The spirit or tone of a national administration finds expression in our daily lives, just as it does in America's relationship with the world beyond our borders. The proper exercise of political power in a democracy demands a sensitivity to all groups, and the ability to build coalitions between different factions to pursue the common interest. In the past, this kind of bipartisan coalition-building has been the genius of our democratic system.
As one who participated in, helped form and led several such coalitions, both as congressman and mayor, I can assure you that we would not have sweeping civil rights legislation or revenue sharing today had Republicans and Democrats representing all sorts of constituencies not pulled together for the sake of improving people's lives. Nor in earlier times would we have created the Marshall Plan, formed Pacific Basin alliances or built the Tennessee Valley Authority.
America is not being led that way today. Instead, the political process is based on the clever use of polarizing code words -- often cast in media-appealing one-liners. This technique is not only accepted, but admired for its effectiveness. That's part of the tone set at the top too. The vast majority quietly falls in line, if not to be with the "winners," then to dissociate themselves from the "losers."
. . . The tone America's leadership sets -- the values it communicates -- is felt acutely around the globe. But the polarization produced by a doctrine- ridden administration that divides the world into categories of friends and enemies, winners and losers, has also infected our national spirit. . . .