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President Joe Biden waves as he departs after attending Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington.
Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

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Unity starts with listening to the other side. We aren’t there yet

In his first days in office, President Biden has emphasized unity — but Republicans and Democrats continue to view the other side negatively.

When I was in college, an editorial cartoon showed the current president of the United States blaming his predecessor for all the nation’s problems. That president blamed the one before him and so on, all the way back to George Washington — who blamed King George. Eventually, the blame game went all the way back to Eve who blamed Adam. Then, before Adam could speak, a voice from heaven warned him to “Watch It.”

It may be human nature to routinely blame somebody else for the mess we’re in, but finding someone to blame often distracts us from the more important task of finding solutions. That’s certainly the case in 21st century politics.

For example, despite President Joe Biden’s talk of promoting unity, just 24% of voters believe the nation will be more unified in a year.

Why are they so pessimistic? Probably because it’s a realistic assessment of American politics today.

Republicans are already blaming Biden. In their view he is preaching unity on the one hand while aggressively pursuing divisive partisan policies on the other. Democrats, of course, see it differently. They say the problem is Republican obstructionists seeking partisan gain rather than acting for the good of the nation.

The blame game has so dominated our politics that neither side can acknowledge any good in the other. I recently asked 1,200 registered voters for one word they would use to describe Joe Biden. Democrats used words like good, great, compassionate and hopeful. Republicans, on the other hand, tended to describe the new president with words like old, senile, corrupt, dishonest and dementia.

The deeply negative views of the opposing side can also be seen in a survey about the occupation of the U.S. Capitol. Nationwide, 82% of voters disapproved of those who took part. Disapproval came from 71% of Republicans. Even among those who believe President Donald Trump was the legitimate winner of Election 2020 — those who believe the election was stolen — a solid majority rejected the assault on the Capitol.

But that’s not what Democrats tend to believe. By a 46% to 31% margin, members of Biden’s party think most Trump voters supported the attack on the Capitol. That’s a stunning disconnect.

Nearly half the nation — 74 million people — voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden. While disappointed in the outcome, the vast majority of these voters were appropriately horrified by the events in the Capitol. Obviously, they have legitimate policy concerns that they hope will be addressed. But they want them addressed in an appropriate manner.

But nearly half of all Democrats are convinced that most of these 74 million voters actually supported the violence at the Capitol building. That’s what happens when a political system focuses on blaming the other team rather than finding solutions. If partisan activists can convince themselves that the other side is truly deplorable, they can also convince themselves that such voters have no legitimate grievances. They deserve to be ignored.

Unfortunately, ignoring the legitimate grievances of the other team is what got us into this mess. And it prevents us from finding common ground and national unity.

Scott Rasmussen is an American political analyst and digital media entrepreneur. He is the author of “The Sun is Still Rising: Politics Has Failed But America Will Not.”

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