“We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.”
Those were among the parting words of Sen. John McCain, whose passing—if only for a few days—has spurred reflection on the harm resulting from the growing political divide that has paralyzed the nation’s government.
In the age of social media—when our worldview is constantly affirmed with content feeds that provide only information fitting our tastes—the gulf between us seems too wide to bridge. Added to that is the trend of political party leadership to push their members to extremes and to denounce those failing to share their views as dangerous or evil. In the halls of Congress, it is increasingly rare to find a middle ground on which issues can be debated on their merits. Those who pursue such talks are driven to the sidelines.
And the gulf grows wider.
As this becomes accepted as the norm of political behavior, it threatens to infect even local government meeting rooms. There have been times when our boards of supervisors or town councils have been driven more by party affiliation than by constituent service, but those terms never ended productively and the actors were rarely rewarded by voters. At the local level, inaction isn’t an option—schools must open and the road network must function. Problems must be solved, and mostly that comes from the elected leaders working together.
Arizona’s senior senator set a positive example of public service in many ways during his life. If his passing can inspire a new generation of “mavericks” on both sides of the political aisle the nation will be better for it.
We can come through these challenging times stronger than before. We always have.