by Tim Donner

We are hearing more and more these days about the toxic environment enveloping our national government, how the right and left have become more polarized, more divided and more entrenched than ever.

But one piece of biblical wisdom must be considered: there is nothing new under the sun.

Political polarization has been a prominent feature of our constitutional republic from the beginning of this great experiment in liberty called America.

If you really think this political environment is worse now than ever, ask yourself if we are likely to witness again what happened in 1804, when one of our most consequential founding fathers and one time treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton died in a pistol duel with the sitting vice president Aaron Burr.

See, political battles are – and always have been – an inevitable byproduct of our system of government, a system based on the need for all sides to negotiate and compromise in order to achieve anything of value.

So let’s ask a question that is generally buried amidst the constant partisan battles, not to mention the hoopla and horserace of an extraordinary presidential campaign: are there areas of common belief between the left and right, progressives and constitutionalists, that could lead to action that actually advances the fortunes of the american people?

Political parties on a crossroads sign featuring Democrat and Republican

Political parties on a crossroads sign featuring Democrat and Republican

We are not talking about kumbaya, feel good moments for their own sake, or surrendering one’s values for the sake of politics, but things that honest people on both sides can agree on.  And there are more than you think.

Consider the issue of eminent domain, where almost everyone on both sides agrees it’s wrong for a well-funded interest to force people out of their homes for the sake of economic development

Or government surveillance – most on the left and right seek to minimize the government’s ability to spy on us anytime, anywhere without a warrant

Then there’s crony capitalism.  Both sides recognize the corruption inherent in the government acting in league with powerful corporations to limit competition and rig the market

Both sides agree on the need for systemic reforms in an increasingly dysfunctional criminal justice system.

While trade is still an explosive issue, earlier this year our democratic president teamed with congressional republicans to fast track a major global trade deal.

When you add the more libertarian view into the mix…there is broad agreement about standing down from the failed war on drugs …and even on foreign policy, where intervention is viewed as a last rather than first resort.  

This is policy and practices which actually effect the lives of tens of millions of people, unlike… who’s the bad guy of the week…who got caught with hand in cookie jar….who said the stupidest thing….that’s just politics and posturing.

One supposes these politicians run for office because they believe in certain things.  So while there are obviously areas of fundamental disagreement, even opposite world views, those views can be reconciled or even harmonized on many key issues – and serve to restore some confidence in a political system so widely viewed as broken.