In a few hours, President Trump will deliver his delayed-but-not-forgotten State of the Union address. His stated theme is unity. Any guesses as to what the subtext will be, however?
My good friend Christopher Allan Smith is the owner of RocketSpots.TV, director of the forthcoming documentary series Three Days in Paradise, and producer of the political show I co-host, NorCal News Now. In one of the teaser videos for the show, he says, regarding our current political environment, “We live in an age of shouting.” YES WE DO!
It’s easy to blame the president for this state of affairs, and I’ve done so repeatedly. Trump indeed bears at least half the responsibility for the gridlock and divisiveness that pervades Washington these days, but he’s got plenty of company. From the old guard who are passing from the scene, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, to newbies like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Beto O’Rourke, to established pols still actively leading the fight like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, Democrats of all kinds are striving to pull political discourse from the center, where things get done, to the edges, where many want to make points instead of deals. That’s not a good thing.
As in business, the most effective way for politicians to achieve lasting results that benefit a wide range of stakeholders is to seek out a variety of opinions, synthesize that vast variety of thought, and do one’s best to reach consensus. You will never, ever get 100-percent buy-in on everything, even in the smallest of organizations or municipalities. But if everyone at least has the chance to be heard and can understand the logic behind decisions that are made, the chances of success go up markedly.
For better or worse, in the United States of America we have a two-party system that largely prevents coalitions. Partisanship has proven remarkably resilient since the very earliest days of our republic, and it’s hard to see how that will be different in the near future. However, we as voters can nudge change along by understanding that we won’t always get everything that we want, even when our party holds most of the keys to power. We also can’t hold the process of government hostage by supporting candidates who willingly sacrifice good on the altar of great.
So tonight, wherever you are on the political spectrum, ask yourself if Trump’s bombastic statements, or Schumer’s head shaking, or Ocasio-Cortez’s blank stare are really the way you want our government to function on a major public stage (forget about behind closed doors). If not, think about the kinds of people you want representing you when you cast your ballot next time out. We may all be better off with elected officials who seek integration as opposed to separation.