Op-ed by David T. Crum | Photo: Alamy
For most Americans, two matters remain personal and often private, one being their religious beliefs and the other their political ideology. Not surprisingly, both viewpoints further create one’s worldview.
Politics divide, and they always have. In the early history of the United States, the nation experienced historic division. From the Burr-Hamilton duel to members of Congress attacking one another, and of course, to the War Between the States, differing political viewpoints have caused heated separation among Americans.
However, the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War is where Democrats can best learn from history. General Ulysses S. Grant allowed Lee’s Northern Virginia Army to surrender peacefully. The peaceful surrender of the deadliest conflict in U.S. history started a chain reaction, with others yielding soon after.
On Dec. 25, 1868, Proclamation 179 began restoring peace and freedom by granting a full pardon and amnesty to the Confederates. General Grant and Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, realizing the country had just come out of the most divisive point in U.S. history, understood that charging and perhaps convicting Confederate leaders would only further separate the nation.
General Lee, too, sought unification. Following the war, Lee was on record stating the following:
“I want you to take a message to your friends. Tell them from me that it is unworthy of them as women, and especially as Christian women, to cherish feelings of resentment against the North. Tell them that it grieves me inexpressibly to know that such a state of things exists, and that I implore them to do their part to heal our country’s wounds.”
The United States is only as strong as its leaders. With all the faults of President Johnson, his proclamation was the first step toward reconciliation. We need leaders who employ such a concept today. Regardless of one’s opinion of President Trump, the fact remains that nearly half the electorate voted for him in 2020. Politics are personal for most people in the United States, and voters passionately support their chosen candidate. Today, many of the individuals who voted for Trump feel like they are under attack from the Democratic party and the MSM; as a result, they have concluded that their voices are being silenced in many arenas as if their beliefs simply do not matter.
Sadly, this feeling began not with the 2020 election but before Trump took office in 2016. From the media’s unfair coverage of his 2016 campaign to the Russian Hoax and impeachment from House Democrats, Trump supporters feel like their candidate has never been given a fair chance.
Democrats have done everything possible to stop Trump from remaining in office or gaining the presidency again. The four indictments against Trump further divide the nation and, in the opinion of many, constitute a personal attack on his constituents. Voters are not oblivious to the timing of the indictments and view it as blatant election interference. Trump faces charges from the opposing party as he readies for his 2024 campaign, similar to his first impeachment while in office.
If Democrats want to disqualify Trump from the office of presidency, they should do so at the ballot box in a fair election. Unwavering supporters of the former president feel like they are constantly under attack. Republicans cannot go a single day without hearing about Jan. 6 but also note that the media either completely ignores or justifies the violent protests during the 2017 inauguration, repeated death threats to the former president, and the unprosecuted burning of cities lauded and financially supported by Democrats during Trump’s administration.
Politicians, regardless of party affiliations, represent the people. The Democratic Party of today needs to realize millions of Americans feel canceled. The lessons from the U.S. Civil War are many. Following the war, the nation did not automatically unite and prosper as if division had never occurred. However, a generation or two later, Americans joined together in a World War that inarguably paved the way for America to become known as the greatest country the world had known to that point in time.
Americans need that same unification today. Indicting a former president, a man the majority of Republicans still strongly support, for the first time in American history serves no purpose in helping all Americans find and build on any common ground they might possess to strengthen the nation. Democrats need to seek reconciliation instead of creating further division.
 Ted Baehr and Susan Wales, Faith in God and Generals: An Anthology of Faith, Hope, and Love in the American Civil War (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 85.