Letter to the Editor

TO THE EDITOR:

This week I watched a meeting of our Board of Selectmen and was gratified to hear calls for bipartisanship in its deliberations. Unfortunately, political rivalries, in-fighting and disrespect are all too prevalent nowadays in governing bodies and in the media. It’s distasteful. Many believe this contributes to the growing ranks of the unaffiliated in the country and even in “small but mighty” Weston.

The success of American democracy rests on a carefully conceived system of balance of power. Despotism, mob rule and autocracy were most feared at the time of the Revolution. The two party, or multi party, political landscape we have today evolved later adding another layer to that balance not envisioned at the time of the Constitutional Convention.

Modern history abounds with cautionary tales of one party rule which is the hallmark of Communism, fascism and most other totalitarian governments. President Eisenhower recognized that America is a Republic, a nation of laws not of mob rule or the concentration of power in an elite ruling class, especially the military.

At the end of World War II, both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party sought this war hero who helped save the free world as its candidate for the U.S. presidency. It was widely assumed that General Eisenhower would chose the Democratic Party but he surprised everyone and ran as a Republican. After many years of the Democratic Party holding the presidential seat, he reasoned that the balance of power between the parties needed a readjustment to preserve their dual historical role of protecting individual freedoms while fostering the collective good.

Government is meant to represent the voices of all the people. It does not rule well, locally or nationally, when it seeks to render political opposition impotent or to be the boss of the electorate rather than its servant. In some ways, government’s role is that of the referee over competing interests and beliefs that reflect the diversity and individualism that we so value as a nation. Public officials betray their fundamental mission to serve the public when the accumulation of unrivaled power becomes their goal or the desire to impose their beliefs on others silencing dissent. We need each other; we need to listen to and learn from each other.

As a post WWII “baby boomer” I have watched political power pass back and forth between parties over the years. At different times, I have been a member of both major parties. In the end my greatest loyalty is to the notion of fair play and responsible representational government. Governing is about public service, not playing the political game of winner take all. There have been heroes, villains and fools in positions of great consequence, but the system of the balance of power has survived despite loud calls for political zealotry and party bigotry which President Washington warned against centuries ago in his farewell address.

If anyone needs a reason to salute the American Flag, maybe a belief in the democratic principles it represents can unite us. Western culture and our American notions of democracy, beginning with the ancient Greeks and influenced by Iroquois tribal traditions of the New World, have many flaws, undeniably. But like the invention of the wheel, democracy itself represents an advance in world civilization, still to be perfected, regardless of attribution.

In the spirit of friendship and bipartisanship, I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and healthy New Year!

— Nina Daniel

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