The nation’s see-sawing anxiety attack was perfectly packaged by Thursday’s events.
Democrats wrapped up their raucous takeover of the floor of the House of Representatives to demand a vote on gun control. The Supreme Court deadlocked on a critical separation-of-powers case involving President Barack Obama’s executive order to give quasi-legal status to millions of young immigrants here illegally. And the court couldn’t take definitive action because Senate Republicans refuse to allow a confirmation vote on the president’s nominee for an empty seat.
The political strategy of short-term wins might preclude long-term resolutions if we continue to undermine our governmental institutions. The challenges are enormous and contentious, and compromise seems out of reach. Yet we must rebalance some inherent conflicts in our society: between the rich and the poor, the old way of doing business and the new, who should be allowed to come here and who shouldn’t be allowed to remain, and how we respect the constitutional right to own guns while stopping the carnage caused by the bullets fired from them.
Regardless of one’s views on gun control — and we are frustrated by the inaction on many sensible measures — the Democrats sitting on the House floor and shouting down their speaker did give us qualms. Is this the new order?
And the difficulty of dealing with our legacy of racial discrimination continued to play out in individual cases in our justice system. On Thursday, a third police officer, the one facing the most serious charges in causing the death of Freddie Gray, the unarmed Baltimore man who died after a so-called “rough ride” in a police van, was acquitted. Gray’s death in 2015 touched off rioting and citywide protests in a continuing wave of anger over the deaths of black men at the hands of police.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in favor of the University of Texas’ affirmative action plan in a case that rode up and down the federal court system like an elevator for eight years. A majority of justices rejected the argument that a “color blind” Constitution prohibits any consideration of race or ethnicity in voting, education and employment. In this case, the vacancy due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia was not a factor. And Justice Elena Kagan recused herself because of her earlier involvement with the case when she worked for the Justice Department.
While our domestic issues are uniquely tuned to our culture, norms and laws, Americans are not alone in confronting tumultuous times. More than 70 percent of Britons were voting whether to leave the European Union, one of the most important referendums in their history. The fight over whether to stay or leave may have led to the assassination of a member of Parliament. And for an hour, reports that a masked gunman was terrorizing a movie theater outside of Frankfurt, Germany, sent U.S. law enforcement into high alert.
The events of the day reflect how bitterly divided a nation we have become, and not without irony it was all documented in a just-released Pew Research Center poll. Republicans and Democrats now view the other side’s policies as “a threat to the country” in almost equal numbers, 45 percent to 41 percent. And there is no sense that we can find a path that will allow us to move forward for the common good. — The editorial board