For David Moss, author of Democracy: A Case Study, history provides a guide for coping with disagreement in a nation as vast as the United States. “Robust faith in the democracy itself has the power to transform our differences from a potentially grave weakness into a precious source of strength,” he writes, drawing on an insight that great American statesmen have expressed from the beginning:
In 1776, not long after the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin plucked the Latin words “E Pluribus Unum” from the cover of a literary magazine and recommended them as a motto for the nation. E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one.
It was a remarkable aspiration for a collection of colonies perhaps more notable for their differences than for what they had in common. But Franklin was, as usual, extraordinarily insightful – and foresightful. He saw from the republic’s first breath that the unique promise of America lay in harnessing difference toward a common purpose through self-governance.
Fraught eras are not new.