Make America Good Again
As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take office today, their charge is simple: return normalcy and stability to Washington. After four years of a Trump-led cult that sapped our country of its dignity at home and respect abroad, it’s time for America to remind everyone what’s always made us great: our decency.
Politics should not be a source of our entertainment. Watching cable news, reading partisan blogs, and sharing memes on Facebook does not meet the demands of modern citizenship. Few of us need to actually run for office, work in government, or cure a disease to fulfill our responsibilities as Americans. While some of us think we’re swinging for the fences by “owning the libs” online or yelling at and judging our conservative family members over Thanksgiving dinners, we’re actually not in the democracy game at all. We’re part of the problem, not the solution.
The best thing any citizen can do for his or her country is to live the life they hold others responsible for. Continue your education, start a business, be a better husband, mother, brother, cousin and neighbor. Volunteer at your local school or church. Lend a helping hand to strangers in your community. And yes, educate yourself on the issues of the day and make yourself heard at the local, state, and federal levels. No one person, not even the president, can solve all of our problems alone. But if he or she, or any of us, leads by example, the ripple effects can form a wave of positive change that crosses party lines and helps us all.
Politics in its most basic form is always about people. Leaders are supposed to listen to our stories and work to make them better. Our partisan divide isn’t merely a result of partisan news and violent tribalism. We’re losing trust and faith in our system because not enough of us are feeling listened to and our prospects for the future seem bleak. A real political leader takes accountability and tells voters the truth, especially when the news is uncomfortable. They ask us to sacrifice and they lead by example. What we’ve had the last four years in the White House is someone who only spoke to and for his supporters. He only told them what they wanted to hear and that their problems weren’t their own fault, they should blame one or all of the easy scapegoats: the media, Congress, Democrats, Muslims, Blacks, Mexicans, coastal elites, and.. and… and. He promised grandiosity without laying a foundation to build upon.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris must reverse course. It’s not enough for them to continue the trend of throwing red meat at their side while blaming the other. Nothing solves family, business, and political disputes quite like buy-in and results. Growth and success expose petty arguments for what they are: petty. By rolling up their sleeves, tackling the issues, leveling with the people about the size and scope of our challenges and actually enacting new laws that measurably improve each of our lives and stories, they can do more to save this country than any march on the streets or argument in social media comment threads. Less tweets, more progress. More “us” and less “them.”
Will it be easy? No. Nothing worthwhile ever is. The bulk of our wounds are self-inflicted. It won’t be comfortable for our new president to rise above the last few months where he saw his predecessor spread lies and conspiracies about the election results, never concede or congratulate him, fail to run a real transition of power, choose not to attend his inauguration, and incite a mob attack on our Capitol building that killed half a dozen people. All of that was ridiculous. Trump should be held accountable for his actions. But President Biden has to stay above it. He has no choice. That’s not who we are as Americans and he has to show it in everything he says and does. I know he can and I hope he will. Joe Biden inherently knows what the rest of us need to learn. No one can be “great” unless he or she is fundamentally “good.”
It’s time to Make America Good Again.
Rob Ellsworth is a partner and cofounder of The Majority Group in Washington, D.C. He served 5 members of Congress, in both political parties, as one of the youngest legislative directors and chiefs of staff on Capitol Hill. Ellsworth is a native Ohioan and graduate of Georgetown University.
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