Is Unity Possible?

Newsletter No. 28

What makes political authority legitimate? How is it perceived as legitimate?

These two questions are at the center of what we’ve been considering at Breaking Ground for the past few weeks, because they’re at the center of what it means to have a transition of power, and at the center of what it means for a political community to hang together. What binds us?

In 2017, Mack McCarter wrote of the two-party cold war that has become our electoral politics,

We have institutionalized and industrialized the “double-dog dare you” into an emotionally eroding, friendships-ending death spiral. The consequences of “must win” are utterly profound. And every election only increases the power and speed of the maelstrom clutching this ship of state in unresolved conflict. Fighting precariously borders on the unceasing.

Our “we” cannot hold when the “me” only seeks to win.

He called this the “trench warfare of our elections. “Each time a side surges,” he wrote,

immense energy and dollars are expended. Back and forth. Back and forth. The no-man’s land of who rules changes hands, but the conflict goes on. Winning is elusive. But the feelings deepen. This must stop. But how?

It cannot stop with the elimination of the enemy, with the total victory of one side. Where there are divisions over deeply held beliefs, we must find a way to live with those divisions and to find a way toward unity not by creating a monoculture of the victorious, not by rooting out profound disagreement or pretending it doesn’t exist, but by allowing the peace we have to be provisional, and by attempting, however tentatively, to seek the good that is outside both sides of this conflict: the good that is not the private possession of either side.

We don’t know how to do this. We’re long out of practice. But, since McCarter wrote his piece, the cold war that was our electoral politics has become a hot war. Blood has actually been spilled. And so we have to try.

Come join us in trying, this coming Tuesday evening, January 26, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. ET for a conversation about this attempt toward unity—how realistic it is, exactly what it is, how we might strive toward it in ways top-down and bottom-up, and what exactly is the good inherent within it, if any. It’s a back-to-basics era, and we want to revisit some fundamental definitions. Helping us in this journey are Shadi Hamid, Christine Emba, and Samuel Kimbriel. We look forward to seeing you there!

Register here.