Regardless of political persuasion, most Americans feel dismayed at the rancor of highly charged and divisive political seasons. After a Presidential season there is an earnest desire to bid good riddance to the electoral contest and move into the future with guarded optimism that we as a nation might see more civility in political discourse in the coming year.
In this light I find the following quote by John Adams particularly interesting. His confidence in the ennobling power of a society faithfully founded upon, and loyally observant to, America's founding principles must cause us to ponder the root causes of the degraded state of civil discourse.
"A Constitution, founded on these principles, introduces knowledge among the People, and inspires them with a conscious dignity, becoming Freemen. A general emulation takes place, which causes good humour, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general. That elevation of sentiment, inspired by such a government, makes the common people brave and enterprising. That ambition which is inspired by it makes them sober, industrious and frugal. You will find among them some elegance, perhaps, but more solidity; a little pleasure, but a great deal of business some politeness, but more civility.” (“Thoughts on Government,” John Adams, April 1776)
For my part, I believe that his confidence was not misplaced, but that our current incongruent public character is a reflection of how seriously we have damaged the foundations upon which civil society must rest.
The foundations are eroding. The Constitutional foundations are eroding, but not alone, of first concern is the deep decay of the moral foundations of our people. The foundational principles that will of a surety lead to "good humour, sociability, good manners, and good morals to be general," begin with the first principle, which is that God is the author of free government and
Natural rights are bestowed by God. Therefore, free governments will forever be founded and maintained upon principles of righteousness, and our Constitutional Republic is unsuited to govern any people but a moral and righteous people.