In the President’s words: “We celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of Democracy. . . . Democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile.” We celebrate with great relief the culmination of the sacred process of voting, settling any disputes about vote counts in the courts and seating a President based on the sum of results.
I believe in that process and have participated actively in it for my whole life, but I’ve sometimes taken the process itself for granted. The recent assault on the democratic process through lies and ultimately violence reminds us all of the vulnerability of the process and highlights our common duty to defend it. As the President said, “Each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders, leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation, to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”
At the same time, the survival of the democratic process highlights the “resilience of our Constitution and . . . the strength of our nation.” The process survived thanks to enduring loyalty to our Constitution on the part of our elections officials, our judges, our homeland security forces, and a bipartisan majority in Congress. Our major institutions passed a great test.
Both Ms. Gorman and the President pointed to the deep flaws in our nation, but framed them as work to be done. Ms. Gorman said: “Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.” The ideals are right. We just haven’t lived up to them yet. This is “The Hill we Climb.” We are not yet that shining city on hill, but we are climbing.
The President said: “Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, and demonization have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial. Victory is never assured.” Yet he reviewed in a hopeful light the grave challenges that the nation now faces — “much to repair,” but also “much to gain.”
In the face of grave challenges, he offered unity as the way forward: “History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity. We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.”
We have overcome the great challenges of our past because “enough of us came together to carry all of us forward. . . . Politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. And, we must reject a culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.”
In the Poet’s words: “We lift our gazes not to what stands between us but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.”
The President acknowledged that unity is “the most elusive of all things in a democracy” but dedicated himself to striving for it: “On this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause.” Count me in.
In the Poet’s words: “[B]eing American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it.” Count me in.
At the state and local level, we have the chance to make a difference on all of the great challenges before us, from COVID-19 to racial justice to climate change to inclusive economic recovery. I’m grateful for the opportunity to play a part as your state senator and hope to live up to these words.