruz Rafael (Ted) Edward Cruz Future of the GOP? The Art, the Promise, and the Lesson in Politics Facebook Biden’s Hill’s Morning Report Delivers 100 Million Snaps in 58 Days, Doses to Neighbors Senate Confirms Former Diplomat William Burns as CIA Director MORE ( R-Texas) and Trump, for example, no longer commercial tweets attacking each other’s wives, opting instead for a close collaboration. Likewise, not long ago now Vice President Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisFuture of the GOP? The Art, the Promise and the Lesson of Politics Harris Seeks His Own Way to the White House CNN reporter chokes on Biden’s ‘cathartic’ speech MORE has sought to deal a blow to the presidential campaign of the candidate at the time, Joe Bidens: that little girl was me. And few who have seen him can forget former Senator Bob Dole, then 95, rising from his wheelchair to greet the flag-draped coffin of his sworn former political rival (and later friend and confidant ), President George HW Bush.
While politics is, of course, infamous for its “made-for-television clashes and biting (and often ad hominem) exchanges, it’s often just as much about leaving grudges behind and working together when priorities The more cynical among us, we may choose to cite this as proof that politics is essentially performative and that neither animosities nor friendships are particularly genuine or enduring.
Musicians are known for their differences of opinion leading to permanent splits. It has often been the same with businessmen. And writers are perhaps best known for their decades-long vendetta, whether it’s Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre or, more recently, Paul Theroux and his former mentor, the Nobel Prize winner VS Naipaul. In the latter case, decades of shared meals and close friendship have been replaced with unreturned handshakes and a mind-boggling revealing book about a former confidant. You wouldn’t really expect that, as much, from a politician.
And in politics, even when personal animosities don’t turn into genuine respect, animosity does little to prevent collaboration when goals align. Take, for example, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse Sheldon Whitehouse The future of the GOP? The Art, the Promise and the Lesson of Politics The Democratic senator suggests that an FBI background investigation into Brett Kavanaugh’s fake Senate confirms that Haaland will lead Interior MORE (DR.I.), which was not stranger to offer ad hominem caustic beards directed at Trump, working with the Trump administration on behalf of its Save Our Seas (SOS) 2.0 Act to reduce plastic debris in the oceans. As the bill was signed in the Oval Office, Trump and Whitehouse shook hands, thanked each other for their respective contributions to the effort, and even hinted at other areas of possible agreement.
Although not a reconciliation per se, even a brief political ceasefire offers the possibility of cooperation. And, as the Biden administration continues to fall into place, one imagines that even part of President BidenJoe BidenBiden embarrassed by the lack of Louisiana special election confirmations to replace Richmond heads to second round Larry Summers blows up .9 T stimulus as the “ least responsible ” economic policy in 40 More vehement critics of MORE might find an opportunity to put their minds aside.
So for commentators suggesting that Trump and McConnell will absolutely bury the hatchet if necessary and pretend nothing happened, there is probably a lot of truth to this. After all, it happened with other former rivals from Senator Cruz to Senator Graham. In addition, we recall the intestinal effects of those political grudges that have never been resolved, like that of Lyndon Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy (what historian Jeff Shesol called the feud that defined a decade).
In his eulogy for the late Senator John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe future of the GOP? The Art, the Promise and the Lesson of Politics Meghan McCain and Joy Behar argue over whether the antifa ‘exists’ Trump and Hillary: Forever Connected by Self-Created Failure MORE, President George W. Bush quoted the last line from McCains’ 1999 book Faith of My Fathers: … and I continued. In politics and in life, the ability to move on, including personal acrimonies, is a skill of untold value. Although Bush placed this quote in the context of describing how John was a restless soul. He really didn’t boast of success or wallow in failure because he was always on the next step, so was the choice of senators for praise: the two men who had beaten him in the big elections, George W. Bush and Barack. Obama Barack Hussein Obama The Future of the GOP? The Art, the Promise, and the Lesson of Politics NOAA Chief Obama Joins White House Biden in Climate Role Bill Clinton Leaves Big Influence on Team Biden MORE.
So, today, in a culture that often prioritizes fixing on grievances of the past and injustices of long ago, there is a lesson that politicians might be able to offer: that in this life, you have to be able to overcome things. And often it was so much the better for that.
Erich J. Prince co-founded and directs Merion West (@merionwest), a Philadelphia-based group that promotes civil discourse in an age of polarization; he also writes a weekly column for MediaVillage on how the news media covers politics. He previously served as a communications strategist for former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. He studied political science at Yale.
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