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Let's Un-Divide Our House

February 2017

The following is meant as an observation on politics, not a political observation.

A man ran for the highest office in the land as a businessman not a politician. He ran as an outsider, explicitly opposed to what he believed our national government (“Washington”) has become. He ran against the political “establishment,” including the leadership of his own party. He vowed to undo much of what had been done previously by executive fiat and regulation, and restructure or even dismantle major portions of the Washington bureaucracy. He voiced the longstanding concern about the influence of lobbyists, and then promised real action to address the “revolving door” practice that fueled their growth. He refused to allow others to manage his message, and accused the Fourth Estate of bias and manipulation. He represented a challenge to every aspect of the political status quo, a threat to every Washington “sacred cow.” He could not have made his intentions clearer – one of his campaign slogans was “drain the [Washington] swamp.”

Then, against all odds (and pundits), this man was elected President, not by all or even a majority of the electorate, but by enough citizens in enough states to succeed to that office legitimately under the rules in place since 1787. He is now our President.

For many this was a surprise, for some a great shock: what could not, would not, should not happen became reality. Power, prestige, careers, lifestyles, dreams, egos, comfortable retirement, suburban real estate investments, good tables at restaurants, were suddenly all at risk.

The reaction was as swift as it was inevitable. It became a massive pile-on dedicated to impeding or preventing this man from advancing his agenda -- or, in layman’s terms, delivering on his campaign promises. Nothing would be off the table. First, try to delegitimize the election by focusing public attention on the wrong electoral standard. Don’t have the votes to prevent confirmation of cabinet positions? Then at least delay the process to showcase your opposition and complicate the transition. Don’t agree with the new administration? Then refuse to carry out its legitimate directions. Unhappy about policy changes or worried that the new team may have no further need of your services? Then leak information (classified or not) to undercut, undermine or destroy them. Afraid your monopoly on news and information is slipping in the face of alternative means of communication? Then double down on finding (creating?) contradiction, controversy or scandal, and run it as breaking news 24/7 as the newest incarnation of “reality TV.” The Kardashians could take pointers.

This all could be very interesting, even entertaining, if it weren’t so dangerous. It goes way beyond playing the role of the “loyal opposition” or “holding power to account” and verges on internecine warfare. It is selfish, self-absorbed, “inside baseball” behavior. It undermines the concept that our system of government is remarkable in the history of the world in effectively managing the bloodless transfer of power. It also worries our allies and emboldens our enemies. Does anyone doubt that this turbulent and interconnected world contains challenges to our security, prosperity and way of life? That there are groups of people and nations that wish us ill, or at least prioritize their own interests above ours or the peace of the world? This behavior telegraphs disagreement, disarray and dysfunction -- “a house divided.” In other words, weakness. Another President famously warned that “weakness only invites aggression,” and there are plenty of examples in history to prove that true. I believe that all parties and participants need to step back and see the bigger picture here. It’s not necessary that we all agree, but it is essential that we act as one nation when facing the challenges of the present and the future. We simply cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past.

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