Moving Forward: Recommitting to Our Democracy

Well, America, we have declared our 45th President of the United States: real-estate mogul and reality television star Donald J. Trump. In the process of a bitter election, both he and Hillary Clinton managed to further polarize the American electorate. Whether it’s Trump’s blatant sexism or Clinton’s email scandal(s), more than eight in ten voters feel “repulsed rather than excited” by this campaign season.

After running an unpredictable campaign full of drama and scandal, Mr. Trump promises to make America great again. After this election, he’s got a lot of work to do. His own Republican Party is in shambles. Internationally, the threat of ISIS continues to grow.  And of course nationally there is the political divisions in Washington that somehow he’ll have to figure out how to unify – especially with potential economic instability.  

Despite what he says, Trump alone can’t make America great again. He’s got to work together with Congress and internal RNC divisions. And, if we’re going to move forward together with  President Trump, it will take our own commitment to democracy. We have to work together for America to continue to be strong.

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Our democracy is built on the premise that we can debate worthwhile ideas that will help us live together. For democracy to function healthily, we have to engage in our political culture: We vote. We join civil society groups like church groups, sports teams, and political parties to build American social life. We trust one another in the process.

Our political culture is broken and so is our engagement in it. Among other developed countries, our voter turnout is atrocious. We see ourselves as lazy and selfish. Some sociologists debate whether we even join those church groups or sporting teams anymore. Even if we get involved in civic movements, we avoid talking about politics.

And finally, we don’t trust the government or our fellow Americans. This election cycle was simply an extreme result of polarization.

Today we have to move forward – together – and fight against the distrust and negativity  we have for one another. We don’t have to choose whether to make “America great again” or be “stronger together”. We can be both. We can stand with one another to build a better country for future generations.

In his 2016 State of the Union Address, President Obama urged all Americans to do their part to keep this democracy going:

Our collective futures depends on your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. We need every American to stay active in our public life – and not just during election time – so that our public life reflects the goodness and the decency that I see in the American people every single day.

To do this, we must interact with one another, especially people who are different than us. Let’s stop unfriending friends on Facebook because they have different views than us, and start talking to one another. Let’s follow Obama’s call to stay active in political life.

Of course many feel angry and frustrated with the disaster of both the election and political culture. That is more than understandable because this has been deplorable at best. But are we going to remain angry or are we going to move forward?

We can move forward:

  • We can reconnect with family members we unfriended because of their different political views.  
  • We can break out of our media silos to understand other viewpoints
  • We can seek out clubs, rejoin sporting teams and religious congregations that we left
  • We can humbly pray for decreased bitterness and increased gratitude
  • We can practice political conversations that avoid demonizing others
  • We can turn to the example of Pope Francis who calls us to build a politics without fear

The election is over. Today we walk forward with President Trump. Let’s make our previous generations proud by reclaiming a public life that truly reflects how great we’ve always been. Let’s do this together.

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