Come together over what binds
When it comes to public policy, we disagree on many issues. Ted is a progressive, who believes the government has a greater role to play in society. Jennifer is a conservative, who believes free markets are the solution to many of our problems. And these aren’t only our casual beliefs; advocating them is our profession, as well.
In these polarized times, our disagreements are illuminated, and there’s no question they are real and important. We wouldn’t dedicate our careers to advancing them if we didn’t believe they could improve societal well-being.
Yet, despite being at opposite ends of the political spectrum, we still have more in common than not. Like almost all Americans, we agree on the substantive public policy goals, such as helping the disadvantaged, providing more economic opportunity and keeping the country safe from foreign and domestic threats. We also agree on the one big issue — the meta-issue that allows disagreement on all others: The sanctity of American constitutional democracy.
This shared value, which guarantees our fundamental freedoms and unites virtually all Americans, is especially important to remember in the wake of a politically fueled assassination attempt on a high-ranking member of Congress. If we don’t take a moment to reflect on what brings us together as Americans of all political stripes, there will almost certainly be more carnage to come.
As we have already painfully seen once in our nation’s history, political violence has the potential to threaten even this political foundation on which we all stand. But, rather than coming together, legislators have been getting messages such as, “One down, 216 to go,” or blaming the shooting “squarely at the feet of tolerance-preaching progressives and their accomplices in the media …” Provocateurs and provocation show no sign of ebbing.
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Politicians, media and public figures — including those trying to change minds on public policy, like us — must lead the way. Violent fantasies — whether played out in the public theater or on a blog comment section — must be unequivocally condemned for their immorality and un-American nature.
Physical force to attain public policy goals — even ones we think are worthy — is a mirage. History shows that any perceived gains made by initiating physical force are ephemeral, and they are paid for by untold suffering in the process.
We both agree that the only way to make lasting change in public policy is by changing minds via voluntary persuasion. The very country, itself, was built on this principle.
The case for the United States, later to be known as The Federalist Papers, was made in the op-ed pages of newspapers similar to this one — not among cadres behind closed-doors, like nearly everywhere else. The enduring success of the American experiment shows this truth to be self-evident.
So, instead of rage, let’s use reason. Instead of incitement, let’s use interest in the other perspective. Instead of snark, let’s use the Socratic Method. And most importantly, let’s rely on voluntary action over violence. It’s the American way. It’s what brings us together. It’s what allows us to disagree but share Coyote Gold Margaritas and smiles while doing so. Try it. It’s a lot more rewarding than the alternative.
Jennifer Schubert-Akin is the Chairman and CEO of the Steamboat Institute. Ted Trimpa is the Principal and CEO of the Trimpa Group.
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