A Collaborative Tone for America

Tone gives substance to intentions

Good leaders set a tone to follow. They know that mission statements, economic goals, and team building are really not where success starts. It begins with the tone expressed – set – throughout the organization is what prevails.

President Biden’s speech delivered Wednesday to joint chambers of Congress helped set a tone to follow. Some excerpts, as provided by the White House, include:

… I can report to the nation: America is on the move again. Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength.

Life can knock us down. But in America, we never stay down. In America, we always get up. And today, that’s what we’re doing: America is rising anew. Choosing hope over fear. Truth over lies. Light over darkness.

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Tone invites collaboration

President Biden noted that a successful tone begins with collaboration. He told the nation:

Vice President Harris and I meet regularly in the Oval Office with Democrats and Republicans to discuss the American Jobs Plan. And I applaud a group of Republican Senators who just put forward their proposal.

As President Biden addressed police reform, he added:

I know the Republicans have their own ideas and are engaged in productive discussions with Democrats. We need to work together to find a consensus.

Our democracy established the nation’s tone

President Biden justified the tone he envisions by noting America’s place in history and how this nation is now being tested and bet against:

The question of whether our democracy will long endure is both ancient and urgent. As old as our Republic. Still vital today. Can our democracy deliver on its promise that all of us – created equal in the image of God – have a chance to lead lives of dignity, respect, and possibility? Can our democracy deliver on the most pressing needs of our people? Can our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate and fears that have pulled us apart? America’s adversaries – the autocrats of the world – are betting it can’t. They believe we are too full of anger and division and rage.

The tone Biden frames did not begin with him. He reminded us:

Our Constitution opens with the words, “We the People”. It’s time we remembered that We the People are the government. You and I. Not some force in a distant capital. Not some powerful force we have no control over. It’s us. It’s “We the people.” 

Tone encourages us to work together

Setting a tone requires a statement of confidence and, yes, a bit of a pep talk. Biden closed with the following:

And I can say with absolute confidence: I have never been more confident or more optimistic about America.

At the very moment our adversaries were certain we would pull apart and fail. We came together. United. With light and hope, we summoned new strength and new resolve. To position us to win the competition for the 21st Century. On our way forward to a Union more perfect. More prosperous. More just. As one people. One nation. One America.

It’s never been a good bet to bet against America. And it still isn’t. We are the United States of America. There is nothing – nothing – beyond our capacity – nothing we can’t do – if we do it together.

Disagreement is a formative part of the nation’s tone

Everyone does not agree with President Biden’s policies or even his vision of America. But the collaborative tone, the respectful tone, he seeks is shared. Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming tweeted after the speech:

I disagree strongly with Joe Biden policies, but when the President reaches out to greet me in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives, I will always respond in a civil, respectful & dignified way. We’re different political parties. We’re not sworn enemies. We’re Americans.

Our democracy is built upon contention. Disagreements that wend their way through our government agencies are not accidental. Our representative democracy, forces power to be shared, minority voices to be heard, and consensus to be reached amid deliberation, debate, and, often, disappointment. As good leaders set a tone for success, they acknowledge disagreement.

Tone wreaks havoc with our presidential elections

I must ask:

What tone is set when we deny a voter’s ballot to make a difference? How does disenfranchisement affect good citizens’ engagement with the voting process?

When it comes to presidential elections, all of us suffer a common enemy. The Winner-Takes-All (WTA) approach causes tens of millions of votes to never be considered in the Electoral College. WTA is NOT part of the Electoral College nor is it ever mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. Yet, we continue to let it have its way, ignoring the tone, the influence, this enemy has over us.

All votes should matter and every vote for a viable candidate should gain Electoral College representation.Equal Voice Voting (EVV) can make it happen if we want it to. No U.S. Constitution amendment is needed.

Otherwise, the enemy (WTA) will continue to divide us. Your next presidential ballot’s validity will not depend upon who you vote for. It will depend upon where you live. If you vote with the plurality of your state, you’re in. If you don’t, you’re out! It’s a form of suppression, a simple way to divide the nation.

As President Biden reminded us, setting an aspirational tone:

We are the United States of America. There is nothing – nothing – beyond our capacity – nothing we can’t do – if we do it together.

Let’s make All Votes Matter!

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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team