During the Democratic Presidential debates, Hillary Clinton, jokingly perhaps, referred to Republicans as her enemies. Later, Joe Biden, announcing and explaining his decision not to run for the Democratic nomination, said that Republicans were not enemies, but opponents. In these times when political acrimony is so intense that our legislators have trouble getting anything accomplished, it occurs to me that it is better to think of the political parties as partners in the quest for a balance of power.
The familiar image of the scales of justice comes to mind. The distinguishing characteristic of the scales is that the two sides are perfectly balanced. On such a scale, balance is achieved when the weights on each side are exactly the same. But does that mean that the objects or substances on each side are necessarily identical? Different objects or substances may have the same weight or value, but still be different. Similarly, two different philosophies about how to find solutions for problems, or two different value systems, may be good, but different. Where people’s value systems are different, if they are to live peaceably together, some sort of balance between them must be maintained.
The architects of our form of government recognized that if tyranny is to be avoided, one group of people must not get too much power. In their effort to achieve balance and fairness, they created the three branches of government with which we are familiar. Granted, they themselves often fell short of the ideals of equality and democracy for which they strived. But the principles for which they stood are good ones.
If we are to live together in harmony, we must have balance between the government and private sector, balance between labor and management, balance between the rights of the various racial, ethnic and religious groups.
But three branches of government are not enough to insure that fairness will prevail. If we are to live together in harmony, we must have balance between the government and private sector, balance between labor and management, balance between the rights of the various racial, ethnic and religious groups. Otherwise, as has happened in the past, one special interest group can control all three branches of government. The opposing political parties help to insure that balance.
All of us need a corrective to our perspectives from time to time. I am reminded of the tiny lemmings, rodents who will follow the herd over a cliff to their deaths. When we constantly hear one point-of-view all the time, we are in danger of becoming like the lemmings. Extremism in any cause is dangerous. As much as we prefer not to hear opinions that conflict with our own biases, we need to hear them. We are all Americans. If we are to find the most optimum compromise between safety and freedom for all, we must reach out to each other across political boundaries, and all the other boundaries that divide us.