I call myself a conservative, but I’m really not that different from most of my liberal friends (of whom there are many) when it comes to the things we care about. I also identify pretty consistently with my libertarian friends as well, and can even share some common ground with my few Socialist pals.
In every case, we can be friends and have good discussion not because we agree on how things should get done (that rarely happens) but because we do agree on why things should get done.
If I ran for president, I would probably end up on the Republican ticket, somewhere in that murky historic middle ground between Abe Lincoln and Donald Trump, and yet my strongest statement would be this:
I have more in common with the typical Democrat voter than I do with the typical Republican politician.
My message would be that I respect and share many of the concerns of the rank-and-file Democrat. And when my fellow Republicans arose in affronted surprise, I would remind them: we don’t fault our Democrat friends for caring deeply for the poor and underclass, or the environment, or those who’ve experienced unfair hurdles or discrimination in life, blocking their path to the success and liberty we all strive for. These are all worthy concerns, and we share them.
The problem is that we’ve conflated our good Democrat neighbors with the bad Democrat politicians, those who’ve exploited their constituents’ passions, and responded with bloated, flabby government programs that rarely succeed in alleviating the problem (assuming they were designed to succeed in the first place, and aren’t merely weak attempts to appease a Democrat electorate that they believe is too stupid to look past the “good intentions”).
To Democrat Americans, I would say loudly and repeatedly: you are my allies, and I am yours. What you care about matters deeply, because these are things we should all care about. We may often disagree on the how, but we will find a way, because we do agree on the why.
And to the American Democrat, I would go on: You don’t really hate your Republican neighbors the way you’ve been told to by your leaders and culture. Your leaders need you to hate, because it translates to votes and viewers. And I understand the allure of hating “the villainous other”– we all do.
Because hate often feels righteous.
And yet really, you don’t hate your Republican neighbors, whose deepest concerns are to protect the core goodness of our culture, to be free to have reverence for their faith, to respect the boundaries of personal responsibility, to fight for everyone’s freedom to choose their own path, and reap the possible rewards.
What you, my Democrat friends, rightfully hate are the bad Republican politicians who’ve exploited those causes for mere power, with little intention of assuring fairness of opportunity for everyone, who’ve catered to the lowest denominators of greed, and the tiniest, ugly percent of an otherwise wholesome constituency.
Our enemies are not each other. If I were president, I would listen to the concerns of all sides, and work as hard as possible to find workable solutions for the good causes that we all share.
We have harbored distrust and animosity for so long that it’s become a virtue of our respective camps.
And the truth is, we aren’t wrong in our distrust and animosity. We’ve simply allowed the politicians– and the media that feeds off them like a remora feeds off a shark– to turn the focus of that mistrust onto each other, instead of them.
Because let’s all face the facts: Democrat or Republican, they’ve all had decades to get this right, and all they’ve accomplished is maintaining the status quo, living off our trust like vampires, spending all their energy working to make us hate each other, distracting us from their own deliberate incompetence.
Hillary wants to be president of the Democrat half of the country. She is unabashed about this. Trump wants to be President of what remains of the Republican half of the country, bullying for them while rubbing everyone else’s noses in their loss of power and influence.
What we need is a president who is the president of everyone. Who understands and commits to the belief that the American citizen, regardless of party, has worthy concerns, and should never be punished, or ridiculed, or excluded for them.
We won’t often agree on how to do good things. But it’s time to focus first on the fact that, deep down, we, the American people, all do want good things, both for our families, and our neighbors, and our communities.
For too long we’ve submitted to politicians and the media pitting factions of American people against each other.
We have to stop defending our bad politicians as if they somehow represent us and deserve our unflagging loyalty merely for having the proper letter in front of their names.
They do not.
We all have common ground, but those who gain from division have done everything they can to hide that from us.
Because part of our common ground is that it isn’t our Democrat or Republican neighbors who are the problem. The problem is the politicians and media who’ve fed off making us believe so.
So talk to your friends from opposing perspectives. Make a point of finding the common ground, because it does exist. Avoid the all-too-easy impulse to focus on the differences in the how, to mock and belittle and argue.
Get out of the intellectual prison-camps of extremism that our politicians and culture have herded us into like the cattle they believe we are.
Let’s be united again, in purpose. Let’s be Americans first, before Democrats and Republicans.
If we can rise to a higher nature and do that, if we can remember that we agree on the why, then the how will eventually come.
If I was running for president, that would be my first and most oft-repeated message. My guiding principle. My deepest vision.
It may be naive, and the hurdle of overcoming our easy hatred and division may be so high that we cannot leap it in one election, or even one generation.
But anyone who aims for anything easier or lesser should never,ever earn our vote.