The real questions in this election are 1) who are we? And 2) just as importantly, who does the international community think we are?
The world is a beautiful, complex, yet, at times, dangerous place. Choosing a president to lead in such times is fraught. Problems 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 world through the cataclysm of two world wars. It is not just the nation, herself, but the world at large that has been guided by the great even keel of this ship of state.
The danger, then, is not so much in what a particular candidate will say or might do once in office. The danger is in what others may say or do in response. Continue reading