By Bryann DaSilva
As I write this, anyone who cares about politics is, well, freaking out. Some are scared to death of China or Iran. Some are still tweeting about binders and Big Bird. Others are still clamoring for tax returns or college transcripts or some documentation that, even if released, wouldn’t matter very much in the election. As scary as it is, it all comes down to a few battleground states and some seats in the legislature, and then we’ll be stuck with our ‘technically’ duly elected officials. So let’s leave the platitudes about single-issue voters and the Electoral College for another day, because there’s something more important to say.
As I write this, I do not know which way this unsettlingly close race will go. But no matter who wins, we’re all at risk of losing. The middle class has lost all security, Congress has lost all decency, and I’ve all but lost my mind trying to make sense of it all.
What I fear most over the next four years is not a Romney presidency (though I really wouldn’t prefer it). There is a greater threat. What I fear most is an opposition party, Democratic or Republican, that continues to act like children: Well-funded, purely partisan, and intentionally obstructionist children.
Now, since we’re dealing with a childish Congress, let’s go back to grade school for a second. I distinctly remember the phrase “united we stand, divided we fall.” And I remember reciting a nice little ditty every day before school. You might know it – some apparently have forgotten: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
To the Republic. Notice that I didn’t pledge allegiance to Republicans. Nor to Democrats. Nor to Grover Norquist’s ridiculous tax pledge. That’s because, at the end of the day, we are Americans first and partisans second – or at least we should be.
By now we’ve all heard about about the Republican Party leadership meeting where plans were set to sabotage the Administration and, by some extension, the country. Mitch McConnell dropped all pretense when he told the National Journal that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
It need not be so. McConnell’s number one goal isn’t truly to destroy Obama, or at least it shouldn’t be. Let’s be reasonable and give him some credit. Let’s say that his goal really is to make America a better place. Someone just needs to tell him that opposing the President at every turn is not the only way to do that.
Unfortunately, elected officials who have sought to do the unthinkable and – gasp – reach across the aisle have received a different message from the electorate. The tragically absurd case of Dick Lugar comes to mind.
Lugar had a reliable base and a relatively strong record. A six-term Republican Senator from Indiana, he made the mistake of working with then-Senator Obama on a nuclear arms treaty with Russia. His constituents had their first chance to react to this instance of bipartisanship at the Indiana primary last spring. His punishment for working on something that Obama could claim even the slightest credit for was harsh. He lost what should have been an easy primary to Richard Mourdock, a radical Grover Norquist-approved Tea Party member.
Lugar’s heart-wrenching statement after the loss reminds us of what can be right with politics. “One can be very conservative or very liberal and still have a bipartisan mindset. Such a mindset acknowledges that the other party is also patriotic and may have some good ideas. It acknowledges that national unity is important, and that aggressive partisanship deepens cynicism, sharpens political vendettas, and depletes the national reserve of good will that is critical to our survival in hard times.”
We need to work together no matter what happens this election season. Though these examples show intolerance of bipartisanship from only one side of the aisle, I mean this to be not just a rebuke of Republicans but also a warning to Democrats. Should things not go blue this election season, do not play the ridiculous politics that have infuriated us for the past few years.
Of course, it is important to hold on to your convictions – but it is essential that you try to find and focus on common ground. Do not act like children, throwing temper tantrums and embarrassing the rest of us. Remember your grade school lessons.
I will say, though, they were slightly off about one thing in grade school. This idea of standing united but falling divided isn’t quite right. That’s because dividing is no longer an option. Instead, we need to trust each other and bind together. United we stand, united we fall.