In his speech at the Democratic National Convention, former President Clinton did something uncharacteristic for a national party convention: he praised the other side. He praised the work of Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, H.W. Bush and W. Bush. He praised and recognized the valuable contributions they gave to the country and to the world, and then went on to say “the politics of constant conflict may be good, but what is good for politics does not necessarily work in the real world. What works in the real world is cooperation.”
This is a viewpoint refreshingly articulated by a former president, because all too often it seems the best way to get ahead in Washington is to slander the other side. At some point, we decided that a two party system did not exist to prevent politics from becoming stagnant but to wage war on the opposition. At some point, we decided to draw a line in the sand, and say that whoever was on the opposite side was the enemy, and that this country would be better off without them. Politics changed into a consistent and constant conflict, to borrow some words from the former president.
It has become clichéd to call for bipartisanship, to ask for our leaders to attempt to work together on an issue, or at the very least to respect one another. But yet, it’s a view that won’t fall out of favor until it’s happened. It’s impossible for the world to “get along too well.”
Sadly though, there is an issue I take with this sentiment — it’s currently nothing more than just words. There was no plan to foster respect between the two parties, something that long seems to have departed, nor was there any plan to create a bipartisan solution to many of the issues the country currently faces. Instead, there were words, and while words can be nice, all too often they fall flat on the promises they create.
So while the sentiment articulated by Clinton is lovely, I’d love if it carried with it the substance necessary to provide a solution. It’s a problem the country faces that is all too often ignored.
Even outside of Washington, members of one party or subscribers of one ideology look down their noses at the other. I know liberals who proudly count the number of Republican friends they have with one hand, and I know a libertarian or two who has threatened violence during political conversations. Somewhere along the lines, we lost the concept of respect for the other side. We have ceased to recognize the valuable contributions a person can make regardless of ideology.
So let this act as another call for national unity, and let it be that what works best in the real world, cooperation, works best in Washington as well, and let it replace the constant conflict we’ve all become accustomed to.