We have all been focusing on our differences (real and "global test" imagined) during this campaign, which of course makes total sense.
But I think that, with the election less than a month away, we should not forget what we have in common. Regardless of who wins we will all be proud citizens of the United States of America on Nov. 3rd, the day after the election, and on January 21st, the day after the inaguaration. So here are five things the Republicans and Democrats have in common:
1. We all love America. Uniquely in the world, the United States is bound together not by ethnicity, geography, religion, or race. We are bound together by an idea - that all men (and women) are created equal, they they have rights, and that power flows from the people to the government, not the other way around. We are bound by the idea that we can govern ourselves. Given the long history of civilization we should not forget how few humans in history have enjoyed such a form of government, nor how few enjoy it today. We are the exception to the rule. Which is why I believe in American exceptionalism - not jingoism, not nationalism, but an understanding that our system is different than most of the systems existing today or throughout all of human history. Say what you will about Kerry or Bush, they both have to beg for our votes and stand before us to be judged. As it should be. And we all love and support our form of government as the best humanity has ever created.
2. We all want to fight and win the war on the terrorists who seek to destroy us. Now there is a huge difference of opinion on how that should be done, or even if the Democrats really want to fight it. That is a lie. All of us were attacked on 9/11. And all of us united to fight the evil that attacked us. And that remains true today. We will win this war. The question of how to fight it is different. We disagree on that. But we agree that we must win. And we will win this war. We've faced bleaker days in the past, faced more dangerous threats, and triumphed. We will win because of number one above. In the fall of 1942 we faced the Third Reich and the Japanese Empire, and they were winning. Yet we knew then we would triumph, and so we will triumph against this much lesser threat. The only way for the terrorists to win is for us to renounce number one. No way.
3. We believe in capitalism. Sure there are disagreements about details. The left says the right wants a fascist state controlled by evil corporations, and the right says the left is really a bunch of commies and socialists who want to destroy business. That is empty rhetoric and we all know it. We believe in capitalism because it harnesses greed for social good. Because market forces recognize reality and human nature. Communism, if you really take the time to study it apart from the knee-jerk "communism is evil" reaction that has been conditioned into us, is really a noble idea. It says that everyone will be equal and that everyone will work for the good of all. That justice will triumph and fairness will reign. That is a great goal. The only problem is that it doesn't and never can work. It ignores reality, ignores what motivates people, and always has to resort to the use of force in order to drive people to produce. Communism works in heaven, where everyone is pure and good and selfless. It doesn't work here on earth. The closest our society comes is in the military, where people serve not for money but for an ideal. Yet sergeants get paid more than privates, and generals more than lieutenants. And our military is the greatest in world history because of capitalism - we can fund our forces because we produce more than any other nation. What does work is capitalism - the idea that people take risks, that some win and some lose, that instead of worrying about dividing the pie equally we should bake more pies. We might disagree about how to do that - some want to leave market forces alone completely, some want to invest in training more cooks and build more kitchens - but we agree that our system should create wealth and opportunity, not just redistribute what already exists. Instead of dividing wealth we should create it. We should foster competition. Regardless of who wins the election we will remain proudly capitalistic, with the highest gross national product of any nation in the world.
4. We believe in limited government. What, a liberal saying that? Yes. Of course. Our Constitution and our Bill of Rights says that government has only the power we give it, and NO MORE. It is limited. We may disagree on details - the right supports the Patriot Act, while the left says it is a danger to the Bill of Rights. The left says this while many on the left want to pretend the 2nd Amendment really doesn't mean what it says. We argue about which side is more loyal and true toward the Constitution. But if I went up to Ashcroft and said "we can capture all of the terrorists tomorrow, but it will mean the end of the 1st Amendment forever" I know he would say "No way. We will win another way." And if he didn't the Republican party would revolt and demand his removal - because they love the Constitution too. We argue about where we draw the line between liberty and security, but both sides agree that we should draw that line. Other systems don't even think about it, the powers of the government over the people are supreme. Don't forget that. Both sides support the Constitution and our way of life.
5. We believe in democracy. Sounds obvious, but hearing the rhetoric you might think the republicans want to "steal" the election, that they want to disenfranchise blacks, that they want to use voting machines to manipulate the vote, that they want their candidate in office even if they really lost. The debacle in 2000 had a lot to do with this. But while some might be willing to cheat democracy in order to win, that is a minority in both parties. And the election in 2000 was not "stolen." I don't like the Supreme Court's ruling in Bush v. Gore, but that is the way our system works - sometimes we don't get our way. Even when we think we did. Democrats didn't criticize the electoral college prior to the election, and thus had no right to criticize the results of the electoral college even though more citizens voted for Gore. Whether Florida conducted a fair ballot was up to the people of Florida, and if the system was "manipulated" in that state we would have heard. What we have heard since was information that was known before (the felon-scrubbing that removed innocents who were likely to vote for Gore, the intimidation, etc) and yet no stink was made until afterwards - and thus complaining looks a little suspect. So the democrats could have complained, but expected to coast to victory. Instead it was a very close race, perhaps too close to call, and so our system has other mechanisms to decide the winner. We can send it to Congress or we can send it to the Supreme Court. Both parties chose the Supreme Court. They decided. End of discussion. We (all of us) will accept the results on Nov. 2nd because, unique to our system, the opposition is "loyal" to the government. Because getting your way is not considered more important than getting the support of the people. It is easy to think the "other side" wants to "steal" the election and ignore the will of the people. But Face facts. Any side that really tried such a thing would be the enemy of all of us. How do I know that? Because it happened already.
In the Nixon administration it came out that Nixon "cheated." Now this was a president that legitimately won the 1972 election. He won fair and square. He would have won even without cheating. What happened? He was forced to resign anyway - because his party, the Republican party, told him to get the F out - knowing that they would probably get creamed at the next election. And they did. Guess what? Democrats would have done the same. Now before some lefties bring up Clinton's impeachment, I have two words: The Constitution.
Maybe you didn't agree with the effort to impeach Clinton, thinking it was a blatant disregard for the will of the people to remove an elected president for such a minor crime. I tend to think that. Others think his crime wasn't so minor. But he did commit a crime, and the Constitution is famously vague on impeachment standards. Thus Congress gets to decide what standard to use - and Congress did. We the People gave Congress that power, and Congress used that power. If you don't like the system, if you want to take that power away, then amend the Constitution. If you can't do that because not enough of your fellow citizens support that idea, well, then accept it. I don't like what Congress did in impeaching Clinton, but all Congressmen that supported impeachment did so knowing they would face the will of the people at the next election. And that is ok. If anything, the impeachment served as a reminder that we don't have an imperial presidency - that if enough of the People's representatives disagree with a president, away he goes. The system worked. Both parties believe in democracy. The right is not some "evil" group working to destroy democracy from within. Neither is the left.
So we can argue and tear each other down and claim one side loves America more than the other, but it isn't true. We disagree on the details, but the overall framework, the sacred idea of democracy, unites us. The latin root of the word "republic" is "res publica." Res means "business" or "organization." Publica means "the people. Res publica - the people's business. All people - even those that disagree with me about who should be president - will decide. And I support that system, even if it means I don't get my way. And I know they support it too, even if they don't get their way.
Don't consider your political opponents your enemies. They are your fellow Americans, who are dedicated to doing what they think is best for this nation. Respect that.
E Pluribus Unum.