- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2004

The Republican Party has an opportunity to tap into its very roots, as it gathers in Philadelphia this weekend for its annual retreat.

It’s worth noting that before we were a country, a group made up of the best and brightest of their time, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay met in Philadelphia during spring and into summer 1787. They put quill to parchment and sketched down their thoughts. Those thoughts became the Federalist Papers and would be the draft for The Constitution.

At a time when the divide among Americans has grown ever sharper, part of the fault lies in the two major political parties resorting to name calling, divisiveness and polarization to demonize the other. What’s needed today is a unified government at home, to hold as a beacon of light for Iraq and others to be guided by.

Soon after September 11, 2001, a wave of patriotism brought us together. Unfortunately however, it was followed by an America that became more dichotomized. Instead of uniting, we broadened the pre-existing lines of division. Clearly the lines were not new. They’ve been there since the beginning. Yet one can’t help feeling they have gradually grown to an unprecedented level.

Over the last 50 years, in bumper-sticker speak, it would look something like: Commie or patriot. Ike or Stevenson. Hawk or dove. And now, with us or against us.

As healthy as it is for debate to occur and take place, The Republican Party has a chance to lower its weapons of political attack and broaden its appeal by opening up to outsiders. Politically and at this juncture, it would be a good move too.

As Republicans hold the head of Saddam (a symbol of tyranny), they invite their opposition and the world to understand from whence they come. And just as importantly, where they wish to go.

What better place to mark such an effort than in Philadelphia.

First, they should look back and see that the Founders’ thoughts were influenced and born out of the Enlightenment. They had all read the philosophers who made up that epoch: Hume, Locke and Montesquieu.

They were thinkers and theorists who revolutionized the world by changing the way we look at it. America became the actualization and culmination of philosophical thinking. America was the realization of a European revolution in ideas.

Similarly, we now stand at a precipice. George W. Bush and this country have begun working on rooting out terror and planting democracy in an arid region of the world where it has never existed.

Politically it is an extremely risky ambition, just as it was in the 18th century. Some would say noble. Others are appalled. Either way, our actions will have consequences for the rest of human history.

If the goal in Iraq with Saddam gone is to impart the ideals of democracy in that part of the world, the Republican Party should counter the political campaign mounted by its opponents with a high-ground stance rooted in what built this country.

From there, the Republicans’ can chart a future that articulates for Americans and our allies what we intend to plant, how we plan to nurture it and what its impact will be on us here at home.

One of the greatest minds of the Enlightenment, Voltaire, believed many evils were avoidable, especially those caused by ignorance and fanaticism. His “Candide” satirized the notion of living with evil and making the best of a bad situation — the best of all possible worlds. Toleration of evil for Voltaire was a doctrine of despair.

By charting a path for the Constitution, the authors of the Federalist Papers achieved, beyond their expectations, a lasting influence, perhaps best exemplified when Thomas Jefferson wrote to Madison praising the authors for “the best commentary on the principles of government which ever was written.”

Republicans need to articulate, as did the Founders, what it is they intend to grow and how they plan to nurture it, so all Americans can reap the benefits, while the world can support its application.

Abe Novick is senior vice president of Eisner Communications in Baltimore.

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