There is political language used to divide us. There is political language used to unite us.
Our founding fathers utilized the language of unity.
“E Pluribus Unum,” the motto emblazoned on the Great Seal of the United States of America, means “out of many, one.” “We the people” in the preamble to the Constitution intones unity of purpose. Indeed, the very name of our nation, the “United States of America” is about unity.
Our first president and exemplary patriot, George Washington, talked of this in his extraordinary farewell address.
“The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize.”
Washington continued with a warning about divisive language and an imperative to stay united.
“But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness … watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”
Fast forward to the politics of today where Washington’s warning is ignored. Internally, politicians and moneyed interests of all persuasions intentionally utilize divisive language and tactics to grab power. Externally, foreign enemies amplify this discord on the Internet and social media to further divide us.
It is disheartening to see many otherwise able politicians so caught up in the language of division that they reject any and all constructive attempts to build the consensus needed to address critical issues.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves appears to be one of those.
Gov. Phil Bryant’s director of Medicaid, Drew Snyder, told House Appropriations Committee members hospitals have serious problems with the growing number of uninsured patients and suggested “it’s a fair concern to think about what’s out there to lower those numbers.”
Gubernatorial candidate Reeves responded by saying three times, “I’m opposed to Obamacare expansion in Mississippi.” He said nothing about addressing the problem, just used the divisive Obamacare” word to stigmatize the issue.
Conservative first-term lawmaker Robert Foster, a Republican from Hernando who is also running for governor, took a more constructive approach: “I do not personally support traditional expansion of Medicaid like they’ve done in some other states,” he told the Clarion-Ledger. “But what I do support, and what we do have to take into serious consideration, is looking at waivers and an innovative way of bringing health care that is affordable to the working class Mississippians that are left out right now.”
Snyder and Foster have opened the door for constructive conservatism to address real problems.
» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicate columnist from Meridian.
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