American Promise

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Wow! Some week, wasn’t it?

We’ve experienced a shift in national leadership that is unprecedented and historical. Come January 20, 2017, we will have a President that has never before held an elected office nor served in the military. We will have a President who lost the popular vote by about 200,000 in early tallies, but the Electoral College votes are the only ones that count, introducing a whole new generation to the wonders of the Electoral College. That has only happened four other times, 2000, 1888, 1876 and 1824. A lot of history books and Google searches are in use this week, searching for an understanding of how that can be. That will lead them to the Constitution, several amendments and an understanding of the Constitution that will give comfort to those who fear this president making good on all his campaign promises.

All candidates make promises during the campaign, because it all seems so easy then, and voters like the promise of easy solutions to complex problems. Once in office, making good on those promises is another thing entirely, mostly because the President is not a dictator, but shares power with Congress and the Supreme Court. That concept of shared power can lead to disillusion with those newly elected to any office – federal, state or local. They do not hold the absolute power to do what they promised on the campaign trail.

That shared power leads to what was at one time a common strategy – bipartisanship. Representatives of both parties would work together to find compromise to solve a problem and get a bill passed. Worked well for over 200 years. While it’s been seen occasionally in the past 8-12 years, it’s become nearly extinct in D.C., which explains why Congress has done so little recently. That division is reflective of the division and lack of compromise we’ve all seen in American culture, so you can argue chicken or the egg on this one. What we do know is that it’s not good for anyone. And we, the people are the ones who pay the price for Washington gridlock.

Will that change? Will a new President lead the way to better government? We’re now in the very early days, filled with promises to “reach across the aisle” and serve all Americans. There have been pleas from President Obama and Secretary Clinton to support soon to be President Trump. Trump has promised he will be President for all Americans. We’ll know soon enough.

We are Americans; we don’t follow well. We’re known for being brash and inventive and doing things our own way. We’ve just shocked half of Americans and a good chunk of the world by electing a man whose campaign rhetoric is still ringing in our ears, much of it angry and divisive. Can we and he move past that?

History says yes, we can. Faith in the American people says yes, we can. Two hundred and forty years of American independence says yes, we can.

But there is a lot of work to do – a lot of healing that must take place.

As a member of the media, albeit a very small member, I’m hoping to see a move toward the restoration of trust in the media. There’s plenty of work to be done on all sides, but it’s important to remember that the press is an important part of American democracy, important enough that it’s enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

Muslims, women, minorities, immigrants, the disabled – a lot of segments of our American patchwork will be waiting and watching. To just ignore the rhetoric that scalded these groups will forestall the healing our country desperately needs right now.

The responsibility of the winner is to heal the nation and there’s a lot of healing that needs to take place. While the words have been spoken, actions must follow.

In the end, despite claims of a rigged system, the real power of America was felt at the ballot box. Citizens, in near record numbers, made the effort to weigh in with their choices and power was transferred peacefully.

We all need to recognize that the peaceful transfer of power, even amidst charges of ‘a fix’ is pretty unique in the world today. For that we should be proud. While we complain incessantly about our government and our elected representatives, we trust the system.

At the heart of it all, we know our system works better than any other system of governance in the world. It has its problems certainly and we strive to improve it with each election, but it works. Indeed, one of the major talking points in this election – immigration – is evidence that we are the envy of people around the world. Immigrants come here because they want to be Americans.

Now the hard part – to move forward and live up to our hope and promise as Americans.

On this Veterans Day, it’s the least we can do.

 

Missy Layfield