Wednesdays’ seditious insurrection did not arise in a vacuum, nor has it gone away. Trump has kept the coals of his rebellion alive even while admitting defeat. Those who engaged in the insurrection are still around, as are millions who didn’t make the trek to DC. People are still ranting the absurd notions of a stolen victory.
The seeds of this are born in extremism, an emotional byproduct of a political system that only offers two choices. On top of that, the system itself decides who those two choices are. As each faction digs in, seeing the other as an enemy, they grow further apart with increasing malice.
As the factions grow they become more extreme and the needs of the other are approached with increasing animus and distrust. As each faction wins an election, their entire platform is built on undoing the work of their predecessor. In the end, progress is never achieved and we end up back where we were, while the nation falls apart around them.
We saw this animus in 2016 and it has reached uncivilized levels in 2020. We must adopt the attitude that enough is enough, this is the end. Otherwise this republic cannot hold democratic elections on its own. We have seen this extremism in many places around the globe, and we know it doesn’t end well.
Our approach must begin with the idea that a nation is its people and not its institutions. We cannot say we love our country without loving its people. Let us begin there.
The individualistic attitude that “my opinion is all that matters” is the seed of our problems. We must collectively live together as a community, and in a nation of many communities.
With a Civil War looming ahead, Abraham Lincoln rightly told the nation that a house divided cannot stand. Is hatred of one another more important that the nation, more important than our community? In the midst of that war he asked the people to have malice toward none. We ought to heed these words.
We must come together in our community, as the word’s roots imply, “together” with “unity. A community may have beliefs, resources, needs and risks in common that bind them. The American experiment prioritizes a place to live together, having life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in common. A hometown where we raise our families together, helping each along the way.
We cannot allow the broken two-party political system to drag us into their battles. Neither faction has worked toward ensuring these pursuits for the people in communities—but instead ensure their own power and re-election.
We must be on guard for those political leaders within our communities that may be on our county boards, sheriff’s office, school boards, town councils, state legislatures, etc. who are more engaged in these factional battles than in us. We must know what that looks like and not fall for their rhetoric.
We must insist also on more choices at the polls. If Starbucks, or car dealerships, or paint stores only offered two choices, we would never accept it, nor should we with our elections.
Until our community—and our love for one another within it—becomes the core of our society, and not the political institutions and their leaders, this house will struggle to stand.
We need a governing philosophy that works for ALL, with foundational values based in unity: therefore community, responsibility, accountability, fairness, integrity and civility. Only then can we live up to the credo, “...with liberty and justice for all.”
Tim Cotton, who works in Culpeper and lives in Orange, is the national political director of the Alliance Party. Reach him at email@example.com.