E Pluribus Unum—Out of Many One. Check it out. It is the nation’s motto and is inscribed on the Great Seal of the United States. It was put forward by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, among others.
Or, check out a phrase used by Patrick Henry in his last public speech in 1799—“United We Stand and Divided We Fall.”
Is there any doubt that as we divide we leave behind trust, generosity, and the freedom to disagree without fracturing the institutions on which we must rely?
Sure, there is going to be disagreement—that is what our representative government and its branches of governance exist to resolve. And leaders that fail to understand their stewardship responsibility will see their power diminish along with the credibility of their institution—Congress, White House, Judiciary.
As President Trump has used his Presidency divisively, his power has diminished and is now almost illusory. Much of what he has done will carry his brand which, in time, will almost assure elimination or change.
And to those who make it their business to constantly attack the Supreme Court from the hard left or right, you too are complicit in weakening the unity that is crucial to our nation’s strength. I believe each Justice and certainly the Chief has an interpretive layer that considers the cohesion of the United States.
So let’s think about the hard left that wants to defund the police or seize territory. Or, the elected officials who have taken the constitutional oath but associate with the hardness. Too many in the media treat them affectionately given their distaste for the President. Believe me, this is not a free speech movement. And, “United” is far from their individual or collective minds.
Or, the far right that implicitly or worse finds racist rhetoric useful as a political tool. They wear their flag pins without any understanding of their country’s core principle—“Out Of Many One”. They become handmaidens of Chinese and Russian propagandists who specialize in exploiting division. America’s strength recedes as their hardness divides.
It is approximately four months before the election. The outcome is of obvious importance, but how we act toward our fellow voters between now and November 3rd is also important and is in our hands.
We, yes all of us, regardless of our Party affiliation or point of view are part of a rapidly unfolding drama—it features a fracturing of America that will be hard to heal. And, as we all know, dark moments are still ahead. Today’s presidential campaigns are always on the edge and this time around the incumbent believes acrimony is his ally.
President Trump, maybe more than any incumbent in our history, has serious weaknesses. In his weakness he turns to fear. Those on the hard left are his unwitting allies.
Most of Trump’s angry attacks of recent weeks have been a gift to Joe Biden. America, indeed the world, faces real threats from the coronavirus and when he uses disease and its ramifications to attack Governors and Mayors even much of his base is critical.
In the immediate aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, President Trump sounded the right notes but a day or so later he sounded like an out of tune trumpet player. America’s strength is found in its enduring institutions that help us work through perilous times. But, those institutions are strongest when the nation’s leader seeks to calm the waters.
The healing of America will not happen on the hard Left or Right. It will happen in the Center of the political spectrum as persons of good will urge political leaders to resolve their differences through the checks and balances and associated procedures that are so crucial in a diverse society.
Finally, they certainly should understand that when human perfection is held up as the standard against which we are judged, there will be no heroes. We, America, have been very fortunate to have had wise and courageous men and women as our forebears and it is certainly not wrong to constantly reexamine history to gain a greater appreciation for what we did right and wrong. But to those who, for whatever reason, choose to judge our history harshly they will always be able to find human frailties. Was George Washington perfect? No. What about Abraham Lincoln? No. Martin Luther King? No. Where are the heroes? They are there. They are there for those who understand that perfection is elusive even for Saints.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.