The parties are over (Juneteenth and Independence Day), and Musselman with its three-hundred and fifty racing souls along with that many organizers and helpers, is on the rise. Then what? Summer.
Restaurants are open, music venues operating, churches even allow singing again — it already feels strange to wear a mask. The economy seems to be roaring back, Biden almost hit his 70% vaccination goal with only 3% to go, economists are predicting all the jobs lost in the pandemic will return in some form within the next year, a bipartisan infrastructure bill looks like it might squeak through, there is emergency housing money to help those whose postponed rent is due, and the list of positive notes play on and on. So why is there an ominous stillness in the air, like a ninety degree summer day when nothing is moving?
It is because, as indicated by a recent Pew Research poll and described by Alexander Burns in the New York Times on July 4th, our nation seems permanently split by a roughly 53-47% divide. It is an example of how winner-take-all democracy does not work (take note Geneva City Council). Consensus-building and compromise allows for healing and common purpose whereas the mere power of a simple majority only breeds resentment and dissension.
Burns notes, “Mr. Trump still won 47 percent of the vote and carried 25 states. The trench lines of identity-based grievance he spent five years digging and deepening — pitting rural voters against urban ones, working-class voters against voters with college degrees, white voters against everybody else — saved him from an overwhelming repudiation.”
Burns’ description echoes what social scientists have long noted: any increase in the forces for change is met by an equal increase in resistance by the forces against change, insuring stalemate. Positive change takes place when the forces for change opt to reduce the forces against change rather than simply pushing to defeat them at all costs. The only other possibility is war, with one side being decimated even as the other side suffers devastating loses.
Burns again: “The electorate is not entirely frozen, but each little shift in one party’s favor seems offset by another small one in the opposite direction. Mr. Trump improved his performance with women and Hispanic voters compared with the 2016 election, while Mr. Biden expanded his party’s support among moderate constituencies like male voters and military veterans…Polls show that Mr. Trump has persuaded most of his party’s base to believe a catalog of outlandish lies about the 2020 election; encouraging his admirers to ignore his legal problems…”
Progressives and Liberals, Moderates and Conservatives need to listen and explore one another’s softer sides, where consensus and compromise could be formed. The leaders and parties that do that will be rewarded as the nation strengthens, heals, and rebuilds. Succeeding with common cause is not a zero sum game, in which you lose if I win or vis versa. It is win-win.
Back to summer. Lush greens and blues, birds and butterflies, warmth and sun. Let’s open our softer sides to one another as we also enjoy the gifts of summer. Each effort can be small, the changes incremental, a consensus woven by mutual needs and desires, an exchange of giving and receiving.