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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gracious winners, gracious losers

It's the morning after, and citizens of our country are deeply polarized in their politics. I have heard too many people -- both liberals and conservatives -- demonizing the party and candidates of the other side, to the extent where they cannot identify anything in the other side's platform that might actually be a good idea. It's as though 49% of the public thinks it will be an utter disaster if Democrats prevail and 49% thinks it will be likewise if Republicans prevail. Therefore I assume that almost half the country feels despair this morning. (I wrote this on Sunday the 4th without foreknowledge of who won.)

The current system to fund a campaign largely feeds on fear of what the opponent or the opponent's party might do in office. Therefore the system drives polarization. Each of us is responsible for allowing the system to work this way, in terms of what we have done and what we have left undone. Each of us is also a victim of how the system works, to one degree or another. Worse, we're on the verge of a perverse Catch 22 in which only insensitive, narrow-minded megalomaniacs hold elected office because you'd have to be one to run for office.

Lighten up, folks. What puts this country at risk is not the Democratic Party or the Republican Party per se. What puts this country at risk is political intolerance: the inability to embrace one another as citizens who deserve respect despite diverse political views. As a native of Alabama, I've seen too much bigotry in my life and I can smell its inevitable consequences a mile away.

I want the victors in yesterday's elections to leave campaign rhetoric behind and to approach the tasks of governance and, more importantly, leadership in a constructive fashion. I don't ask Democrats to quit being liberal or Republicans to quit being conservative; nor do I ask yesterday's victors to abandon the positions that got them elected. But I'm calling for dramatic change in style rather than substance. I want office holders whose style is to dissipate political intolerance and to rebuild a two-party system that collaborates despite competition -- instead of office holders who push hard for total domination by one party's ideology.

Style matters. Let us start by being gracious winners and gracious losers, whatever happened yesterday.