By Thomas Lazo
In the aftermath of any election no amount of success or failure is immune from the often baffling distortions of a partisan mind. Democrats morose after the election of Donald Trump were quick to find solace in the idea that perhaps his election would be the event that exacerbates the internal divides in the Republican party and ultimately tears it apart. Similarly, many Republicans delighted to avoid a Hillary Clinton presidency tempered their celebrations with concern for a counter-reaction in midterm elections. Immediately following the unexpected election of Democrat Doug Jones to fill the vacant Alabama senate seat, this partisan impulse comes tempting once again.
Considering the reluctant responses to allegations against prominent Democratic legislators, should Democrats be disappointed that Republicans chose the path of accountability? Should Republicans delight in the ethical tangle that Democrats find themselves in?
A question that should be asked of this phenomenon is not whether the specific predictions are accurate, in the previous example of Trump’s election they certainly seem to be proving accurate, but whether our emotional responses of joy and sorrow are appropriate. Bridging a political divide, as with any personal divide, demands a sincere desire for the well being of the other. It is impossible to heal the fractures within the nation without first embracing and encouraging the reform or good fortune of both democrat and republican, city and country, rich and poor, or any other category of disparate groups. Democrats should encourage the unprecedented compromise that conservative voters in Alabama made against their own ideology precisely because it will lead to a stronger Republican party. They should do this out of a conviction that a strong Republican party demands a strong Democratic party, and in turn they should demand that their own politicians and voters rise to this standard.
Two major moral factors are at stake here. The first is that we too often confuse the failure of a political party with the failure of its ideology. The success or failure of particular politicians in the Democratic or Republican parties is not analogous to the relative strengths and weaknesses of liberalism or conservatism. Fantasies about a monochromatic government where an all-red congress confirms an all-red judiciary nominated by an all-red executive branch or vice versa would still not indicate or determine that the voices of the American people are as single-minded. The numbers matter; an opposition of 40% still represents a significant body of people. People whose ideology requires deep consideration.
The second factor and most serious moral concern to anyone desiring to bridge the divides in this country is the basic matter of loving one’s neighbor as themselves. We have millennia of significant moral and ethical reasoning concerning this and the greatest thinkers in the greatest traditions relentlessly come back to this principle. Ultimately, the presidential election of 2016 would have been a failure regardless of its outcome because nominating voters did not consider the fears of their neighbors as significant factors. No Democrat was justified voting for the one candidate that their Republican neighbor reviled more than any other. Similarly, no amount or ethical judo can justify the support that any Republican had for the candidate that their Democratic neighbor feared more than any other. There were simply too many other options. A nation that loved its neighbor would not have pitted Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton – and this is regardless of what any supporter of those two candidates believed in favor of their own candidates.
In Alabama, we see a path forward from 2016. It is the only path that could propel our nation back to some semblance of peace. Democrats nominated a candidate that a conflicted Republican could vote for, and Republicans chose to reject a candidate who had no business representing them. Rather than following the mental distortions that celebrate failure and disdain success, rather than following the partisan impulse to delight in the defeat of an opponent, let Americans further challenge themselves to a higher level of accountability and mutual concern.
Thomas Lazo is from California’s Inland Empire, now residing in rural southwest Virginia. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies from Life Pacific College. His thoughts on faith and politics can be found at themoderatefallacy.wordpress.com