Several years ago, when I was in the midst of a heated dispute in our church, my Mom gave me some great advice. She recalled a similar strife that her Dad had gone through, and told me, “Nothing much has changed in church politics – just don’t let it break relationships.”
I’d like to apply that to our national political activity and offer a way that we can handle our disagreements without breaking relationships. Let’s say that 80-90% of us find ourselves in between the two extremes most of the time. Granted, there is a 5-10% tail at each end of the spectrum who do not want to find consensus – they want to force everyone to live according to their tail’s anointed vision. Different visions from the two tails, but same treatment of the rest of us: ruthless coercion.
So let’s stick to the 80-90% where we have some hope of finding common ground. I think we all share a devotion to two ideals – call them Freedom and Generosity. We just rank them in different order of priority. Those who rank Freedom first tend to incline toward the Republican Party, while those who rank Generosity first tend to incline toward the Democrat Party.
But there is a mountain of evidence that we are all devoted to both ideals! Can anyone seriously argue that only Republicans hit the beaches at Normandy? Or marched for civil rights? Of course not – there is ample evidence that Democrats are also devoted to Freedom. Similarly, can anyone seriously argue that only Democrats donate blood? Or give to charity? Of course not – there is ample evidence that Republicans are also devoted to Generosity.
We just rank the two ideals in different order of priority. Democrats are passionate about having a generous society and are willing to have Congress specify to a great degree what our Generosity must look like. Republicans are just as passionate about being generous, but think that Freedom is the best path to Generosity. We see the historical record that Freedom produces abundance, which enables Generosity, and we want each person to decide for themselves what their Generosity will look like.
If we behaved as though we understood this about each other, we could work together. When Democrats propose another program and Republicans vote against it … instead of calling the Republicans greedy, insensitive and racist, how about acknowledging that maybe the Republicans are concerned that the program intrudes too far upon individual Freedom?
Similarly, when Republicans propose another tax cut and Democrats vote against it … instead of calling the Democrats unpatriotic, tyrannical and socialist, how about acknowledging that maybe Democrats are concerned that the tax cut creates too much uncertainty about our Generosity?
So we meet somewhere in the middle. We don’t choose zero Freedom and 100% centralized coercion of our Generosity, but neither do we choose 100% Freedom and zero centralized attention to the general welfare. We choose a lot of Freedom and a lot of Generosity. A portion of that Generosity is directed by centralized authority paying attention to the general welfare, and a great portion is directed by the individuals who earned the resources with which they can be generous.
When the governed feel a need for a little more centralized attention to the general welfare, they elect Democrats; when the need has been satisfactorily met and the governed feel a return to greater individual direction is warranted, they elect Republicans. As long as both parties obey the consent of the governed, we can work well together without breaking relationships.
ERpundit – 05/13/2018