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The Sun Is Still Rising
We still have a republic, and it's more important than ever that we keep it.
The story goes that as the Constitutional Convention dragged on through the summer of 1787, Benjamin Franklin would often observe a sun painted on the back of George Washington’s chair. As the delegates debated endlessly, and sometimes aimlessly, Franklin would often wonder whether it was a rising or setting sun.
After much effort and compromise, the convention drew to an end. As the delegates signed their names to the newly crafted US Constitution, Benjamin Franklin decided that the sun was indeed rising, its rays shining hope for a future of liberty in a free republic.
Throughout the last five years, I’ve often thought about this story. As I’ve seen the vitriol, the hostility, and the rise of angry populism in all its forms, both on the Right and the Left, I’ve found myself wondering if the sun could, at last, be setting on our great nation.
I’ve seen this same sense of despondency descend on many parts of the country in the wake of this recent election. Neither side of this partisan struggle achieved the electoral victory they desperately wanted. The growing number of Americans who feel existentially threatened by their political opponents sought victory and assurance at the ballot box, but did not receive it.
I’ve come to see something different. Ever since election night, my spirit has been uplifted, and I feel as if a great weight has been removed from my soul. Where others are despondent, I feel hopeful. Where others see the depths of despair, I see the shining rays of a new day.
How can this be my outlook? After all, this election has demonstrated that we’re clearly a nation divided right down the middle. Fear and resentment provide the chief motivator for our politics. It could easily be argued that the very Union itself stands on the edge of a knife, and the US Constitution crafted by Franklin and his compatriots hangs by a thread.
But I am hopeful, not because of where we are as a country, but because, for once, we have a clear representation of who we are and of where we stand.
For too long, the competing narratives of petty partisanship have been allowed to paint pictures that do not reflect the American reality. For too long, populists and partisans of every stripe have claimed the mantle of popular mandate, declaring themselves the arbiters of American will. For too long, competing forces of coercion have competed for absolute control in their effort to dictate their vision upon the whole of society.
This election has shattered those narratives, rebuked the false claims of popular mandate, and repudiated the efforts to divine consensus where none exists.
In this new morning in America, we’re awakening from the falsehoods peddled by power-hungry grifters and subversives towards a better understanding of why the safeguards and form of government provided by the US Constitution still hold relevancy nearly 250 years after their creation.
The simple reality of the disparate views in this country makes the future of our nation predicated on the continued strength of the federal system, on the guarantees afforded by the Bill of Rights, and on the checks and balances that slow the moods of angry populism and lessen the impact of any one given election.
In short, we’ve been granted a blessing from God and the American people in the form of these election results. For those with the eyes to see and the ears to hear, we’ve been given a powerful demonstration of why it was that Franklin and the founding generation gave us a republic, and why it’s more important than ever that we keep it.
Our system of government has weathered a terrible storm but remains intact. We stand more divided than at almost at any point in our nation’s history, yet the cogs of Constitutional government have continued to turn. For all the dysfunction and misguided adventures of short-sighted resentment, we still have a republic.
The sun is still rising. And while there will be many who will look upon the glory of the sun and call it darkness, its glory remains for those willing to see it and rejoice. Still within our grasp is the opportunity to answer Reagan’s call to safeguard the American vision:
“Let us resolve tonight that young Americans will always see those Potomac lights; that they will always find there a city of hope in a country that is free. And let us resolve they will say of our day and our generation that we did keep faith with our God, that we did act ‘worthy of ourselves;’ that we did protect and pass on lovingly that shining city on a hill.”