On this election eve, the nation is bracing itself: What will happen? Who will win? Will we even know the victor when we finally rest our weary heads on our pillows? But I have a different thought in mind: Who will we become in the months ahead? As I have crisscrossed the nation in recent weeks, it is this thought to which I continually find myself returning.
Everyday we hear that this is a divided and polarized nation. Yes, there are ardent Bush and Kerry supporters on both sides. But the pundits and pollsters and prognosticators are missing the real story when they remain so ardently focused on the narrative of a divided nation.
The people I have talked with across the nation are in search of ways to come together, not to divide themselves. What’s more, the central challenges we face will not be eased or erased by this election. Not even a potential record voter turnout on Tuesday – maybe upwards of 120 million voters – will signal redemption for our political process.
People feel disconnected from one another and from the institutions and leaders that affect their lives. They do not have faith in our collective ability to join together and build a common future. There is a human spirit waiting to be tapped within people.
Now, as important as going to the polls tomorrow will be, voting alone will not restore this faith, or tap this spirit. Instead, all of us must engage in public life and politics in a fundamentally different way.
So, on Tuesday night, as we watch the television networks color their election maps red and blue, keep the following question in mind: What will it take to create the conditions whereby people can tap their potential to make a difference and join together to build a common future?
As you consider this question, imagine sitting in your kitchen with a room full of Republican, Democratic, and Independent voters, as well as the people who decided not to vote this year. What course would this conversation need to take in order to produce progress – rather than simply trying to divide one group against the other?
This Wednesday, at 5pm eastern time, I’ll be appearing on Ben Merens’ show on Wisconsin Public Radio, discussing the election. You can listen live through the WPR website.
In the coming months I’ll be writing more about the challenge to create the right conditions in America for people to step forward and create productive change. In the meantime, let me know how your conversations go.