In a Gallup Poll conducted earlier this year, more than two-thirds of Americans report giving “quite a lot” of thought to the presidential election this year – the highest such number Gallup has ever recorded. It’s comforting to know people are paying attention. Unfortunately, all of this focus on the election seems to go hand in hand with a focus on what divides us as a nation.
We hear fierce debate on talk shows, newscasts and even from the presidential candidates, on politically and socially divisive issues like abortion and gay rights. It is easy to believe that is what the election should be about, but such a belief is incorrect.
Though there are many issues on which Americans do not agree, there are a few – a very important few – on which we do. According to interviews with American citizens that were conducted during Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s past senatorial campaign, there are some beliefs that seem to hold true across the board of race, religion and class. For example: The belief that anyone who is willing to work should be able to find a job that pays a decent wage.
Or the belief that we should leave the next generation better off than the ones that came before. The desire to be safe from both criminals and terrorists. The desire for clean air and clean water. The desire to be able to spend time at home with family. These hopes that we will forever hold in common should define the election of a new president, not those issues that divide us.
In choosing our next president, we are choosing the next leader of our nation and the voice of our people. The whole nation must be behind a final decision on election night – not just the voters who check his name at the polls. It is important that we choose someone who is genuinely looking to help our country move forward and not just looking for another partisan political victory.
Social progress will not be made by one side forcing the other to bend to their political will (like in California, where the ban on same-sex marriage was lifted last month, according to the Washington Post). It will be made through discussion and compromise and remembering that there is much more that unites us than divides us.
It is only in focusing on reaching those goals we have in common – rather than focusing on those issues on which we will never agree – that we as a nation will be able to move forward.
Jessica Hensley is a sophomore in political science. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.