We are told almost daily that our nation is divided. Rarely are we also told it always has been. From the beginning, Americans disagreed over loyalty to Britain, slavery, and the sovereignty of states. Protestants seemed to agree on nothing other than that they opposed Catholics. For reasons I will never grasp, the anger of our Civil War seems to have been redirected against blacks. Later, the influx of European immigrants spawned contentious relations among nationalities. During Woodrow Wilson’s administration, divisions were exploited and nurtured by our own politicians and by Russia, infiltrating our institutions to influence our government to accept policies that favored or at least did not frustrate Bolshevik ambitions. Just listing today’s divisions would exhaust space limitations.

As dismal as that is, I took some hope from a recent exchange on Facebook. A (professed) Democrat posted regret that the facts revealed in the past few weeks proved his (or perhaps her) party was “corrupt to the core.” I replied that I took little satisfaction in the admission, because I had concluded, months ago, that my party was corrupt at its core.

My one-word change is a serious distinction. The Republicans I know deplore the chasm between “grassroots” Republicans and the so-called leaders who dominate the news cycle. Among us, “swamp creature” means John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Jeb Bush, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. Since then, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and Jeff Flake have apparently grown gills and scales.

My only plausible explanation for the behavior of Republican insiders is that they have burrowed deeply into the Washington swamp and developed secure and comfortable positions being the congenial and ineffective opposition. When cameras are on, they speak strongly against the "other party," but when those go away, everyone gathers in Georgetown or in establishments in the newly gentrified Capitol Hill for drinks, a good laugh over the ignorance and gullibility of voters, and to exchange tips over "investment" opportunities that grow wealth at rates even Trump, Gates and Zuckerberg would covet.

The failure of the health care bill and the inability to craft a tax reform bill confirm yet another suspicion. Too many swamp creatures are not guided by core beliefs, values or principles. If only we could keep our headlights as transparent as their explanations for opposition to elimination of the property-tax deduction on million-dollar estates in New York and California! We "deplorables" understand that what is at work is not principles but interests, and to not understand that is to deserve the drunken scorn in southeast D.C. taprooms. That would be equally true of those persuaded that criminal behavior is excusable absent proof of criminal intent or that that conversation in Phoenix was about grandchildren.

We here in Maine have remarkable access to our elected officials. It may be inconvenient to get out of the house on a weeknight to attend meetings and forums, but those are opportunities to meet and talk with the people making decisions affecting our wallets and freedoms, or those campaigning to do so. It’s sad so few people take advantage of these opportunities, and I cannot but wonder what basis voters have for supporting candidates they have never met or spoken with.

Our divisions are a clear and present threat to our republic. Of course, Russia "interfered" in our election as it has interfered in every election for a century. After all, elections are prime opportunities to deepen and widen divisions and erode confidence in our institutions, processes and leaders by planting and propagating "fake news.” It is entirely likely Russia had no purpose of influencing the election outcome, but rather to exploit the opportunities the election provided to work mischief.

Our outrage should be that, throughout the past century, those who wish America ill have easily recruited allies and useful idiots among us to help them. But, my friends and neighbors (and resident trolls), it doesn’t have to be. We have the power to demand objectivity from our media. We can, with our viewing habits and subscriptions, demand facts, not speculation; proof, not accusation; accountable, not anonymous, sources; and original thought, not cowardly repetition of what was reported elsewhere. We can demand candor and substance from candidates and elected representatives and common decency of ourselves and of others.

Will we?