There have been celebrations of national unity and purpose on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean during this past week.
In Britain, a country as badly politically divided as our own in many ways, hundreds of thousands of people stood in lines that were at times several miles long to catch a glimpse of the late queen’s coffin on its way from Scotland to Westminster Hall in London. Millions more watched on television the accession of the first new British sovereign and first king in 70 years.
Everyone seemed to agree that the mystique of royalty, long thought to have been on its last legs along with its power to transcend racial, sexual, religious, and even political division, was still alive and well after all.
Meanwhile, on the western side of the shining sea, a handful of apparently delusional Democrats gathered on the White House lawn to celebrate, ostensibly on behalf of the whole country, what one of them, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, called “this glorious day”—of “inflation reduction.”
“Mr. President, thank you for unifying and inspiring a vision of a stronger, fairer, safer future for all—for our children.”
At that point she broke off to instruct her little audience: “That’s an applause line.” And everyone duly applauded.
It might seem at first that the thanks due to President Joe Biden “for unifying and inspiring” were as undeserved as the tribute to the “Inflation Reduction Act”—not-so beautifully named for all that it quite obviously doesn’t do. On the same day as the White House shindig, there came the monthly announcement of the inflation rate, now annualized at 8.3 percent. The annual increase in the price of Pelosi’s “kitchen table items” was in double digits.
Clearly, the party had been planned in the expectation of somewhat different numbers.
No matter. If people were prepared to believe that the Inflation Reduction Act, which added over half a trillion dollars to the already high federal spending levels of the last two years, was actually going to reduce inflation any time this decade, another monthly increase of a degree not seen, until this year, since the 1980s would not faze them.
The question is how many people, given the Biden tendency to make such outrageously false statements as that the evacuation of American forces from Afghanistan was an “extraordinary success” or that the cost of yet another big-spending bill would be “zero,” are still prepared to believe this?
And here is where the Speaker’s premise of Biden’s “unifying” presidency comes in. If you read her words carefully, what she is congratulating the president for “unifying” is not people but “a vision.” That vision—“of a stronger, fairer, safer future for all”—may have been no more than a Democratic fantasy, but he and his Democratic colleagues are still supposed to get the credit for it.
She made this clear a couple of sentences later, saying, “This achievement is a testament to our unity, our optimism, our persistence.”
“Uniting our [Democratic] people” took precedence both in the speech and in his administration’s subsequent practice over “uniting our nation.”
Say what you like about the Democrats, they’re team players. At least when they’re winning. Or think they are. Only when they lose do they split up into the rancorous factionalism, which seems to be the permanent condition of the Republican opposition, in government or out.
Everybody knows what a RINO is: a Republican In Name Only. That’s what pro-Trump Republicans call anti-Trump Republicans. In doing so, they’re expressing their envy for the Democrats’ sense of solidarity. No one has ever heard of a DINO.
The downside of such partisan unity, however, is that it leads to group-think and a distorted perception of reality.
I would like to think, for instance, that Pelosi really believes in all the wonderful things she says she believes the latest Democrat boondoggle will do for the country—including its actual reduction of inflation, as printed on the label.
Our problem in post-Trump America is that there's no longer anything that most people don't want to argue about, not even the basic goodness of our country, its people, and its institutions.
When that happens, as we are learning every day it seems, not only do we no longer have a successful state, we also no longer have a shared sense of reality.
Fortunately, the “we” in this case, as in Pelosi’s, is not the same as in “We, the people.” At least I hope it’s not.