Like many of you, I was happy when this last election season ended. All for doing my civic duty in this constitutional republic, living in the age of internet social media gives a whole new meaning to the words “voter overload”. Looking at the ubiquitous red and blue cards indicating victories for the Senate or House of Representatives, I was struck by something we’ve known for at least the past decade: our country is divided. This election hasn’t changed that, and I don’t think future ones will either.
So what do we learn from this persistent divergence of opinion about how this country should be run and what matters for generations to come? I believe there are several lessons we can all take away, regardless of our political beliefs, level of participation in the civic process, or background.
We have to accept the fact that not everyone will agree with us.
As much as Republicans want their agenda to go forward, there is an obvious half of this country that sees things differently. Even though the Democrats want to push their points and their agenda, so does it. In addition, both groups must take into account that there is a growing independent base, which includes socialists, libertarians and other unaffiliated who seek to make other issues a priority. They cannot and should not be ignored when political decisions are made.
The United States has always been a land of immigrants, not just from one part of the world, but from all over, and that’s what makes us both unique and a handful to govern. We will never be homogeneous in thought, even less in ethnicity. It’s time to accept the fact that we don’t all have the same ideas for the future.
We must learn to compromise for the greater good of moving forward as a nation.
What unites us as a nation of nations is our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. These documents are our guiding principles of governance and we must return to them as a whole to remain united. It demands that politicians care less about personal and party agendas and more about the agenda that best benefits our citizens and allows them to enjoy the freedoms of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
When two children are fighting over the same piece of pie, the wise parent knows how to cut the slice in half so that both have something to enjoy. The same should take place in our convention halls. Instead, we only hear about efforts on both sides to be able to take more for themselves, forgetting that there are others to consider. If we are to become a better nation, political leaders will learn to make decisions that benefit the whole, not the part. This means that in their opinion, it may not be the better decision, but it’s a decision they can live with because if they gave it, they also received it in return. This work of compromise is what we teach our children, and it’s time our politicians on both sides of the aisle learn it too.
We must have unifying and not dividing party leaders, from the president to the local mayor.
It is possible to have strong convictions for one’s opinions while being willing to work with people on the other side with different, but equally strong convictions. I don’t have to agree, as a boss, with the views of everyone who works for me, to find ways for us to work together for the common good of our company. The same is true for government entities. Leaders must lead by being willing to listen to all parties, to agree where we can agree, and to compromise where we cannot.
Compromise is not a weakness in leadership; it shows strength of character. When I’m willing to compromise, it’s because I see value in the other person. I don’t have to “give in” to their views, but seek the good in their solutions for the benefit of all. And, most importantly, I must be prepared to give them credit where credit is due. Unifiers can do it, dividers never will. I think that’s why little is being done in Congress today. Unifiers offer a lowliness of spirit that dividers do not.
Citizens must be willing to see long-term progress.
In a divided country, with differing views on what is needed for positive change, there is no fast food solution. When elected officials work together in a spirit of compromise, the decisions made are incremental and not exponential. We must celebrate the small victories on either side and live in hope that continued concessions will bring even greater results.
The great needs that affect a nation are not solved with the stroke of a pen but go through a thousand small changes and decisions over time. Americans need to realize that the government is not there to meet all of their needs; your neighbor has different needs that also need to be met. As long as we see that our elected officials are making efforts to provide solutions for the benefit of all, we must also give them credit and be patient with the results.
The coming days and weeks will bring much more talk and noise about the election, but I hope you will find encouragement in these few lessons I have learned and share them with others. As the Bible tells us, we need to pray for our leaders – they certainly need it. My prayer is that they also learn from it.
God bless America