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Remembering When Democrats Cheered for our Nation

President George W. Bush delivers an address regarding the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States to a joint session of Congress Thursday, Sept. 20, 2001, at the U.S. Capitol. Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

It’s a damn shame the way political differences have driven a wedge between us. This country once valued our ability to publicly express views as something worth fighting and even dying for.

It seems like even in my lifetime the mantra “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” (which was written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, but often misattributed to Voltaire) was something that Americans on both sides of the aisle held, and both Democrats and Republicans were able to put policy differences aside and cheer for the success of our country. Nowadays, political factions can’t even agree on what the facts are, let alone have a civil disagreement.

The truth is, this wedge between the right and left has been growing since our country’s founding. It seems impossible that we could ever achieve unity over partisan division again. Yet, most of us can remember a time we did put aside our political differences as a country. It seems so long ago now, but we actually had an opportunity to bring this country together and keep it that way, but instead, the opportunity was squandered.

I am, of course, talking about the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That one horrible tragedy managed to bring this country together for a short while, less than a year after the bitterly divisive 2000 presidential election. We proved to ourselves and the world that we have it in ourselves to put country before party. But, as the months passed and the 2004 election approached, things just picked up where they left off and devolved at a quicker pace than ever before.

I can still remember what it was like to watch President George W. Bush’s address to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001, a mere nine days after the 9/11 attacks, and not seeing a divided Congress of Republicans and Democrats, but a unified Congress that cheered for the strength and resiliency of nation. It stands in stark contrast to the way Democrats sat on their hands earlier this week as President Trump spoke of our nation’s successes, and highlighted the compelling stories of his guests. Democrats couldn’t find it in themselves to cheer record-low unemployment for minorities, disabled Americans, and workers without a high school diploma. They couldn’t see this news as good for this country at all. Instead, they saw it through a political lens, not wanting to seemingly give Trump credit for the achievements. Democrats instead sat glumly, some even walked out. And the coup de grâce came when Nancy Pelosi symbolically ripped her copy of Trump’s speech after he finished delivering it.

Our country is tearing itself apart to the point where some pundits predict that another civil war is inevitable. You can dismiss this as hyperbole if you want, but I don’t think it’s that far out of left field, either.

I urge everyone to rewatch President Bush’s address to Congress from September 20, 2001, and remember what a country unified looks like.

Let’s hope it doesn’t take another terrorist attack on our country for such unity to occur again. It would be nice to see the Democratic Party cheer for our nation’s success, regardless of who is in power at the time. We can debate who deserves credit another time, but we need to get back to a time when everyone is on the same team.

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Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis