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US likely to remain a divided nation

By Chen Weihua | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-01-23 06:20

What happened in this past weekend in Washington, however, is a reminder that there are two United States, if not three or four.

I was surprised early Friday morning on way to covering the inauguration of Donald Trump to be the 45th US president. The Metro Red Line was not only unusually crowded for a Friday morning, the cars were filled with people wearing red caps emblazoned with "Make America Great Again," Trump's campaign slogan.

That surprise resulted from the fact that Washington, the nation's capital, is deep blue. Trump supporters are hard to find among the local population. In the District of Columbia, about 90 percent of the votes in 2016 presidential election went to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and only a tiny 4 percent went to Trump.

When Americans went out to vote on Nov 8, I had a hard time trying to find Trump voters while interviewing people outside several local polling stations.

On Friday morning, I chatted with those Trump supporters walking out the Metro Center station, they came from Ohio, Illinois and even California and they came specially to go to the National Mall for Trump's inauguration. They were elated judging from the expression on their faces.

The National Mall in front of the Capitol Hill was packed Friday morning with these jubilant Trump supporters. They cheered loudly when former US president George W. Bush, a Republican, and his wife Laura appeared on the screen. Some shouted "Lock Her Up" when former US president Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary were announced to arrive at the inauguration platform. They booed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, also a Democrat, when he delivered his speech at the inauguration, with message directing at Trump's policy rhetoric.

It was certainly a day of the impossible could become impossible in the US. The New York real estate billionaire was not taken seriously in May 2015 when he announced his campaign is now the US president – leader of the most powerful nation on the planet.

However, outside the checkpoints to the National Mall were angry anti-Trump protesters who wanted to disrupt the inauguration. Some organizations had a daily protest days since days ago.

In one violent protest erupted just blocks from the inauguration parade, a limousine was set on fire and police had to use teargas to disburse the crowds. A total of 217 people were arrested.

The scene the next morning came as a bigger surprise. I could not even get on the Red Line at the Woodley Park station after seeing three trains passing by. This time the cars were filled with people, many wearing the so-called Pussycat Hat and carrying demonstration signs in their hands.

It was a day of Women's March on Washington. The crowd is so huge that I've never seen a larger demonstration like this since I moved here four years ago. An estimated half a million people took part in the demonstration, more than the people at Trump's inauguration on Friday.

They are literally all anti-Trump people, and many supporters for Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders, another Democratic candidate in the 2016 race.

The enormous and enthusiastic crowd demanded women's rights, but also expressed deep concern over Trump's policy on immigration and environment.

There is no doubt that Americans are deeply divided on some fundamental issues. The CNN/ORC poll from Jan 12-15 showed that 53 percent of Americans view Trump unfavorably while only 44 percent have a favorable opinion of the incoming president. A Fox News poll from Jan 15-18 also showed an unfavorable view of 55 percent compared with the favorable opinion of 42 percent.

A Pew Center survey released on Thursday shows that most Americans expect the nation's political divide to persist. A total of 86 percent describe the country as more politically divided today than in the past, while just 12 percent say the country is no more divided.

While some believe that the nation might become more united after the Republicans control the White House and both chambers of the Congress, the crowds on the inauguration day and the women's march clearly suggest otherwise.

 

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