Are we falling for the old “divide and conquer” trick? Our willingness to work with people who are not like us is one of the pillars of our republic. The other pillar is the institutions of liberal, republican democracy that help constrain power against tyranny and oppression and maximize our freedom and liberty. (See our module on America: Republic or Democracy.) The need for that second pillar is why the founders asked for a Bill of Rights and equally why people of color fought for their political and civil rights when the Bill of Rights proved insufficient. A government can be trusted much more when these protections are in place. (See our module on Trust and Mistrust.)
People are most willing to build and maintain the institutions of democracy when they see clear benefits. The obvious benefit back in the days of the framers was mutual defense against a common enemy – the British. Today, the benefits are just as clear. We would surely benefit from a mutual defense against COVID and unemployment, not to mention a host of international actors who threaten our interests.
History shows that one of the shortest paths towards dictatorship is to get the people divided against each other. Get people so enraged they forget the benefits of democracy. Get people so distrustful that they are willing to tear down the institutions of democracy just to get at each other.
Are we falling for that right now?
Please consider the final sentence in the famous Declaration of Independence:
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
We ask you today to consider adopting something of that same spirit in the daily conduct of your lives as American citizens. Consider every citizen in this country to be an American as worthy of your support and protection as any other, whether they share your political views or not.
Remember the famous saying, “United we stand, divided we fall.”
Want to learn more?
Please visit CFFAD.org to see our full list of learning modules and useful links.