If we only had a Queen Elizabeth to help repair our frayed politics
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If we only had a Queen Elizabeth to help repair our frayed politics

With the death of Queen Elizabeth II, we are witnessing the end of an era.

The Queen served as a beacon of hope and grandeur as the British Empire disintegrated in the decades following World War II. Like her father, King George VI, the monarchy was trust upon Elizabeth unexpectedly after her father’s untimely death. Just 25 years old, she assumed the mantle of succession with the sense of duty that characterized her entire reign. Overcoming his speech impediment, George VI, like Winston Churchill, rallied Britons, who were the only democracy before Pearl Harbor to face the onslaught of the German war machine. While Elizabeth did not face the existential treat posed by the Nazis, her seven-decade reign witnessed economic decline, coal mine disasters, civil war in Northern Ireland, the Falklands War, Brexit, and so much more. It also saw the rise and fall of many political careers.

Through it all, she worked well with prime ministers ranging in viewpoints from the socialist Harold Wilson to the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, and everyone in between.

And she never gave a hint of her own political proclivities, as was her perceived duty.

Elizabeth was beloved by the Jewish community; she knighted chief rabbis including Lord Jonathan Sacks, who hailed her as someone “whose greatness speaks across ethnic and religious divides…. The respect she has shown for all religion has enriched our lives.”

Although she never visited Israel, she met with all the leading Israeli leaders. When he was president of Israel, Elizabeth knighted Shimon Peres, at the invitation of the British Parliament. This from the country that expelled the Jews 734 years earlier, spearheaded by Edward I of “Braveheart” fame.

We will soon see the outpouring of love toward Queen Elizabeth from millions during her funeral, most of whom never knew her predecessor.

Across the pond, the only time we seem to see unity and a sense of common cause is during wartime or crises. FDR’s address after Pearl Harbor declaring war virtually united all members of Congress and all Americans, including staunch isolationists. His Fireside chats on the radio addressed the anxiety of Americans who became part of the larger American family. Ronald Reagan’s clarion call to “Tear down this wall” galvanized Americans and the world in support of freedom. The overwhelming support for Americans throughout the world in the aftermath of 9/11 united our allies and the U.S. to get Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan. Queen Elizabeth echoed many world leaders when she said, after the Twin Towers fell, that “grief is the price we pay for love.”

And now, two decades later, we are witnessing the worst fraying of our society since at least the 1960s.

We have a former president sowing doubt on the 2020 presidential results without any substantive evidence, rallying his supporters to deny the efficacy of our electoral system. He then encouraged thousands to march on the Capitol, knowing many were armed, resulting in the worst debacle on the Capitol steps in at least the 20th century. He demands loyalty “uber alles” and then abandoned his loyal vice-president to the mob. And most recently, he harbored hundreds of potential top secret documents in the basement of his country club, despite many months of requests to return them all.

And he wants to run for president again.

Meanwhile, the president we elected to help unite the country and help bring some stability has fallen short. In my column in this newspaper right after the election I wrote these hopeful words: “Biden has a 40 year history of forging compromises with Republicans, which he touted during the course of the campaign…Because the country is so divided but also in the centrist camp, there is much room for compromise on the important issues of our days.”

I touted his inauguration speech when he pledged that he would govern as much for those who didn’t vote for him as for those he did.

But last week he called those who voted against him, MAGA Republicans, as representing “an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic.” Yes, there are hate groups and delusional citizens who believe that the election was stolen. But more than 75 million Americans voted for Trump and his MAGA brand and are tarred with the same brush. And the far left fringe of the Democratic Party have their share of crazies too.

Unlike parliamentary democracies that have monarchs or presidents, as in Israel, who are apolitical and serve to unify the country and represent them to the global community, our president is both the national leader of our country and also the political leader of the party that vanquished its opponent in the last election.

The best presidents understand both roles and try not to demonize their political opponents, even while making the case for their political party. We overthrew the yoke of the British monarchy, opening up a glorious experiment of self-government. So a monarch won’t do. We’ll never have another Washington or Lincoln. But is it asking too much if we have one who cares as much about the welfare of the whole as winning the next election?

As Madison wrote in the Federalist papers, people of good will should be able to navigate this for the betterment of the country.

Let’s hope so.

Max L. Kleinman of Fairfield was the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest from 1995 to 2014. He is the president of the Fifth Commandment Foundation and consultant for the Jewish Community Legacy Project.

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