America divided? Not on everything

America divided? Not on everything
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Americans, according to conventional wisdom, are more divided than they have been since the Civil War — and it is difficult to deny that political partisanship in the United States has become more widespread and intense during the last three decades. Nonetheless, throughout the United States a substantial majority of Americans are speaking with one voice about face masks, a stimulus package, infrastructure, healthcare, guns, wages, and more. As voters listen to the closing arguments of President TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE and former Vice President BidenJoe BidenRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Iowa governor suggests immigrants partially to blame for rising COVID-19 cases Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE, it behooves us to reflect on the many issues about which we agree:

Over 90 percent of Americans say they wear a mask when leaving home, with 75 percent indicating they “always” do. The “always” is up by almost 25 percent since July.

To address the financial impact associated with the pandemic, almost three-quarters of Americans want Congress to pass — and the president to sign — a $2 trillion stimulus package. Legislation passed by the House of Representatives in May (not taken up by the Republican Senate) and now part of the stalled negotiations between Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse to resume mask mandate after new CDC guidance McCarthy pulls GOP picks off House economic panel GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger MORE (D-Calif.) and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin provides significant resources for Coronavirus testing and contact tracing; enhanced unemployment benefits; loans or subsidies to small businesses; aid to financially-strapped state and local governments to support police, fire fighters, teachers, and first responders.


Nearly 90 percent of Americans believe spending hundreds of billions of dollars on infrastructure to upgrade roads, schools, hospitals, water systems, and power grids will protect flood-prone areas and provide wide-ranging benefits to workers, businesses, the economy, and quality of life.

Consider: 70 percent of Americans support a higher minimum wage for all workers. And seven in ten Americans do not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Some 67 percent of Americans favor a federally funded healthcare option that provides an alternative to private insurance, aimed at increasing competition to reduce the cost of coverage. Virtually all Americans support the government guarantee in the Affordable Care Act protecting all individuals with pre-existing medical conditions from losing their health insurance. There is substantial support as well for lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to 60 and changing the law prohibiting the Department of Health and Human Services from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies to reduce the price of drugs for Medicare recipients.

Another 66 percent of Americans approve of a climate action initiative, even if it costs $2 trillion. Comprehensive plans fund investments in clean energy, enforcement mechanisms to reach net zero emissions by 2050, incentives to companies and communities to use clean energy innovations, and penalties assessed on fossil fuel companies that pollute.

Two-thirds of Americans maintain that the very rich should pay more to support public programs. This view has gained even more support since the passage of tax cuts in 2017 which disproportionately benefited corporations and the wealthiest Americans. In fact, 59 percent of registered voters think the highest personal income tax rate (which is now less than 40 percent) should be raised to 70 percent! The vast majority of Americans agree that the federal government should impose a 25 percent annual tax on people with wealth over $50 million and 3 percent on assets in excess of $1 billion; 58 percent want individuals with annual incomes in excess of $250,000 to pay more in taxes. 


A solid majority of 58 percent of Americans believe “major changes” should be made to existing police practices. An additional 36 percent support “minor changes.” Proposals for reform include prohibitions on racial profiling, a ban on no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, an end to choke holds, and the establishment of a national registry of police misconduct.

Almost all Americans, including 83 percent of gun owners and 72 percent of National Rifle Association members, advocate universal background checks on anyone seeking to purchase a firearm; 61 percent want to ban the sale of high capacity magazines; 57 percent to end sales of semi-automatic weapons.

Although the devil, of course, is in the details, Americans agree on many of the fundamental principles they think should guide policymakers. It is now up to us to decide which presidential candidate is more likely to give us what we want. Spoiler alert: That candidate is Joe Biden.

Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of "Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century."