Unfortunately, when others see the scathing letters to the editor or hear the heated exchanges on the radio, they disengage. Fearful of such reactions, they observe and remain silent. To avoid conflict, they spend their time with people they already agree with and never test their opinions against the questions or assertions of someone who just might disagree. Such lack of "convicted civil" dialogue hurts us as a country.
Leave it to Harry Truman to bring a little honesty to politics. He observed, "Whenever a fellow tells me he's bipartisan, I know he's going to vote against me." Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic Presidential candidate in 1952, made a tongue-in-cheek campaign promise that made fun of campaign politics: "I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them."
In the same vein, when a politician calls for the other party to be "nonpartisan," what he's really asking is for them to accept his "balanced" position. True calls for collaboration are never invitations to capitulation.
Hopefully, good diplomacy is not about just getting your way. Will Rogers would say, "Diplomacy is the art of saying 'nice doggie' until you can find a rock." That may win a few battles, but it is a sure way to lose the war. Winners never always win because losers never forget. Effective leaders search for workable cooperation where both contribute to a solution.
Passing Obamacare without any Republican support invites partisans to focus more on repeal than support. When President Obama complains about Republican obstructionism and negative comments about his administration, I'm reminded of the words of Wes Purden, “Any politician who criticizes another politician for being negative is like a man going to a bordello and criticizing the woman for being scantily clad.”
Over the years, I have persevered beyond the first emails with many who have vehemently criticized my column. I'm better for those exchanges. I hope they feel the same way. I end as I often do in such correspondence, "Even though we disagree on this, I'm sure glad we live in a country where we are free to disagree and not get killed on the public square because of it." May that always be so!