December 1, 2023

A House Divided

A House Divided

"Our politicians draw their strength from the division between us. They take the 10%-20% disagreement between us and turn it into the main thing, because that’s what gives them a mandate to 'represent' us, to fight in our name. They do it at the expense of our security, our welfare, our taxes, and our freedom."

When you read this quote, I am guessing that you expected I was going to tell you it was from a contemporary commentator on the state of American politics. Rather, it is a quote from an Israeli tank commander currently in combat against Hamas, writing about his concerns over the divisions in his country.

Israel has a storied military and intelligence history. Its agencies have executed spectacular operations, such as the stunning 1976 rescue of over 100 hostages at Entebbe Airport in Uganda after their plane had been hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. The contrast of that vaunted history with the utter failure to detect or counter Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7 could not be more stark.

While we do not know the details of the intelligence and military response failure that led to the Oct. 7 massacre, the letter from the tank command clearly attributes the deep divisions within Israel as part of the reason for the failure. His words are a cautionary tale for America.

Our country faces unparalleled challenges. These challenges mostly arise from truly epic demographic and technological changes that are spreading across the world. However, our dysfunctional political system, based on an anachronistic two-party system, is utterly impotent to marshal a fact-based, logical approach to addressing those challenges. Instead, we have devolved into a bizarre world of conspiracy theories and petty, partisan blame-gaming.

At the Republican convention in 1858, Abraham Lincoln told the conventioneers that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” The issue upon which our country was so divided at that time was slavery. Lincoln predicted that “I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided.” His prediction was proved by history although it took a bloody civil war to do so. Today, we do not face an issue with the moral imperative of the abolition of slavery. But we do face demographic and technological changes that will upend existing social and economic norms that in some ways will be at least, if not more, disruptive. Americans can embrace those changes and lead the world through them, or we can continue our inane partisan bickering and suffer the consequences.

Lincoln ended his speech with a political call to arms. “To meet and overthrow the power of that dynasty is the work now before all those who would prevent the consummation [of the abolition of slavery]. This is what we must do.” The “dynasty” to which Lincoln referred was the corrupt, morally bankrupt Whigs and Democratic parties of his day. It took the nascent Republican Party to disrupt that dynasty by electing Lincoln as president just two years later and eventually making the abolition of slavery a reality.

Does America still have the character and fortitude to throw off the current corrupt and intellectually bankrupt two-party dynasty that refuses to address the challenges of the 21st century? That is the task I believe Lincoln would be laying before us today.

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