In just a matter of weeks, we have watched the real Republican Party emerge - a cynical, say anything, divisive group of politicians who prey on ignorance, fear, bigotry and the misinformed. They chum the waters with labels, such as "liberal," "socialist," "terrorist," "anti-American," and they drape themselves in righteousness. They deny any wrongdoing, even when lying and promoting baseless attacks on anyone who doesn't agree with them. They call angry, ignorant or ideologically fixated people their "base," but they do their base no service by lying to them, inflaming them to hate their fellow Americans and taking us down low roads we have traveled far too often in this great nation of ours.
One clear message emerges, however, from this disturbing glimpse into the Republican strategy and their willing participants among the electorate. We have work to do!
Abraham Lincoln's famous quote, "A house divided against itself cannot stand," is increasingly relevant today, as no matter who wins the upcoming presidential election, we will have a house divided and intransigent. And we will have one major political party who is invested in keeping it that way.
I always think back with utter disdain to George Bush's statement "I'm a uniter, not a divider," which he mendaciously uttered during his first presidential campaign. Some people actually believed him, and it helped him get elected. History, if you're paying attention, doesn't lie, and Bush's promise was as empty as that of John McCain when he claims that he'll reach across the aisle. Maybe the McCain of yesteryear, but not version 2008. If he wins, expect partisan politics to dominate, unless political expediency requires him to begrudgingly give an inch to a Democratic Congress to gain whatever war he wants to conduct next.
The problem isn't necessarily if McCain wins, however. It is, in some ways, even worse if Obama wins. With an Obama win, the flames of anger, bigotry, outrage, fear and loathing will grow and almost certainly result in violence. McCain and Palin have fanned those flames, bringing them to the surface, and adding fuel to them. They continue to do so as I write this.
What can we do, under an Obama administration, to bring this country together?
I think the answer is already evident in Obama's campaign strategy. It's on the ground. It's in all 50 states. It's people talking to people.
Barack Obama talks about service. He talks about the hope of the future being us, not him. And he's right. He clearly cannot take this nation forward alone, but he can lead. He can start the ball rolling and continue to encourage us to do our part.
What I am envisioning is another Apollo Project, but it's not getting to the Moon, this time. It's bringing this country together.
What I'm suggesting is the most massive re-education and personal outreach in history.
What I'm suggesting is that Obama's campaign ground game remain intact and begin a new mission - to communicate and to bring people together, to begin a national dialog that heals wounds, promotes truth, and unifies us as one nation again.
There's no doubt that such an undertaking would meet with considerable resistance. It's very difficult to cross the ideological divides that separate people on the more extreme fringes, but I believe that most of the people in this country are not as extreme as the Republicans want them to be, and encourage them to be. I believe that, once they understand that we are all in this together, that some of the policies they have blindly supported actually hurt them, that they have been handed a load of bull from politicians and operatives who do not have their best interests at heart, that, in fact, the very people they have been taught to hate and vilify actually do work for them... I believe it can be done, slowly, patiently and with a consistent message and methodology.
I'm reasonably certain that many people will think I'm wasting my time, or find this idea impractical or even totally crackpot, but I hope there are those who understand that our best hope for the future is a country that heals the wounds that have been intentionally inflicted on our society.
Further, if we can apply this strategy to the United States, we can also apply it around the world. Much of what threatens us worldwide is ideologically based. Certainly, there are huge economic and even environmental factors that threaten world peace, but there is also an acknowledged ideological war that we have sought to fight with bombs and bullets, but not nearly enough with communication - both speaking and listening! How well have we listened to our enemies and understood what motivates them? Is it enough simply to say, "They are the enemy, so we will fight them?" I, for one, think that there are times when even enemies can come together and discover common interests, and even if they can't, the old adage, "Know thy enemy" is one that apparently the Bush Administration and John McCain don't subscribe to. Obama, on the other hand, does.
Speaking as a mediator, I know there are ways to reach people with distinctly opposite viewpoints. I know that there are ways to find common ground and build upon agreement. I know that honesty and sincerity can often counter lies and malicious intent.
To make a difference, however, this cannot be a half-hearted, liberal, bleeding-heart, underfunded and under deployed fringe group. This has to be a national dialog, led from the top down, and implemented from the bottom up.
So, call it what you will. The Great Awakening. The Great Healing. American Together! Or, as I like to call it (for my own satisfaction, at any rate), Evolve or Die!
But let's do it. Let's be the change we want to see and let's encourage Obama to support our national human infrastructure in addition to our roads and bridges.
I have started a Facebook group. I'm calling it the New National Dialog Project. Please join if you are interested in getting this dialog moving.