E Pluribus Unum Means ‘Out of Many, One’



Next Tuesday night it’ll all be over but the shouting, as they say. I ain’t talking about the thrilling World Series, of course, because it ended early this morning in Cleveland, and everybody there was a winner for sure. I wish I could say the same about the presidential race that may also be decided in Ohio.

I’m going to keep this essay short because, Lord knows, I’ve been sick and tired of the 2016 presidential election for weeks now. Maybe I should use capital letters with that phrase—2016 presidential election—but it’s been a lower-case kind of campaign on both sides, so I’ll go with that.

No matter what any poll or pundit says, no matter how many votes, like mine, have already been cast, I’m afraid this election is a toss-up. It could go either way—like last night’s Game 7 of the World Series—partly because election night coverage of a landslide really doesn’t keep viewers glued to the screen the way a good nail-biter does. Be prepared to stay up late again. It, too, could go extra innings.

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton

The winner will have a long way to go before she or he will be seen as the President in all the office’s upper-case glory. Both sides have contributed to the open hostility we see, though one is considerably guiltier than the other. Without changing how we elect our leaders, the fear and hatred sewn into the fabric of Old Glory by this shameful presidential race may fly over this land for generations, at least until we who remember it are gone. Campaigns to come will be worse and worse, to win at all costs.

Donald J. Trump
Donald J. Trump

But I’m not saying anything you don’t already know and haven’t already heard. At best, many of us have decided to “agree to disagree” and to “respect” the opinion of friends and family members with whom we disagree. I don’t think that’s nearly enough, not by a long shot—not when one candidate, in particular, has made disagreement and disrespect the centerpieces of his campaign. And he may win.

At the very least, We, the People, need to demand campaign reform that would regulate the scope and content of all paid political advertising on the public airwaves, and also demand reinstatement of the Federal Communications Commission’s Fairness Doctrine that would require all broadcast outlets to provide equal airtime for opposing viewpoints.

Corporations aren’t individuals, no matter what a conservative Supreme Court said in its 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Administration decision that now allows 501(c)(4) non-profit organizations to buy political advertising. A corporation with deep pockets is already much more powerful than the average Joe whose free speech and lone ballot might be his only real currency in the political process.

[NOTE: A 501(c)(4) non-profit organization is one particular type of non-profit group that is different from other types including 501(c)(3) non-profits.]

Sick of all the nasty political ads on TV? Want to put your fist through the screen if you see one more spot by any candidate? Well, that controversial Supreme Court decision is why.

As Justice John Paul Stevens stated in his dissent: “A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.” By the way, Justice Stevens had been picked by a Republican president. He was seen as a conservative judge when he was nominated but was considered liberal by the time he retired in 2010.

Ain’t it amazing how a lifetime appointment can change a person’s political status, not to mention his expected interpretation of the Constitution? Don’t forget that possibility in the months and years ahead, no matter who becomes our next President in January and whom that person nominates for the high court.

As I wrote several weeks ago, I’m most chagrined by certain religious leaders’ open support of their preferred presidential candidate, especially rich evangelists who head wealthy, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations that by law “are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

These rich Christians—an oxymoron in itself—apparently interpret Jesus’ directive to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” as more of a suggestion than a commandment, at least as far as following federal tax laws to the letter is concerned. They want to be admitted into the political arena—they even want to be players—but they don’t want to pay the price of admission, which would be to forfeit their tax-exempt status.

And maybe that’s why the future makeup of the Supreme Court is so important to the leaders of certain tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations. Maybe abortion, immigration and various groups’ rights aren’t the only Constitutional issues that concern certain evangelical leaders. Wielding political power from the pulpit, not paying taxes and winning test cases may also be on their minds.

But after all the votes are counted Tuesday night—whether it’s President-elect Trump or President-elect Clinton—what is a divided America to do? That’s the million-dollar question everyone has been asking but that no one can answer. Just be quiet and pay our taxes? Maybe.

In his book The Whole Truth: The Watergate Conspiracy, former Sen. Sam J. Ervin, Jr., writes: “The only security America has against anarchy on the one hand and tyranny on the other is to be found in reverential obedience to the Constitution by those entrusted with governmental power.”

Let’s hope that the people we’ve elected on Nov. 8th can recognize both of those dangers and protect us from them—the dangers, that is. But also from demagogues who threaten our freedom. And, if necessary, from ourselves.

4 thoughts on “E Pluribus Unum Means ‘Out of Many, One’”

  1. Thanks again for a great read. I, too, believe Franklin Graham stepped over the line. I am not so sure that he hasn’t always preferred political activism over the ministry, and I think he found his niche when merging the two was given the green light by the 2010 SCOTUS decision. As for what brought us to this travesty called the 2016 campaign and what we can do to restore any semblance of stability and sanity, we only need to study the movement of a pendulum. It can only swing so far left or right. It’s perpetual motion is maintained only by keeping its movement near the center. What we must work on is getting there.

    1. That Supreme Court decision didn’t actually give the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse permission to do what they’ve done. That decision affected only 501(c)(4) nonprofits. BGEA and SP are 501(c)(3) nonprofits, which remain prohibited from political activity. It’s just a matter of time, though, before the court is asked to expand the law to include them. That’s probably what’s going on — Graham pushing the envelope to create a test case. I’ve lost all respect for him as a religious leader. To call him a Pharisee would give him too much credit. They were all about rules. He’s still a rebel, and now he has a right-wing cause.

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