Over the last few months the impeachment circus in Washington has cast a bright light on the polarization of our American politics. All events seem to be evaluated on the “team” aspects of what took place. Will it be good for the Democrats? Will this help or hurt the Republicans? What will be the next move for each team? The talking heads drone on and on about who is winning this news cycle and what it means for the polls. To some extent this is understandable. People are interested in upcoming elections, political wonks want to know the latest, and, as always, ratings are king for the media. I would submit, however, that today’s environment has crossed over from healthy interest to destructive obsession. Healthy debate will not be possible until the focus returns to the issues at hand.
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, although part of the President’s defense team, has given all of us (Republicans and Democrats) an excellent example of how to shred the team jersey in favor of higher principles. For a long time he has advocated the “shoe on the other foot test.” The basic idea is to flip the Republican/Democrat participants in any event 180 degrees and see if your opinion remains unchanged. If your opinion changes then your allegiance is to your “team” and not to the underlying question or principle. For example, if the principals in the impeachment drama were changed from Trump/Biden to Obama/Romney would you feel the same about the same evidence? Would the principle of executive privilege be any more or less important? If Donald Trump Jr. were substituted for Hunter Biden would your definition of corruption change? At each step of the process would you be interpreting the law and the Constitution the same way?
Mr. Dershowitz not only advocates for the test, he lives it. He voted for Barack Obama twice and Hillary Clinton in 2016 yet in this case he represents the very President he voted against. His loyalty is not to a team jersey but to the law. Importantly, he argues in this case not for this President but for the Presidency. He realizes that what can be used against a Republican to win a “team event” today can be used against a Democrat in the future once the precedent is set. He eloquently laid out the case that a victory in a “team event” that weakens the country or the Constitution is not a victory at all.
How can we follow Mr. Dershowitz’ example? We can follow by making our allegiance one tied to the law, a policy, or an underlying principle we wish to support. If that aligns with political objectives so be it. If not, be courageous enough to say so. Above all, we should be consistent with our praise or disdain for individuals or parties. If we believe “x” for a Democrat we should also believe “x” for a Republican. Ditch the jerseys. Follow your principles. Then vote your conscience. It’s the only way we are going to be able to talk to each other.