Lincoln’s great insight that “united we stand, divided we fall” is once again at odds with many of those we elect to govern us. Standing for something doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge our political opposites feel the same.
Picking up my Sunday newspaper today I see two stories that catch my eye and found a link between the two. One was where the Speaker of the House, John Boehner played golf with President Obama. It was all pretty much portrayed as White House spokesperson Jay Carney conveyed it as nothing more than “an opportunity for the speaker and the president, as well as the vice president and Ohio governor (John Kasich), to have a conversation, to socialize in a way that so rarely happens in Washington.”
The other story was a speech by Texas Governor Rick Perry at the Republican Leadership Conference held in New Orleans yesterday. In his speech were indications, according to reporters there, that Perry was considering a run at the White House. The comment by Perry that caught my eye was his appeal to the extreme right for them to dig in their heals to protect their turf.
“Our party cannot be all things to all people. It can’t be. Our loudest opponents on the left are never going to like us so let’s stop trying to curry favor with them,” Perry said. “Let’s stand up and speak with pride about our morals and our values.” SOURCE
Despite the fact there is no one “on the left” within the Republican Party to be concerned about I found it odd that Perry would suggest that this was someone they felt they had to “curry favor with”.
One story connotes an effort by political opponents to take a break from the partisan fighting that has embroiled our country for too long. Perhaps in such a relaxed atmosphere one might find a conciliatory tone that will strike a reasonable compromise on important issues like jobs, health care and the deficit to move our country forward. The other story, about Rick Perry’s comments, stokes the fires of partisanship and promises much of the same political fervor that accomplishes essentially nothing as it heightens fears of things worse yet to come.
Julie Pace who covered the golf outing of the Speaker and the President for the AP ask the question as to “whether a partnership forged on the tees, fairways and greens of a military base course can yield success in the policy arena.” I would ask the question, “why not?” It sure couldn’t hurt and in fact may by just the antidote to get beyond the impasse that exist between the GOP-controlled House and the Oval Office.
I’ve mentioned in this blog that I’m reading Richard Beeman’s book, “Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution,” on how some of the founding fathers came together in the summer of 1787 to forge a new national government out of a loose confederation of states that held much of the diverse political views we do today. That diversity pitted one against the other for nearly four solid months as they went back and forth on how best to unite the states as one yet retain some individual flavor as states. By den of compromise they were able to settle their differences but it didn’t all happen in the State House in Philadelphia. Between the daily meetings were convivial social gatherings at prominent citizens’ homes where these men came together and ate, drank (sometimes to excess for some) and conversed casually amongst themselves.
These social events served as a format to feel out each other’s weaknesses and strengths to determine how willing or unwilling each was determined to go on the issues. This knowledge allowed them to either drive home their support for positions they adamantly favored or would allow them room to accommodate others on issues they were not as supportive of as those who were. It served as a means of sizing up an individual and perhaps hearing from the heart of their fellow delegates rather than from their public personas during the formal settings of the convention.
The fact that the golf outing between Obama and John Boehner occurs “so rarely … in Washington” seems to point out the failure of our leaders to find those occasions to set aside their distrust and differences with each other and come together in common events that unmask a side of them seldom seen in their political deliberations in public.
I suspect that Governor Perry could be persuaded to bend from an intractable position that caters too often to his base if he too were to sit down and break bread with his political adversaries a bit more often than he does. It really is the job of our political leaders in this republican form of government to display to those who put them where they are that though we “cannot be all things to all people”, we should not be so willing to think that attempts at compromise are something to avoid.
Winning by a plurality in this country is not a sign to ignore at all turns those who did not vote for you. It should also not be taken as a sign that those who did vote for you are in agreement on everything you declare as your morals and values. Such tenuous expressions are often like the layers of an onion that reveal something more complex with various groups as you go to the core of such matters.
If the great men with human natures that came together in 1787 were willing to concede their heart’s desire to “form a more perfect union”, then those who are always so ready to defend everything the founding fathers did and said should pay more than lip service to this notion. The fact that they accomplished what they did in a mere 4 months is indeed a miracle once people really understand how far apart many of them were before they first met that summer. To see that what they have accomplished has stood for nearly 250 years is a testimony to the willingness of not only our elected officials but many of the electorate over time who have come together and mollified their hard beliefs enough to allow progress to occur.
Why some feel the need to abate this progress and deride compromise as an evil is not only incoherent to many today but would be found highly distasteful to those who were able to accomplish a form a government that few had ever imagined was possible. The guiding principle as I see it, for those who seek office and those determined to put the best possible person in place to represent them is to find that person who not only shares your values and morals but is aware that no two people are the same and is willing to work with all reasonable sides.
In the end it’s not about left and right, rich and poor, christian and non-christian or even states vs. the federal government. It is about “we the people”, the concept that men like Madison, Franklin, Hamilton and James Wilson concluded, albeit reluctantly, were responsible to sustain a form of government where ALL views had merit and would be measured in how willing they would be to ensure it was passed to each succeeding generation. This can only be accomplished if we come out of our trenches and find common ground that serves the general welfare rather than the special interests.