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OPINION: O unity, wherefore art thou?

by Greg Harton | May 4, 2022 at 5:25 a.m.

I don't give money to political campaigns. I don't sign petitions. I don't put political campaign signs in my yard.

I'm an American, free to support whoever I want, but as a newspaper guy, my employer's policies prevent me from supporting political candidates with anything but the way I cast my ballot.

Is that unfair, an infringement on my rights? Not to me. It's just a professional choice I made years ago when I decided to be a journalist. As a reporter, part of the job is to cover people and groups of all persuasions. It's difficult for people to put their trust in your reporting if you're taking an active role in campaigning for one party or the other, or any of the candidates.

Boundaries became a little less defined once I transitioned into my role as editorial page editor. The job, by necessity, requires both the development and expression of opinions. That's generally less about candidates and more about public policies, government decision-making and behaviors of public figures.

Still, political campaigns concern me, not so much about whether a Republican, a Democrat or a Libertarian. Was that a conscious choice? wins, but whether a candidate grasps the heavy responsibility to serve the public in the position he or she seeks. "Clothed with that important trust" is the way George Washington put it. Also, I'm concerned when a candidate seems to identify as a member of a party more so than as a member of the community the candidate will represent.

Not every decision comes down to being Republican right or Republican wrong, or Democrat right or Democrat wrong. The more local the decision, the more I would expect to see neighbors working together and less enamored by the lure of political factionalism that invades our nation's capital. We're in a political age, though, in which bipartisanship has been reclassified too often as weakness.

A guy named George Washington once warned of dangers ahead if the new nation he was the first to helm somehow forgot the great value of unity even as individual independence is valued and celebrated.

"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 tranquillity at home, your peace abroad, of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very liberty which you so highly prize. 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 ... The independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint councils and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes."

Washington knew the power of factions, geographic but also political, to cause and to aggravate cracks in the foundations upon which the United States of America is built. He urged us toward vigilance to overcome them and be ever aware that those cracks are where our enemies can exploit and attack.

Where is that happening today? I'd suggest a lot of it is rooted in the capacity for individuals and organizations to wield powerful influence on our political system through untraceable campaign spending, the so-called dark money doled out by people behind a veil, not unlike the Wizard of Oz.

It's also rooted in attitudes that political victories are more important than progress toward solutions.

Print Headline: O, unity, wherefore art thou?

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