Without shared facts on which to make decisions, there can be no solutions to our biggest challenges. And without a modicum of trust that both sides want to preserve and enhance the common good, it is impossible to accomplish anything big.
“Politics needs a reference point outside of politics,’’ argues the Hebrew University religious philosopher Moshe Halbertal. “It needs values, it needs facts and it needs leaders who respect that there is a sacred domain of decisions that will never be used to promote political gain, only the common good.’’
Public trust is eroded, added Halbertal, when people feel that this notion of the common good doesn’t exist because everything has become politics. That describes the United States today. The institutions we have relied upon to be outside the game of politics so as to adjudicate what is right and true — scientists, certain news media, the courts — have become so ensnared by politics that fewer and fewer of them are universally trusted to define and pursue the common good. Even mask-wearing has become partisan.
You cannot sustain a healthy democracy under such conditions.
And that is why the only choice in this election is Joe Biden. The Democrats are not blameless when it comes to playing politics, but there is no equivalence to the Republicans. The Democratic Party sorted through all the choices, and, led by older Black men and women in South Carolina, rejected the Democratic socialist candidate and said they wanted a moderate unifier named Joe Biden.
The Republicans — who in the past voted for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, sane conservatives who could be counted upon to uphold the common good — have done no such equivalent thing. They have fallen in line lock step behind a man who is the most dishonest, dangerous, meanspirited, divisive and corrupt person to ever occupy the Oval Office. And they know it. Four more years of Trump’s divide and rule will destroy our institutions and rip the country apart.
To me, the only hope for America is to elect Biden and split the G.O.P. between the Trumpists and whatever is left of the moderate Republicans, and then hope that a big center-left and small center-right can agree on enough things to propel the country forward, heal the divide and act together for the common good.
Admittedly, Biden did not particularly shine in tonight’s debate. Alas, I have never seen him shine in any debate. But I have no doubt that the people, values and integrity he would bring into government would be of a quality that the nation deserves.