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Seeking the right side of history

Forget for a moment, if you are one who has elected to follow politics closely, the cynicism that can be yours as a byproduct of your due diligence.

Escape for a brief reading from the polarization that has most recently been the hallmark of our national politics.

Consider the possibility that most, if not all, of those elected to Congress believe in America and hope their service will, in some way, contribute to a better, more prosperous, more equitable nation for all.

If that leap of faith is possible, if only for a few moments, then would not every elected representative and every senator, hope that the decisions they make will be seen in the longer term as being on the right side of history?

By the term “the right side of history” it is the hoped-for judgment of time and events that the choices made do in fact advance the nation in ways that protect and improve the quality of life in America.

As an example of acts that might qualify, if the Senate passes the new budget the House has submitted it is a sign of successful compromise when agreement is hardly ever taken for granted in congress. Hardly a giant step forward, but nonetheless perhaps an indicator of the potential of Congress to once again engage in meaningful effort for the better of the nation.

Likewise the report this week from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that clarifies the events and responsibilities at Benghazi is an exercise in bipartisan collaboration.

There are other opportunities this year for Congress to engage in work that will be on the right side of history, like Immigration, SNAP, unemployment compensation and pre-school education. Members of both political parties have indicated that they could support different versions of how to advance these important programs in ways that could address need, reduce corruption, and be fiscally responsible.

Let all of us hope and support such efforts by holding the longer view of historical responsibility and avoiding the shorter, less merited, short view of political attack over accomplishment.

But there are also some actions in national politics today that can, and will, be judged by history as unworthy of our best intentions.

Republicans, aware that their electoral demographics in national elections are insufficient for victory, have chosen a dark path of response; passing state laws to deny voters access and gerrymandering districts to create voting districts that do not reflect voting majorities.

These policies will not stand the test of time and will be seen for what they are; attempts to hold onto power by “managing” voters, a tactic more valued in third world nations than in the cradle of liberty.

Likewise, Republicans seeking a scandal, any scandal no matter how insubstantial, to diminish the Democratic administration, are acting with blindness to their ethical responsibility to serve the nation first, not a political party. History will not be served by these desperate actions.

Democrats have not served the judgment of history by not being more responsive to the need to work with Republicans to plan budgets that move the nation to greater fiscal responsibility. Neither Social Security nor Medicare are programs Americans want to see eliminated, harmed, or diminished; by failing to manage fiscal policy more responsibly Democrats have jeopardized the very programs they claim to support.

Perhaps in this hyper-polarized political environment, all of us could benefit from considering the nation first and our politics second, while recognizing that there is often merit in opposing ideas and value in compromise.

Shouldn’t we be seeking the right side of history?

 

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.