Saturday, December 10

Ex-White House staffers on fixing America’s divisions: “It’s not going to be a politician that saves us”

As voters head to the polls Tuesday to decide which party controls Congress and choose their local leaders, some say it will take more than politicians to fix America’s divisions, which have resulted in political violence.

“It won’t be an elected official that’s going to save us,” said CBS News political contributor Ashley Etienne, who has served as a senior advisor to Presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“We’re gonna have to say, enough is enough,” she said.

Etienne noted that the current Congress “opened up with” a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol and threats to hang the vice president of the United States. It was bookended by an attack last month on Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, in their house. 

“No matter how the elections turn out today, this is an issue that we’re gonna have to grapple with as a nation,” she said. “We’re gonna have to figure out: How do we get back to a ‘we’? Not an ‘us vs. them,’ which is perpetuating this violence.” 

CBS News contributor Mick Mulvaney, who served as acting White House chief of staff under President Donald Trump, echoed her remarks, saying, “it’s not going to be a politician that saves us.”

“One politician didn’t get us into this problem. One politician is not going to get us out,” he said. “People ask me, ‘How do you fix Washington?’ I’m like, Washington doesn’t really lead. Washington reflects the nation. The reason Washington is so divided is that the country is.”

“Don’t look to Washington to fix this,” he said.

Mulvaney said the answer to mending some of the country’s divisions lies within the hands of voters because “politicians derive their power from the people that vote for them.” 

Etienne said that when it comes to the midterms and messaging, she “would have advised the president differently” in terms of campaigning. She would have advised President Joe Biden to elevate bipartisan successes and accomplishments, “wrap his arms around Republicans that he did that with … and then to demonstrate to the American people that democracy can still work, that we can still do big things together.”

“The president ran on a message of healing. That seems to have been lost,” she said. 

She added that “there’s a lot of frustration” within the Democratic Party and that “it would have also helped to neutralize extremes in both parties and build a bigger, broader coalition for him going into the midterms and 2024.”

For Republicans, Mulvaney said priorities should be focused on “generational change” without having Donald Trump as its candidate. The former president said he will make a big announcement on November 15, which Trump advisers say could be news of a 2024 presidential bid.

Mulvaney said Trump is “the only Republican who can lose in 2024,” and that if Trump runs, “the election will be about him.”

“If he’s on the ticket, the election becomes about him instead of about the issues that we want to push,” he said. “When we had a chance this time around to push the issues we want to talk about — inflation and crime and safety — we’re doing well. We don’t get that chance with Trump.”

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