By Caleb Talley
“Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause – united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future – and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.” – John F. Kennedy
While Democrats and Republicans continued to snip at each other across the nation, following a midterm election that spawned excessive rancor, politicians in the southern Delaware hamlet of Georgetown chose to do something different.
On Nov. 7, the day after the election, both Democrats and Republicans, electoral winners and losers, embraced one another for Return Day, a time-honored, post-election showing of nonpartisan goodwill. Local leaders joined hands and buried the hatchet (literally), setting an example for all the country to follow.
Return Day is a 200-year-old tradition that gives politicians an opportunity for reconciliation and reflection. And, boy, can the rest of America use a little reconciliation and reflection right now.
So much has transpired across the country since the last edition of Arkansas Money & Politics. And very little of it was good.
A depraved fanatic, motivated by partisan hatred for the left, took it upon himself to target several high-profile Democrats and media outlets with a series of unsuccessful pipe bombs.
The same week, a man in Kentucky murdered two African-Americans in the parking lot of a Kroger because of the color of their skin. He first attempted to enter a predominantly black church with his weapon, a sickening reminder of the unthinkable Charleston church massacre of 2015.
And less than 24 hours after authorities had arrested the man accused of terrorizing the nation with those pipe bombs, another man, armed with an AR-15 and a heart full of hatred for Jews, opened fire on a Pittsburgh synagogue. He killed 11 people, with victims as old as 97.
These attacks on the fabric of our society, fueled by polarizing political bombast and dangerous ideology, underscore what has proven to be a dark time in America. And in dark times, the onus is on our leaders to unify bitter factions so that we may pull our country out of those dark circumstances. But that will never happen until those same leaders abandon the divisive rhetoric employed on the campaign trail and chart a new course in solidarity.
I worry that’s not the direction in which we’re headed. The election is over, but the division remains. While the partisan dynamic in Washington may have changed, that dysfunctional, codependent tribal relationship is still the same, if not worse. Our new Congress is believed to be more ideologically divided than any before it – the Republicans more conservative and the Democrats more liberal. Come January, expect gridlock as we’ve never seen it, and it will all be highlighted by attacks on the characters of partisan adversaries for the sake of messaging.
Raising the political temperature affects everyone. We live in a day and age in which nearly everything in life is viewed through partisan lenses. Ratcheting up the rhetoric gets no one anywhere; it only stimulates extremists. Hatred and fear are the enemies of the people, not any one political party or media outlet. And neither can claim any moral superiority.
We have a lot to learn from those small-town Delaware politicians, who, if even for a day, put politics and ideology behind them and joined hands to set an example for those they represent.
Let us heed the words that John F. Kennedy was supposed to deliver, had he not been gunned down by an extremist in Dallas, words he never got to say:
“Neither the fanatic nor the faint of heart are needed. And our duty as a party is not to our party alone, but to the nation, and, indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but to the preservation of peace and freedom.
“So, let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our nation’s future is at stake.
“Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause – united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future – and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.”