The Republican party is in disarray. The distance between the right wing of the party and its centrist counterpart continues to increase. Most recently, Northeastern Republicans have vocally criticized their party's leadership for its failure to address the Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill. Some see a dire future for the GOP.
As a life-long Democrat, it is tempting to fall into a "divide and conquer" mentality. What makes my opponent weaker makes me stronger. But actually, I would like nothing better than for there to be a unified and healthy Republican party -- not because I agree with most of the positions the party takes on the major fiscal and social issues of the day.
The actual reason is simple: For the Republican party to settle its differences and come up with a unified vision of what its members want for America means that the party will have to use the tools upon which our republic was founded and through which our Constitution was hammered out: steadfast compromise. In other words, the process by which the Republican party would reassemble itself and become whole would bring vital and half-remembered tools back to the front and center of political discourse.
These tools are part of a humanizing and healing armamentarium which both parties -- and the American people as a whole -- need in order to heal our nation. They represent the resurrection of a deeper strain in American politics which as of late have been defamed and identified with weakness. They have been pushed to the back of the burner in favor of the idea that standing unshakably for a single, unalterable belief is somehow more courageous.
The opposite is true however. Political compromise is not for the faint of heart but for the stout of heart. It is a supremely difficult thing to compromise cherished beliefs because there is a higher calling: that of strengthening and building the republic. It takes a kind of intestinal fortitude to, at some point, put aside your belief in yourself and your own vision as the exclusive repository of "the truth," in favor of something that includes other visions rather than denouncing them.
That is why I propose a new pledge for all members of Congress -- Republicans and Democrats -- since it is clear that our entire political enterprise is in danger of losing touch with the tools our country started began with.
My suggestion is this Pledge, which I believe should open each new session of Congress. Call it a non-theological, non-sectarian, non-nationalistic Pledge of Allegiance:
I pledge that:
- I will see my opponent as a real human being.
- I will believe they have the best of intentions, even though their perspective is very different from my own.
- I will understand that compromise is a courageous act and not one that destroys my integrity.
It is true that rebels move us forward; that visionaries refresh the common mind. But governance requires something more than visions: it requires heart.