Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Romney's Concession Speech: "Praying" for Obama

I was relieved to hear Mitt Romney's concession speech, on a number of levels. First, that he even made one last night, meaning that the election was decisive, rather than devolving into law suits, vote recounts, etc. That would've been a nightmare. Second, I thought it was gracious, as in:
"His supporters and his campaign also deserve congratulations. I wish all of them well, but particularly the president, the first lady and their daughters."
Given the often biting tenor of the campaign season, to bow out gracefully and wish your opponent well is a very welcome change of feel.

Third, which gets to the title of this post, there's the issue of prayer. Romney states:
"This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation."
And at the end:
"I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader. And so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation."
Contrary to what you might expect, I was actually pleased to hear Romney invoke the language of prayer here. I'll tell you why. Just as in my previous post, where I explained how one can rationally say "thank God" as an earnest expression of gratitude, so too one can say "I pray for" or "I pray that" as an expression of solidarity.

The line I particularly liked was "Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him". Meaning, rather than come out and say something like, "The election is over, but we will keep fighting!" or say other things to the effect of "this is not my president", he instead invoked language of solidarity with the president, as if to say, "This is one country, with one president, and we're all together in this."

In a similar vein, Romney spoke about working together and getting past partisan politics:
"The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can't risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people's work."
True, there's no reason to believe partisan bickering won't just continue as usual, but even to hear this "sentiment" coming from someone who was so involved in the bickering for the better part of the past year, is again a relief. It's a message that bears repeating - and taking seriously.

Now for a Jewish tie-in. Related to getting beyond partisanship, beyond extremist tendencies and toward moderation, I was thinking about the language and content that people tend to give over when talking "to their own" versus talking to people outside their circle. For instance, and this drives me nuts frankly, when frum Jews say the most preposterous, extreme and/or offensive things when they're speaking to a frum crowd. That includes of course rabbis and people in leadership positions. Bring these same people to an audience of non-frum Jews, or non-Jews, and they would not dream of making similar remarks. They'd be forced to articulate themselves in a far more reasonable, even-keeled, judicious, pragmatic way.

That is part of the problem, it seems to me, with partisan politics. When politicians on the left and right speak to "their crowd", they're less reasonable, less even-handed. They appeal to the more extreme sentiments in order to garner support, which ends up locking them into more extreme positions that they now have to fight for. The result is not a "reach across the aisle" mentality but a "knock 'em down and grab as much as you can" mentality.

What's the solution? Well, you can't keep politicians from speaking to their own crowds. But certainly it would help if they were forced to speak more often to the "other side", because the more people do that, the more reasonable thinking and policy-making is engendered.

Or how about this as a radical idea... When it comes to say, presidential primaries, we say as follows: If you're a registered Republican, you vote for the Democrat of your choice. And if you're a registered Democrat, you vote for the Republican of your choice. That way, Republican and Democrat politicians have to appeal to the opposite side of the aisle and not take extreme positions, and we end up with a field of candidates - and maybe a political atmosphere - which stands some realistic chance of working together toward solutions.

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