Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Column 8: Time to Come Together

Time to Come Together
by Ed Gurowitz

The deadline for this column is Tuesday morning, so as I write this the election has not happened as yet and remains too close to call. Hopefully when you read this, it will be decided, although the possibility that it will take some time to determine the winner cannot be discounted. Nevertheless the polls will be closed and the pre-election shouting over.

Whoever takes office on January 20th, it is time for the country to come together. Going into the election, the country was arguably more divided than at any time since the Civil War, and as Lincoln noted at that time, a house divided against itself cannot stand. The current divisions in the country are, in my view, more detrimental to our welfare as a nation even than the divisions in the early days of the civil rights movement or during the Vietnam War, and must be healed.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, it is time for the mainstream of the GOP to take their party back from the forces that hijacked it. Jim Clark dates the move to the right of the Republican Party to Barry Goldwater’s run for the presidency, and I think he’s probably right about that. But the conservatism of today is a far cry from the fair-minded, thoughtful conservatism of Goldwater or Edmund Burke. Sometime since Goldwater, a far more mean-spirited conservatism has played on the fears and religious convictions of some Republicans to turn the party of Eisenhower and Goldwater into a platform for an agenda that is closer to the Know-Nothing Party of the 1850’s than to the mainstream of America today.

I believe in the political party system, and would welcome the emergence of new parties, even parties on the extreme left and right for people who feel that the two major parties do not represent their views. At the same time, I believe that the true parties in this country today are not the Republicans and Democrats but Conservatives and Liberals, each of which are currently represented by factions in the two parties. While I do not think it will happen, I believe that the best thing would be a realignment into something like four parties – something like Economic Conservative/Social Liberal, Economic Liberal/Social Conservative, Economic Conservative/Social Conservative, Economic Liberal/Social Liberal (they would need catchier names, of course). Then there might be a few others for those whose concerns are more specific, such as environmentalists, both sides of the abortion issue, etc.

Okay, that is a utopian view. Here’s a real one. Whoever is the President for the four years beginning in January needs to set a more intelligent, civil tone for the national debate than we have had for the past twenty years or so. He needs to set a tone of respect for each others’ views, even (and maybe especially) when we disagree. He needs to demonstrate an awareness that, with rare exceptions, people on all sides of a given issue believe what they believe in good faith and their beliefs are grounded in a genuine commitment to doing what is best for the nation and to the principles on which this country was founded. It is a truism that reasonable people can disagree reasonably – it’s time we started living that ethic.

We are the richest, most diverse, and freest country in the history of the world. We now need to be the most civil and civilized as well. I only hope and pray that whichever party controls the White House and the Congress after January will take the lead in making us so.

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