Is America Divided?
October 17, 2017
By John Steinberger | Contributing Writer
A forum was held at Charles Towne Landing last week with the theme Trump’s America: A Nation Divided? It was the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Global Questions series and included panelists Pastor Mark Burns, Democratic National Committee member Jaime Harrison, Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), pollster Frank Luntz and Bernice King, the youngest child of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The tone for the forum was set by moderator Zeinab Badawi, whose prologue insinuated that President Donald Trump uses polarizing language and that the country is more divided than ever before. The audience wasn’t divided – about 85% of the 300 people gathered acknowledged by raising their hands that they voted for Hillary Clinton. Many of the Democrat partisans are part of the leftist group Indivisible Charleston, which is known for shouting down conservatives and booing.
A College of Charleston student asked whether America was divided before the 2016 election. Burns, who is a spiritual advisor to President Trump, said the country was divided long before Trump entered the political arena. He said, “We are in a society where conflict sells.” Blackburn called for more civil and robust debate in America, stating, “People really want the nation to be safe and secure and to have opportunities ahead of them.” Harrison expressed that Democrats are often demonized in South Carolina and that both sides need to seek common ground.
Charleston County Republican Party Vice-Chair Nikki Claiborn, a black woman, asked the panelists if they thought President Trump was racist. Harrison stated that his actions have been racist, citing his initial response to a racially-charged riot in Charlottesville, Va. Burns who operates The Now Network, a Christian television network in the Upstate community of Easley, said, “I grew up in the Deep South, and I know racism. Why would Donald Trump hang out with black people if he was a racist? The media plays on raw emotion and tries to pit us against each other.”
Ross Gwinn from North Charleston asked why the supposedly objective media provides non-stop negative coverage on Trump. Luntz, well known for his televised focused groups with people who have opposing views responded, “The media does not treat him with respect and wants to take him down.”
WTMA radio talk show host Charlie James made a statement about how Charleston is a united community which practices civility in trying circumstances. He cited the calm which prevailed following the police shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston and the execution of Pastor Clementa Pinckney and eight others at Emanuel AME Church in 2015. James said, “The media came here (following the crisis situations) looking for a divided community. They didn’t find one. How can you (the establishment media) say you’re not complicit in dividing America?”
There was a lot of discussion about Trump’s frequent use of Twitter to communicate with his 32 Million followers. Blackburn, who recently had a campaign ad blocked on Twitter, said, “President Trump uses Twitter because the mainstream media doesn’t accurately portray what he says. He uses the platform to speak directly to the people. He got elected because people are fed up with a government which isn’t responsive to their needs.” Harrison responded that using derogative nicknames on Twitter (like calling North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un “Rocket Man”) was not presidential.
West Ashley native Debbie Hall asked whether we are at risk of going to war in North Korea. Harrison replied, “To go to war requires patience, understanding and temperament, and this President lacks all of those qualities.” Blackburn, who has announced she is running for Senate in 2018, countered by saying that Trump has assembled a top-notch national security and foreign affairs team (including United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley). She cited the unanimous approval in the U.N. Security Council condemning North Korea for its aggressive behavior. She urged the audience to pray for our leaders.
I agree with Burn, Luntz, James and others with the notion that the media does attempt to pit one group against another and keep people stirred up. I also agree with Blackburn that we all want the same things – safety, security and prosperity.
John Steinberger is the editor-in-chief of LowcountrySource.com. To contact him, email John@LowcountrySource.com.