As I drove northeast into Maine, listening, when I could stand it, to talk radio’s toxic spew, I wondered whether Maine’s diverse political composition might provide a blueprint for a fractured nation to move forward together. The first step is to turn off the hatemongers, those who make a living demonizing their opponents and inciting their followers to make it personal. The antidote to bad ideas is not personal attacks. It is better ideas. The response to lies is not bigger lies but an honest effort to find the truth. The role of journalism is not simply to tell us what each candidate said but to analyze the truth of their claims.
But then what? How can we reach common ground without compromising our principles? How do people like me, who find much of the current Republican platform abhorrent, bridge the divide? One answer is to honor basic principles – our own and others’.
For pragmatists, accommodation is a first principle. It is not a bad thing to have leaders who understand the importance of compromises that will enable small steps forward. But core principles are, by definition, not negotiable. We must determine which those are for us and keep fighting for them. That’s what Lincoln did, and Churchill.
We must be sure that the principles on which we stand are too vital for us to give up and too important for us to give in. And if we lose, we must keep fighting for them without scorching the earth.