By Jackie Finley
I am currently reading an interesting novel, Deep River, by Karl Marlantes. While not an overtly political book, the story incorporates many social and humanitarian issues, particularly those of struggling immigrants in the logging industry of early 20th century Oregon and Washington. As I read, sentences or phrases pop up that give me pause to think about our present confusing and contentious American society, and how little, it seems, we have learned.
One such sentence, “Fools fight each other. Men fight the common enemy,” struck a chord. As we plummet deeper into the grueling campaign season, why are we shredding each other? As a Democrat, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the level of unnecessary and derogatory attacks that the party’s presidential contenders are lobbing at each other. Tearing each other apart over individual solutions to Trumpian chaos is only creating an intra-party civil war that reduces chances for a true victory. All the candidates will appear to be damaged goods before 2020 even arrives. Being “Presidential material” means not only having solid ideas and integrity in demeanor but having the respect and long-term support of others “within the family.”
Shooting arrows at each other, or unexpectedly for me, at former President Obama, is not the means to present a united Democratic Party. Obama is still liked by many Americans; they appreciate what he accomplished given that the far-right was determined to see him fail. By criticizing him for their own gain, candidates are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. Obama’s legacy is needed to act as a structure upon which to rebuild this country after years of turmoil. Contrary to some individuals’ beliefs, starting from scratch will be difficult.
The recently televised Democratic debates turned out to be another intra-party sparring match. Supposedly a means to clarify differences among the contenders, they succeeded to some extent, but also played too much to the media. One-liners and zingers garnered more attention than thoughtful solutions to our country’s many woes. The debate scenario should not be the place for bloodshed, but rather a dignified elucidation and comparison of contenders’ solutions and visions. The eventual presidential candidate needs the backing of all his or her fellow Democrats, not only as a show of force against the current incompetent incumbent, but also because he or she might want their expertise and wisdom in the future. It is hard to “unring the bell” when too much rancor has been displayed. Going for the jugular should be postponed until the real enemy is in the bullseye.
Sadly, we are a nation seriously divided. Let’s stop fragmenting ourselves and start unifying. It is going to be a process, not a quick fix, as many of our leaders view “us vs. them” as the means to power, even though that approach does not work. Democrats need to keep all this in mind if they want to be perceived as an intact, focused entity and not just victims of Trump’s maniacal system of “divide and conquer.” Yes, the Democratic contenders have different views, solutions and emphases, and they need to be clear with these differences. Voters need to understand these distinctions and chose accordingly. Integrity and how contenders treat each other, however, are crucial, too. The means by which the presidential candidates comport themselves represents how they would behave if elected to the highest office. At the moment we have an unrefined narcissist in the White House, one who demeans others. We need a new person of quality.
Whether Democrats are moderates or ultra-liberals, the ultimate need is to unite behind a competent candidate, one who can beat Trump. Fixation on each candidate’s “deficiencies” only provides more ammunition to those who like the status quo or want to turn back the hands of time. We don’t need to have all the answers now, but we need to move forward together and know that whoever leads the Democrats into the 2020 general election is a person who is respected and deemed trustworthy and capable. Once that is accomplished, we can focus on policies that reinstate honor to the U.S. and provide optimism for the future.