This peice was originally published on liberatusdc.medium.com and was written by Caleb Paxton, who is rated as Lean Right.
I left a job in Congress 8 years ago to pursue healing and unity. Here’s what I learned, and what was missing from the debate about the speaker of the House.
As Congress deliberated and appointed the next speaker of the House, there was something missing from the arguments for and against Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, and Hakeem Jeffries.
While working in Congress from 2011 through February 2015 for a member who was part of the founding of the House Freedom Caucus, I saw firsthand the need for leadership beyond over-stated positions and the stalemates they create.
Inspired by my grandparents who prided themselves in being both conservative and liberal, I knew that a better way of doing self-government was possible. And so I left my job to converse and write about healing and unity with other Hill staffers and political professionals through Liberatus, a nonprofit I started in 2015. To date more than 200 people have participated, including nineteen total writers.
While working on the Hill, my colleagues and I would often joke about all the posturing we were part of that sought to prove points to voters back home. We scripted committee hearings and talking points for the House Floor to drive messages, but often not to exchange information and deliberate with our fellow Americans.
What was missing from the debate about who the next speaker would be is how we can heal and unite the country. As Benjamin Franklin reminded delegates at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the job of Members of Congress and their staff is “to consult, not to contend, with each other.”
What I’ve learned over nearly eight years of running Liberatus with the vision of American unity is that we often choose division on purpose. Whether we give in to our compulsive emotional responses or because we don’t trust the other side, it’s often easier to avoid working together. Freedom though isn’t only political and economic; it’s also relational.
What I’ve also learned is that there are three actions that we can all take to choose unity. First, we must be inclusive of other people and their viewpoints and lived experiences. Second, we should stay grounded in wisdom, which means always searching for it instead of proving loyalty to a partisan or ideological position. Third, we should create new solutions and culture and manage our time and energy to fuel our creative purpose.
I believe these actions illustrate a beautiful way to live life the way my grandparents did in Lima, Ohio, and bring to life what it means to consult but not contend with each other.
Unity of course is America’s first founding ideal, as evidenced by the “Join, or Die” cartoon published by Benjamin Franklin in 1754 — and united is literally in our country’s name! President Washington warned us about political factions, President Jefferson reminded us that “every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle,” President Lincoln called us to “bind up the nation’s wounds,” and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave us a beautiful vision of becoming a Beloved Community.
We’ve witnessed a global pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, and an attack on the Capitol in the last few years, but there’s no challenge we can’t address and solve when we choose to work together not to defeat the other side but rather to unite the country.
Ultimately, we can make our country more just and free when we consult with each other to build trust, search for wisdom, and look for creative new approaches to solve our problems. When we make leadership for American unity our purpose as we self-govern the United States, we will use our power wisely and we will make our country stronger for the next generation.
While Members of Congress can choose the next speaker of the House with unity in mind, we can all choose unity, and we can all debate and then vote for candidates who understand what it means to lead the country as a whole and pursue unity.
Caleb Paxton is a former Republican congressional staffer and the founder of Liberatus, a nonprofit with a mission to inspire American unity. He has worked and volunteered for right-leaning campaigns and causes in Ohio, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, Georgia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. He’s also worked at the so-called bottom of the American economy to cover expenses while running Liberatus. If you’d like to fund the mission of Liberatus and the people behind it, you can do so at LiberatusDC.org. Peace be with you!