Who Will Repair What Is Broken?

By Michael Starr Hopkins

I am a Democrat, but I have always felt that strong opposition parties were good for the country. For this, I have sometimes been harshly criticized by other Democrats. Such criticism could be confusing. Aren’t Americans supposed to promote bipartisanship? Indeed, when I first came of age politically, I fundamentally disagreed with Republican leaders like former Gov. Chris Christie and former Rep. Paul Ryan on policy, but I respected them as public servants. I believed that they were the type of leaders who would turn the GOP in particular away from nativism and lead Republicans into some semblance of 21st century politics.

I was wrong. Instead, the GOP has done the opposite. Republicans have taken partisanship to a level that would make Newt Gingrich blush. They have embarrassed themselves, and they have embarrassed me for even suggesting that they could provide a better path forward — and for what, some tax cuts and conservative judges? As angry as I am at Donald Trump for his lack of decency and empathy, I am equally as disappointed in the Republicans who aided his rise to power.

Still, while most Democrats would understandably prefer an America free from the Republican Party, I somehow find myself hoping for the rebirth of a more tolerant and inclusive conservative party that can help to one day restore America’s faith in government.

Repairing what is broken is a task too heavy for one party to bear, and an obligation too onerous for any single group. Rebuilding our institutions and strengthening the bond between people of differing viewpoints requires a commitment from each and every one of us. It requires honest brokers, willing to find common ground and ignore the naysayers whose sole goal is to be the loudest in the room. It requires a confidence of purpose that cannot waver in the midst of an election season that could signal the end of one’s political career. Most importantly though, repairing our broken country requires Republicans in particular to stand up and take their party back from those who are attempting to bastardize their message

Succumbing to the worst tendencies of one’s party isn’t new or unprecedented; we’ve been here before. Moral crises have repeatedly tested the will of our great nation. This country has battled through the dark days of slavery, segregation, McCarthyism and Watergate, and still we stand. Not because of magic pixie dust but thanks to brave patriots, willing to take unpopular yet principled stands because our social contract demands it.

And America has always managed to find its way back from the brink because of our ability to come together, in search of a shared purpose, when we as a country need it the most. We are edging toward a brink now, not of violence necessarily but certainly of near-intractable partisanship. Just look at the differing ways the impeachment inquiry is being covered. I may be foolish, but I still believe in our shared purpose. I still believe that, in spite of those who have turned their back on our motto, e pluribus unum, principled conservatives will find their way back home.

So who will stand up now and help take the Republican Party in a new direction? Election season cannot go into perpetuity, at some point we must govern. Someone must lead.

I am not naive, nor do I believe that the majority of our political leaders have the intelligence or moral compass to act with the courage of Abraham Lincoln. Expecting an overnight solution to a longterm problem is a recipe for failure. And I realize that the same people who mocked me for believing that Republicans and Democrats could work together before, will likely mock me once again for believing that all hope is not lost.

I realize that the same people who mocked me for believing that Republicans and Democrats could work together before, will likely mock me once again for believing that all hope is not lost.

But what other choice do we have? Our democracy requires compromise and courage to meet the challenges that we face. We cannot afford to continue down the broken roads that have led us to gridlock. We need each other.

Like it or not, Democrats need a strong Republican Party to act a a counterweight in our deliberative process. The Framers fully intended for progress to be incremental, not overnight or all at once. A democracy absent diversity is not a democracy. This symbiotic relationship may not be pretty and certainly may not always be successful, but it is necessary to the framework that makes us a shining star on a hill.

I have often been called too optimistic and criticized for my faith in my fellow American. Yet I wear those labels with pride, because at the end of the day we have to believe. We have to believe that we are part of something worth fighting for and saving.

Most importantly though, we have to believe in the goodness of each other and our ability to correct course even when it seems impossible. That has been our saving grace throughout history, our ability to turn this social experiment around and live up to our motto “out of many, one.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s