Yesterday, the nation celebrated the American brand of democracy. Our republic was founded by people who didn’t agree on everything. Our Constitution was not written by a group of people who shared the same point of view of everything – slavery, for instance, is not mentioned in the original document though a number of our founding fathers owned them. If there is a unifying theme, other than the desire to move towards a “more perfect union,” it was that compromise is the only way we can move forward.
So our Inauguration Day is really all about compromise and cooperation. Thomas Jefferson said that if we do not care about each other, we will not sacrifice for each other and we really need to do that. To use a worn out cliché, we are all in the same boat. If it goes down, we all go down.
We need to stop labeling each other and dismissing other people’s opinion because they belong to a different political party or group. We have big problems that require big solutions and ideas. These may come from what we think are unlikely sources. This week, for instance, I read a piece about Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA). He is chairman of the House Committee on Government and Oversight and has been a thorn in the side of the Obama Administration. Then I read the Washington City Paper piece on his views on autonomy for the District of Columbia. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has praised him for wanting to give District residents more control over the city’s budget and on how we operate our business. DC, which has no voting representation in Congress, can be taken over at any time by our legislative branch. This is a double hit to DC residents and I wrote about it a few years ago — you can read that here. I was a little taken aback by the responses I received (if you read that, please let me know what you think).
I was wrong to dismiss Congressman Issa because he is A, a conservative Republican and B, has gone after some groups that I support. I do not think the Obama Administration is criminal as he has said but as Ronald Reagan said, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.” The reverse can be as true, that the person you only agree with 20 percent of the time is not your enemy 80 percent of the time. It is easy for those of us on the left to look at the GOP and dismiss their ideas and whatnot and blame the Tea Party for the gridlock that prevents progress but we do ourselves, and them, a huge disservice by doing so.
Some have commented that when President Obama said, “Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone.” he was putting a bookend on President Ronald Reagan’s statement “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” I think he was offering the Republicans an olive branch when he continued with, “Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.”
The speech articulated my personal view of our government’s true purpose; we can do things collectively what we cannot do individually. That idea sits at the core of my belief system.
I have never understood one thing about the other side of the aisle — or rather an extreme viewpoint shared by some on that side (and I am sure some on mine). Why is it more palatable an idea that a lost election is really the start of the apocalypse rather than being a lost election? I know people who have said that President Obama’s election is really a sign that we have entered the Biblical “end of days.” Why is that better? When President George W. Bush won, the only thing (remember I worked on the Gore campaign for a LONG time and gave a lot of myself to it so I was no Bush supporter) but I have to repeat — the only thing that made me feel better was that sometimes your candidate loses. That’s part of the way things in our system work.
Yesterday we celebrated our brand of democracy (yes, I know, I am repeating myself). We celebrated this union that we need to keep working to make “more perfect.” That’s not a Democratic or Republican viewpoint, it is an American viewpoint. We need to remember that and refer back to yesterday as we move forward and tackle the real problems that union now faces.
Faith has been defined as the trust or belief in something without any real proof. So, it is in that vein that I say, I have faith that our government will rise to the challenges not shrink to its whimsy.
For the full text of the speech you can go here. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/01/21/inaugural-address-president-barack-obama