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OPINION: Hope & Freedom vs. Anger & Power

by BECKY FUNK/Guest Opinion
| February 9, 2024 1:00 AM

Ronald Reagan described America as a “shining city on a hill” and his farewell address exclaimed our best days are ahead. Ignoring the “America is in decline” crowd he chose to believe in our regenerative capacity and ability to change course. He looked at the world through a moral lens and led boldly, setting the stage for the fall of the Berlin Wall and Soviet Union, giving hope and ultimately the opportunity for freedom to those who lived under the oppressive regimes. And he accomplished all of this with a Democrat controlled House of Representatives.

Here we are 36 years post Reagan and at a crossroads. “The fight of our lives is not between Republicans and Democrats,” explained Senator Ben Sasse as he was leaving the U.S. Senate, “but between ‘civil pluralists’ and ‘political zealots.’” He goes on to write in the Wall Street Journal, “Civil pluralists understand that ideas move the world more than power does, which is why pluralists value debate and persuasion. We believe America is great because it is good, and America is good because the country is committed to human dignity, even for those with whom we disagree.”

Political zealots for the most part reject pluralism, and instead believe our society starts and ends with power obtained by any means. They lack trust in our citizenry believing only they have the answers to our government and societal problems, preferring authoritarianism to the free exchange of ideas. They’ll use fear and intimidation to manipulate their followers. These zealots demand obedience and don’t want you thinking outside of their box.

Pluralism, on the other hand, is a political philosophy that allows people of different beliefs, backgrounds, and lifestyles to coexist in the same society and participate equally in the political process. Freedom of religion and speech are examples of pluralistic ideas protected by the First Amendment.

Civil pluralists welcome the debate of ideas with the understanding there will never be 100% consensus on any issue. They place high value on transparency and fairness. The U.S. Constitution provides us with a framework for ordered liberty. Though he didn’t use the term “pluralism,” James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, feared tribalism and in-fighting would be fatal to our young republic and argued in The Federalist Papers that competing factions should be allowed equal participation in the political process.

What does all of this mean and why does it matter? Simply put, political zealots on both sides want to force their views on all of us. They believe the ends justify the means. They want power. They want control. They are angry and want you to be angry too. Don’t let them win.

Like Reagan, I believe our best days are ahead of us. In a recent poll by the group More in Common, three out of four of us agreed that the differences between the majority of Americans are not so big that we cannot come together. If you watch any news outlet or spend time on social media, you might think hope is lost. It’s not by a long shot. Make a difference where you are. Get involved in your community. Pay attention. Ask questions. And vote for hope and freedom.

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Becky Funk is a founding member of North Idaho Republicans and president of North Idaho Federated Republican Women.