Unite & Lead: A Plea for Civility this Election Season

Unite & Lead: A Plea for Civility this Election Season February 25, 2020


The most disheartening reality about the election season is the amount of division and uncivility that arises between people who are otherwise united in terms of values and vision for our country. Most of us who would identify as moderate to progressive look at the current state of affairs in American politics and know that there needs to be some serious changes to the way our government works. We all deeply desire a more just and equal society for the poor, the marginalized, and the immigrant.  We see the erosion of morality by the current President and his administration and know that we must fight hard to ensure that he cannot continue to impair Americas standing on the world stage. And yet, because we disagree on how we accomplish that, we have dug trenches around our preferred candidates and acted as if everyone else is the enemy.

But the truth is, not one of the major Democratic frontrunners is an enemy to the progressive values of our country. Sure, none of them have perfect records on some of the key issues that matter, but none of them is seeking to implement policies that threaten a progressive vision for the future of our country. No matter which candidate becomes the Democratic nominee and hopefully the next President of the United States, they will fight to undo the corrupt policies of this current admiration and create a government that fights for the American people. They will do it with different strategies, and to different degrees, but the truth is that any of the current frontrunners will create a more just, equal, and prosperous country for everyone.

So why, then, are we so divided? Why is a difference in political strategy a reason to draw lines in the sand and divide against those who otherwise are with us in the fight for justice?

To go both dramatic and biblical for a moment, the word Satan in the Bible is actually the Hebrew noun שָּׂטָן‎ which literally means “the one who accuses”. In the Hebrew scriptures, the personification of evil is the one who accuses others of wrongdoing, often unjustly. This feels like an apt insight for the present moment, because we know that there are wicked forces at work that seek to divide us, because they know that if we can be divided, we can be conquered. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said so poignantly, “Divide and rule, the politician cries; Unite and lead, is watchword of the wise.” Whether it is Russian bots that are seeking to divide us, or ideologues for a particular candidate’s platform, the more we divide, the less hope we have of actually leading the country towards a better future.

As attack ads increase and the debates get fiercer, I truly hope that we can remember that at the end of the day, the foundational values that unite us are the same. We can and should debate about candidates records, experience, and electability, but at the end of the day, the values that we are crying out for are the same- to end corruption in government, to address economic disparity, to provide healthcare, to lower student debt, and to create a country where all people are welcomed and empowered to live into the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” These are the values that we must be fighting for. This is the future that is at stake. And unless we stand, arm in arm, ready to fight against the system whose values are fundamentally opposed to these, we cannot and will not create the brighter tomorrow for our nation that millions of us are so desperate for.

So, may we all be more mindful in the coming months- may we reign in our impulse to attack, reject those who bait us into believing stereotypes about others, and resist the urge to see enemies among our allies. May we make take each step with conviction and clarity, but also with a spirit of generosity and civility, knowing that only when we fight together for the values that are at the core of who we are can we actually overcome our most robust challenges and see decency and dignity restored to our country this fall.

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