What keeps us from expelling fellow citizens

When a president suggests political opponents should leave the country, he must contend with those who know what binds a democracy.

Reuters
President Trump puts away talking points about four Democratic congresswomen while answering questions from the media at the White House July 15.

In American democracy, the interests of particular groups are often stereotyped, even dismissed by leaders. Some groups might be called “deplorables” or described as people who “cling to guns or religion,” as candidates have done. Last week, progressive and centrist Democrats descended into racist labeling of each other. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of “singling out” newly elected women of color.

What has wisely restrained such dart-throwing identity politics is a shared desire to sustain democracy itself. That takes humility about one’s own rightness as well as respect of minority rights. Those in a minority should not feel so excluded that they leave or destroy the system. Nor should a minority be asked to actually leave the United States, as President Donald Trump told four women in Congress to do in a tweet on Sunday.

Reaction to Mr. Trump’s banishment tweet was strong, notably among Democrats. But Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and a Trump supporter, asked the president on Fox News to see the four congresswomen as any politician should: “They are American citizens. They won an election. Take on their policies. The bottom line here is this is a diverse country.”

Rough politics is often smoothed over by accommodating a minority’s interests, or at least by giving minorities a platform in the public square to voice concerns. Someday the roles of a majority and minority might be reversed. Yet the tools and values of democratic engagement must endure.

As James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, the public good requires measures not be decided “by the superior force of an ... overbearing majority.” He argued against “some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens.” That is not always easy under a majority-rule system. It requires patience and the need to place a burden on the majority for strong justification of any measure.

The political passion to exclude others, as Abraham Lincoln stated, “must not break our bonds of affection.” Those affections, he added, arise from “chords of memory” as one nation and “the better angels of our nature.”

In U.S. history, “better angels” have often helped snap back American politics into its role as unifying a disparate people. Politics can divide people but should never eject entire groups of citizens. Elections do produce winners. But winners cannot take all and then send others walking.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to What keeps us from expelling fellow citizens
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2019/0715/What-keeps-us-from-expelling-fellow-citizens
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe