“Amicus meus, inimicus inimici mei.” (My friend, the enemy of my enemy)
Politics is a blood sport. It is not for the faint of heart. It is not an arena where we all sit down with each other, agree on everything, and believe in one accord… that’s church. …Well, no I guess it’s not church either. Increasingly it would seem, people believe they are participating in the political process by demanding almost universal agreement, pure devotion to whatever issues they deem important, or they take their ball (or in this case their vote) and go home.
It’s easy to understand the emotions at play. For years both parties have tended to take their bases for granted and gravitate toward moderate, “electable” candidates that would appeal also to independents and maybe even a few voters from the opposing party. Such strategy has given us politician after politician with no souls. Winning became the enemy of values and character. Republicans began to identify these victorious vagabonds as RINO’s, republicans in name only. The Democrats have their own version, I’m sure, but “DINO’s” just doesn’t seem to have caught on.
2010 brought us the peak of the Tea Party movement, and with it a slew of candidates who weren’t afraid to stand for something. Underestimated on all fronts, it was a wave election, and it seemed that a new kind of politician was emerging; one that didn’t need to be a good speaker or even have an accomplished resume, just stand for the Constitution and limited government. Battles are often easy when the opposition doesn’t expect a fight, and 2010 served only as a wake-up call to both the Democrats and the establishment Republicans. Both pulled out all the stops (and a lot of cash) to insure that 2010 was not repeated in 2012, or now in 2014. The Tea Party types are justifiably indignant at some of the tactics being used… welcome to politics! Oh, you can certainly take the high road, you don’t have to wallow in the slop with the hogs, you don’t have to participate in the mud slinging; but mud will be slung, the hogs will wallow, and you had better be up for the challenge. 2010 showed us that people with core values can win elections, 2012 and 2014 have shown us that they can also lose them. Now that the novelty is over we are learning that although winning isn’t everything, it’s half of everything.
“Me and my brother against my cousin; me, my brother and my cousin against the outsider.” Arab proverb
That in a nutshell is the nature of politics. If we can’t let go of our quarrels with our brother, then our cousin Barack will rule over us. If we can’t exist with our cousins, then beware the coming outsiders. The founding fathers were hardly homogeneous in their political, religious, or cultural views. Yet because of their common enemy they were able to work together to take a stand; and then despite their differences, or perhaps because of them, they were able to create the greatest form of government the world has ever known. It is that tension that keeps us sharp, it is those differences that keep us from drifting away. It satisfies no one, but neither does it permit tyranny, even the tyranny of those we agree with. Likewise we today have enemies, and levels of enemies; we have friends, and levels of friends. Politics is about building coalitions with friends, or lesser enemies, to defeat our greater foes. Without coalitions there can be no victory; he who tolerates no diverse opinion will perpetually be in an insignificant minority, and he who discards his vote can only lose. Clearly there are places that lines must be drawn, lest we become our enemy, but the line can’t be only a circle around ourselves that excludes us from those who might be our allies if not our brethren.
IMHO: The ideas of the Revolution were important, but so was defeating the British. Success in politics is always a combination of principle and victory. One without the other serves little purpose. Principled candidates are good to have, candidates who can win are good to have; candidates who can both win and retain their souls are golden. If you see only one road ahead, and all other roads seem to you to be dead ends; if you can’t see a difference between the leaders of Iran, the leaders of your country, and the leaders of your party, then perhaps politics is the wrong arena for you. Take your family high into the mountains where you can pretend that they all agree with you, and try to live your life out free from those not as pure as you. The rest of us will be busy about doing what we can to work toward the best we can do, building coalitions, fighting the enemy.