Moving America toward post-partisan honesty

Gary Shapiro | President and CEO, Consumer Technology Association

While the political parties engage in vicious and often unfair combat, taking extreme positions, Americans thirst for a more moderate, honest and fact-based discussion — not to mention a functional government. Thankfully, despite this hyper-partisan environment, we have witnessed over the last several weeks an emerging trend — every so often extremists have been checked by members of their own party.

We first saw this when the Obama campaign released its attack ad on Mitt Romney criticizing his tenure at Bain Capital. The ad was so over-the-top (essentially calling Romney a “vampire”) that several prominent Democrats rebuked the Obama campaign and came to Romney’s defense.

Among those was none other than Bill Clinton, who noted that Gov. Romney had a “sterling” record at Bain and is qualified to be president. Others included former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, both of whom lamented the attacks on private equity — which, whatever the left’s spin, serves a vital role in our economy.

Yes, it’s true that Clinton, Rendell and Booker have since gone on to play the roles of good Obama surrogates and criticize Romney. And, yes, the Obama campaign’s attack on Bain will go on. But the episode served as an important reminder that there are those willing to forgo partisan loyalty for the good of our public discourse.

Another example comes from the media, whose leftward tilt is a fact of life in American politics. So it was with some surprise that Politico’s Mike Allen, a former Washington Post reporter, took his old employer to the woodshed over a blatant hit piece on Romney. Even after meeting with Romney staffers over the many inaccuracies in the Post article, the paper refused to issue a retraction or correction.

Summarizing the Post’s reasoning, Allen, dripping with sarcasm, wrote: “BUT, HEY, it’s not the Post’s fault if readers crazily assume that means Romney had something to do with it! Can’t they read between the lines? It doesn’t say ROMNEY did it. What it says about the FIRM is technically accurate. Don’t readers parse the sentences, and read the paper with lawyerly discernment? So no correction/clarification/retraction for you!”

Finally, Chief Justice John Roberts distinguished himself last week by having the courage to rise above the partisan fray and serve the common good. Aligning himself with the four liberal justices, Roberts upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare. But not before 1) rejecting the administration’s argument that the “individual mandate” is constitutional under the Commerce Clause; and 2) reminding all Americans, and the hyper-partisans on both sides especially, that “It is not [the Court’s] job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”

When the left awakes from its celebratory hangover and the right pulls itself out of depression, they both will be able to see Roberts’ lesson in the clear light of day: Stop using the court to correct, control or circumvent the democratic process. The Founders put their trust in the people, not the courts, to make the right decisions.

The United States is a country of intense passions and fervent convictions. A functioning, healthy democracy shouldn’t be anything less. But America also has a unique knack for righting itself when things go too far. It might be too hopeful to say that we are in the process of realignment right now, certainly not before a major presidential election. But we should applaud the rare individual who goes against the grain in service of the public welfare.

Most Americans probably welcome this crossing of party lines. They want a more united America. Indeed a billboard outside of New York City declares — in reference to September 11, 2001 — “Remember. Reunite.” It was true then; it’s still true now.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, “The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream.”

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