Aug 31, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Esper calls "extreme partisanship" greatest threat facing U.S.

Mark Esper
Mark Esper at the White House in April 2020. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Extreme partisanship from members of both political parties is the greatest threat currently facing the U.S., former Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Wednesday during an interview with Axios' Hans Nichols hosted by Florida's Forum Club of the Palm Beaches.

Why it matters: The past few years have seen a deepening political divide in the U.S. that, with the events of the Capitol riot, showed the propensity to spillover into violence.

  • Earlier this year, the Justice Department created new unit to investigate acts of domestic terrorism following repeated warnings from government agencies that the threat of and investigations into such acts have increased since 2020.

What they're saying: "The greatest threat facing our country today is here at home. It's extreme partisanship from both sides of the aisle that is hurting our political discourse, the social fabric of our country and our democracy," Esper said.

  • Referring to a presidential run by former President Donald Trump in 2024, Esper said it would "bring all that coarse language and all that, you know, attacking people from — not just Democrats, but Republicans — and that's not what our country reason that needs right now," he added.
  • America needs leaders from both sides of the aisle "who will lift us up," he said, adding that "we can still have serious debates about the size of the defense budget or student loans."
  • "We need civil discourse that's polite."
  • Esper added that Republicans must "stop this fratricide" stemming from Trump and the "MAGA crowd."
  • "We should be talking about Democrats and we should be putting forward a positive policy agenda and not sniping at one another," Esper said.

Go deeper: The rise of hyper-partisan politicians

Go deeper