For the first time in ten years, the Democrats control both the House and the Senate. It has also been a decade since, Republicans not having at least one chamber from which they can block even the most mildly progressive policy. For the first time in ten years, Republicans are interested in unity.
For the final two years of the Obama administration and the first two of Trump’s term, Republicans had complete control of the legislature and had zero interest in reaching across the aisle. When Republicans lost the House in 2019, newcomers, especially progressives, were vilified as a Senate majority and a red White House continued to push on with as little compromise as possible.
Two years removed from majorities across the board, it has apparently become the time for unity. Republicans like Ted Cruz (R-TX), Jim Jordan (R-OH) and others have called for unity via speeches and tweets. However, their brand of unity does not feel like unity at all.
Cruz is a notoriously staunch conservative, consistently ranking among the most politically right-wing. Cruz ranked as the fourth most conservative Senator by govtrack.us in 2019, and has been among the ten most conservative every year since 2015. Under a fifth of the bills he cosponsored were introduced by a non-Republican, again ranking in the bottom ten in that category. He is significantly more likely to have his bills cosponsored by a member of another party than he is to return the favor.
What then does Cruz consider unity? What do his Republican peers consider unity? It seems to be a one-way street, where unity is only unity if their opponents unify with them. In order to gain Republican support, they demand compromise, or blatantly block bills deemed too progressive. They often refuse to work with Democrats on even bipartisan legislation, as seen with the recent American Rescue Plan Act, where not a single Republican voted for the already heavily compromised plan.
The American Rescue Plan Act had a lower total cost than Trump’s CARES Act from 2020, but that passed in a unanimous 96-0 vote as compared to the Rescue Plan that needed Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie breaking vote to pass. The Rescue Plan was already a watered down, compromised version of the original bill, while Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had to fight to keep unemployment provisions on the CARES Act. For a party that claims to be concerned with the budget at almost every turn, they tend to vote strictly along party lines even when it comes to similar bills.
Cruz further sought to divide the country when he joined six other Senators in voting to sustain the objection made to Pennsylvania’s vote counts in the Presidential election. The vote, along with comments made about multiple other states expressing similar sentiments, sought to ignore the will of millions of citizens in several states. The day before signaling his disdain for the people’s will, he implored the country to “come together and put this anger and division behind us” during the Jan. 6 mob at the Capitol building in Washington.
To be clear, I am not advocating for unity myself. I understand Biden’s strategy of trying to draw in swing voters by appealing to the center, but the less moderate wing of the party has seized that olive branch and interpreted it in a wildly different way, defining unity as agreement with their beliefs. As Republicans have pushed right in recent years, Democrats have often followed, trying to earn the vote of an ever-decreasing centrist bloc.
I want progress in spite of this. Republicans have won while moving to the right and a recent influx of progressives shows the feasibility of Democrats winning to the left. If attempts at finding a middle ground in a show of unity are rejected, why compromise? Democrats got the same number of Republican votes on the Rescue Plan as they would have before compromise. If Democrats want unity, they should run on and implement policy that improves people’s lives, not cave to the shallow, false brand of unity that Republicans whine about.
If shown a good faith brand of unity, a desire to work together for the betterment of the country and not just unifying behind a platform that works to disenfranchise voters, limit the rights of minority groups and cull the power of workers, I am all for working with the opposition. While the party that I somewhat align with holds power though, I want them to use it, especially when the other party does not hesitate to do so. I want workers’ rights, minority rights and guaranteed voting, and if it takes sacrificing a false brand of unity, then so be it.