The problem with reconciliation

President Biden is turning out to be a remarkable President. But he has a major problem. His instinct during his long career has been to ‘reach across the aisle’ – meaning that he is always seeking bi-partisan support for his programmes.

But he is gradually having to recognise that he will not get the co-operation he hopes for from the Republican Party. While there are some ‘below the line’ signs of co-operation, the party is still in thrall to Trump and his ‘big lie’ that he won the election. Biden may have to recognise that he must press ahead without that co-operation hoping that the broad base of public support which he programmes have been attracting will see him through the mid-term elections. The alternative is to wait and maybe end up facing the elections with nothing much on the record.

I learned something like this in the long struggle to promote reconciliation in Northern Ireland. It is natural and correct to assume that reconciliation in Ireland will be between Protest and Catholic, Orange and Green. But the reality has often been that the two main blocs have been almost totally preoccupied with their own internal politics – fighting about the leadership of each separate community. Since the demise of Arlene Foster as Leader of the DUP, Unionism has fragmented into four or five groups all struggling for the leadership of that community. They have little appetite for a deep engagement across the political, cultural and religious divide. But that of course isn’t the whole story. The centre ground is growing and there is hope of political movement,

But President Biden finds himself facing a Republic party which is partly bought into Trump’s narrative of the election – partly preoccupied with voting reforms designed to strengthen their position. – partly trying to work out whether Trump will run again in 2024. To give up on the hope of bi-partisanship goes against the grain.

But that is what he may have to do.