Lee H. Hamilton
One of the more striking political developments of the last few years has been the partisan sorting of American voters.
Each of the great politicians and legislators I've known over the course of my career in Congress was very different.
Over a lifetime in politics, I've met a lot of interesting, impressive politicians.
Looking back at 2018's weather-related news, it seems clear that this was the year climate change became unavoidable.
The other day, a friend asked what surprised me most about politics. This may seem strange, but I'd never really thought about the question. My response was off-the-cuff but heartfelt. The biggest surprise is also among my biggest disappointments with American political life: the ongoing effort by politicians to suppress votes.
Tell me: What does it actually mean to be an American? In the press of day-to-day events and amid the ongoing tumult of politics, we don't think about this much. Yet it's a crucial question, one that each generation in this country is called upon to answer for itself. Despite our differences, there are some traits that I think we and our predecessors would recognize — characteristics to being an American that resonate with most of us, regardless of our age or our political beliefs.
It's so easy these days to despair about the future of our country.
If you take a dim view of our political parties, you're in sterling company. So did George Washington. In his famous farewell address, he warned us against "the baneful effects of the spirit of (political) party." A political party, he wrote, "agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption ..." It's safe to say he was not a fan.
There are times when I'm convinced the progress of this country can be measured through our ballot laws. Think about it. Over the course of our history, we've expanded the franchise from the sole preserve of white male property owners to most all citizens age 18 and older — regardless of race, gender or wealth. Yet, despite this steady march, we remain embroiled in debate over who gets to vote. Mostly, this is carried on in the states, with Republicans often favoring limits on access to the polls, and Democrats usually hoping to expand access.
You know these words, but how often do you stop to think about them? "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity ..."