Political unity is an illusion. Political respect, however, is a goal worth pursuing.
Some people would love if we could all just “get along” politically. Reporters have constantly lamented the fact that the “political unity” felt after tragedies such as 9/11 does not last long. Many efforts have been tried to “forget partisan differences” and work for the “common good”, notably the Unity08 party and the No Labels movement.
No Labels, a movement that gained significant national recognition, says as their mission,
“No Labels will create a space where ideas can be judged on the merits, not their conformity to pre-fabricated stereotypes. The point is not whether America moves left or right; it’s whether we move forward. And that’s what the majority of Americans are yearning for.”
I think most Americans could agree on the importance of open-minded debate. We all want to reduce destructive ads and promote a culture of respect in government.
That being said, there is a reason these movements have not drastically reformed the government into a united force to “move forward” as promised. That’s because everyone has a different definition of “forward”. Take ObamaCare for example. Democrats argue it was a step “forward” for our country, promising the benefits of fewer uninsured Americans. Republicans, on the other hand, view the act as a step “back”, sacrificing personal liberty while driving up the cost of health insurance for all Americans.
According to Mayor Bloomberg of New York City (a figurehead of the No Labels movement), there is an easy solution to reconciling our differing political beliefs:
“Parties have a place, but party loyalty, I don’t think, should get in the way of doing what you as an elected official believes what’s right. I think that’s what most of the public wants.”
Here’s the problem. ObamaCare was an extremely partisan issue. Why? Because Republicans and Democrats hold vastly different theories of how health insurance should be regulated.
Mayor Bloomberg is pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. How would he suggest determining a “middle way” on some of these issues to “get things done”? Asking someone you disagree with to “set aside their partisan differences” is simply a subtle way of trying to get them to come to your side. It’s assuming that their opposing beliefs can’t possibly be authentic; therefore, they have to be motivated by blind following of party positions.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t get caught up in political rhetoric to the point where we ignore those who disagree with us. Debate is crucial to our political system, as it allows us to see strong cases made for both sides. Who better to point out the flaws in President Obama’s record than the Republican Party? Who better to point out the problems with Mitt Romney’s campaign than the Democratic Party?
Although it is easy to say that we have become “too partisan”, the reality is not that we must eliminate our different opinions to join together. As beautiful as it may sound to have a completely united world, it will never happen. Our differences in political opinion serve as a valuable check against the totalitarian power of one group of people, and we would do well to respect and appreciate them.
A variation of this article was originally published in the Lariat on 9/25/12.