The real questions in this election are 1) who are we? And just as importantly, 2) who does the international community think we are?
The world is a beautiful, complex, yet at times, dangerous place. Choosing a president to lead America in such times is a decision fraught with challenges. Problems facing the nation have numerous competing points of view, which lends a plate-spinner’s quality to building consensus. As such, except in those very rare moments like December 8, 1941, or 9/12/01, the nation never really achieves universal accord. There is always a plate or two that is wobbling.
But that was the framer’s vision, fearful as they were of arbitrary royal power. So the art of politics is not to produce one side with perfectly spinning plates while the other side’s crash to the floor, which was essentially the old feudal system. Instead, it is in managing to keep all the plates spinning as best you can so the set remains whole.
Though we are a nation of individuals, there is a shared ethic undergirding the American experience. So did the Founding Fathers “mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” in signing the Declaration of Independence.
That pledge and declaration gave birth not only to the nation, but to the concept of American Exceptionalism, whose legacy has brought the country through the depths of a Civil War and the planet through the cataclysm of two world wars. It is not just the nation, then, but the world at large that has been guided by the even keel of this grand ship of state.
The risk that currently confronts us is not only what a particular candidate might say or do once in office, but also what others may say or do in response. (more…)