America Cannot be a Zero Sum Game

On February 21st, Adam B. Schiff wrote an open letter to the Republican Party, distributed via the Washington Post. (Here's a link if you have a subscription.)

The letter is both saddening and worrisome, as Schiff compares today's environment to that during the Vietnam War, Civil Rights movement, World War II and the Civil War. All were turning points in American history - again we have reached a fork in the road and it's scary.

As with all previous American divisions, both sides are adamantly determined that they are right and fighting for justice. When one side eventually wins, their ideology will become the righteous side and any remaining opposition will be reduced and assimilated over time. Luckily, the sides that have won throughout America's past have been on the side of individual life and liberty. 

Is today's divergence the same? You probably have an opinion on which side should win - and you probably think your opinion is just and right. After all, if you support your own opinion you'd have to be a psychopath to think otherwise. 

If social divisions are allowed to widen, there can only be closure when one side - whether through force or through civil discourse - wins and the other loses. Assimilation takes time, so if American democracy becomes a zero sum game, there will be an entire strata of society - possibly for a generation - considered 'the loser'. This kind of division takes long to heal and weakens the country as a whole.

Instead of fighting to win, politicians need to re-build trust across party lines to close the divide. In appealing to his Republican Colleagues, Schiff is reminding them of the commonalities all Americans share, a love of freedom and democracy. The following is the most poignant excerpt from his open letter:
The president has just a national emergency to subvert the will of Congress and appropriate billions of dollars for a border wall that Congress has explicitly refused to fund. Whether you support the border wall or oppose it, you should be deeply troubled by the president’s intent to obtain it through a plainly unconstitutional abuse of power. 
To my Republican colleagues: When the president attacked the independence of the Justice Department by intervening in a case in which he is implicated, you did not speak out. When he attacked the press as the enemy of the people, you again were silent. When he targeted the judiciary, labeling judges and decisions he didn’t like as illegitimate, we heard not a word. And now he comes for Congress, the first branch of government, seeking to strip it of its greatest power, that of the purse. 
Many of you have acknowledged your deep misgivings about the president in quiet conversations over the past two years. You have bemoaned his lack of decency, character and integrity. You have deplored his fundamental inability to tell the truth. But for reasons that are all too easy to comprehend, you have chosen to keep your misgivings and your rising alarm private. 
That must end. The time for silent disagreement is over. You must speak out.
And he finishes...
If Abraham Lincoln, the father of the Republican Party, could be hopeful that our bonds of affection would be strained but not broken by a war that pitted brother against brother, surely America can come together once more. But as long as we must endure the present trial, history compels us to speak, and act, our conscience, Republicans and Democrats alike.

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