Like many of you, I was happy when this most recent election season was over. All for doing my civic duty in this constitutional republic, living in the internet-social media age brings a whole new meaning to the words “election overload.” As I looked at the ever-present red and blue maps marking wins for either the Senate or House of Representatives, I was struck by something we’ve known for at least the last decade—our country is divided. This election didn’t change that, and I don’t think future ones will either.
So, what do we learn from this continued difference of opinion in how this country should be run and what issues are important for the generations to come? I believe there are several lessons we can all take away, no matter our political persuasion, 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 who see things differently. As much as Democrats want to push their views and agenda, the same applies. Also, both groups must take into account that there is a growing independent base, which includes Socialists, Libertarians, and other non-affiliates who are looking for other issues to become priorities. They cannot nor 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 everywhere, and that is what makes us both unique and also a handful to govern. We will never be homogenous in thought, much less in ethnicity. It’s time to accept the fact that we don’t all have the same ideas for the future.
We have to learn to compromise for the greater good to move forward as a nation.
The thing that unifies us as a nation of nations is our Constitution and Bill of Rights. These documents are our guiding principles for governance, and we must return to them as a whole in order to remain unified. This requires politicians to be 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 to cut the slice in half so both have something to enjoy. The same should be taking place in our halls of congress. Instead, we hear only of efforts either side will make 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 how to make decisions that benefit the whole, not the part. It means in their view, it might not be the best decision, but it is one with which they can live because while they gave some, they also received some in return. This work of compromise is what we teach our children, and it’s time our politicians on both sides of the aisle learned it as well.
We must have party leaders who are unifiers and not dividers, from the President to the local Mayor.
It is possible to have strong convictions for one’s views while also being willing to work with people from the opposite party with differing, but just as strong convictions. I do not 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 business. The same holds true for government entities. Leaders must lead by being willing to listen to all sides, agree where we can agree, and find compromise where we cannot.
Compromise is not a weakness in leadership; it shows strength of character. When I’m willing to compromise, it is because I see value in the other person. I don’t have to “give in” to their views, but look for the good in their solutions for the benefit of everyone. And, even more importantly, I have to be willing to give them credit where credit is due. Unifiers can do this—Dividers never will. I think this is the reason little gets done in Congress today. Unifiers offer a humility of spirit that dividers do not have.
Citizens must be willing to take the long view of progress.
In a divided country, complete with differing views of what is needed for positive change, there is no fast-food solution. When elected officials work together in a spirit of compromise, then decisions made are incremental, not exponential. We must celebrate the little victories on either side and live in hope that continued concessions will bring even more results.
Big needs that affect a nation are not solved with the stroke of a pen but come through a thousand little changes and decisions over the course of time. Americans must realize that the government is not there to meet their every need; your neighbor has different needs that must also be met. As long as we see that our elected officials are making an effort to bring solutions for the benefit of all, we must also give them credit for that effort and be patient with the outcomes.
The next days and weeks will bring much more talk and noise about the elections, but I trust you’ll find some encouragement in these few lessons I’ve learned and share them with others. As the Bible tells us, we should pray for our leaders—they certainly need it. My prayer is that they will learn some lessons from this too.
God Bless America