I am sure I’m not breaking any news here by stating declaratively that Republicans in Congress have no actual interest in “unity” with Joe Biden.
In the first week of his presidency they have made that abundantly clear, offering less than zero olive branches to the Biden administration while weaponizing his promise to unify the country anytime they find it convenient.
Despite the transparency of this gambit, some in the mainstream and conservative press are allowing Republicans to use this unity cudgel for political advantage. They want to put the onus on Biden to meet Republicans not in the middle exactly, but somewhere on the right just shy of Insurrection Alley. Then, when Biden has defended Trump on impeachment, promised not to nuke the filibuster, sworn to ignore climate change, invited the QAnon shaman to take a dump in the Lincoln Bedroom, and apologized for winning the election so convincingly that it hurt the feelings of 74 million Great American Patriots—then Republicans will give him some credit for trying to unify the country.
But that’s at the macro level. To really appreciate how pathetic this ploy is, you have to look at the micro. So let’s talk about John Cornyn.
On Monday the senior senator from Texas sent two tweets on the subject of unity.
The first was premised on the idea that in the future Republicans might have the votes to impeach Barack Obama for . . . well, Cornyn didn’t say what, exactly. Maybe birth certificate fraud. Who can say.
This wasn’t even “just asking questions.” Cornyn was literally framing the hypothetical as a threat: Nice former first-black president you got there. Hate to have to impeach him in 2032.
You like that unity? Nice of ya to come by.
But it was on the transgender ban where “Big John” really let it all hang out.
This is wrong on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start. So I’ll start here:
Discriminating against vulnerable groups isn’t how you unify people you fucking asshole.
How warped do you have to be as a human to think that the “unifying” political position is banning patriotic Americans from volunteering to serve their country? Are you serious?
All these transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines wanted to do was live as themselves and fight to protect all Americans—even tough-guy keyboard warriors who never served a day in their life. Like John Cornyn. But then, in 2019, these service members were forced to choose between their gender identity and their job because one afternoon their draft-dodging president decided to pause the TiVo and fire off a few tweets changing government policy during the commercial break for Outnumbered.
Now that we have a commander-in-chief who doesn’t think our troops are losers and suckers and thieves, he’s bringing back the policy that lets them serve openly and honorably. And that is an affront to John Cornyn’s sense of unity?
Pound sand, John.
Not that the polling data should even matter when it comes to a case of basic human rights, but on the matter of public opinion, Cornyn is on the wrong side, too.
Seventy-one percent of Americans opposed the transgender ban on military service according to Gallup, including 43 percent of Republicans. That is about as broadly popular of a policy as you are going to get in this day and age. For the love of all that’s holy: You can’t even get 71 percent of the country to agree on who won the last presidential election.
Any Republican senator who was genuine and serious about uniting with Joe Biden could have used this announcement as a way to stand together. It didn’t require anything from them. They didn’t need to take a tough vote. All they needed to do was—metaphorically!—stand next to Biden while he took an action which is broadly popular.
If they had wanted to give more than lip service, they could’ve gathered, masked, in the Rose Garden with a few decorated trans soldiers and stand—literally—next to Biden for a shared endorsement of a policy that is pro-human dignity, pro-military, pro-American values, ensures everyone is treated equally under the law, and has support across the aisle.
If you can’t bring yourself to meet Joe Biden in the middle on this, then what will you meet him on?
And if you go so far as to insult and mock him for it as part of a unity concern troll, then you have revealed yourself to be someone who cannot be taken seriously on the matter again.
As Brian Beutler wrote in his opus on bad-faith GOP arguments, “Republicans and professional conservatives revel in double standards because by embracing double standards they claim power over their opponents.”
On the issue of “unifying” the country this power ought to be taken away from them.
Joe Biden seems to genuinely want to unify this country. At times he will fail, and he should be called out for not living up to his promise when he does.
But Biden’s call for unity does not mean that political arguments go away or that 71 percent of the public will magically sign on with every item on his agenda. It does not mean that Republicans have to become Democrats or vice versa.
It simply means that Biden should strive to be a president for all Americans, even the ones who dislike some of his policy proposals, and the rest of the politicians in Washington should stop purposefully sharpening divisions through performative grandstanding in which they roll out bad-faith argument after bad-faith argument for rage clicks.
What “unity” means is that if John Cornyn has a substantive argument against the repeal of the transgender military ban, then he should make it—rather than concern-trolling Biden about meta issues. And if he agrees with the policy, he should just say so! Crazy, right?
But the reality is that we have no reason to expect that kind of behavior from people like John Cornyn who enabled and abetted Donald Trump’s regime of cruelty that targeted trans Americans, immigrants, children, Muslims, Hispanics, the disabled, the media, and even, in the end, police officers. People who won’t be happy until that grotesque regime is restored.
John Cornyn doesn’t care one whit about unity. He and his confederates only care about it as a way to punish Joe Biden and deny the 82 million Americans who voted for him the policy outcomes they are lawfully pursuing.
The time for unity is here, for those who earn it.
The time for taking asshats like John Cornyn seriously while they pretend to care about unity as a lib-owning troll is long past.