COLUMN: Trump failed test of moral leadership with Charlottesville

Many in America share responsibility for what happened in Virginia.

— -- The preamble to the Constitution of the United States begins, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union...".

Watching the tragic events in Charlottesville makes clear that we are still very much in the process of forming a more perfect union. We aren't there yet, not by a long shot.

Many people thought the successful election of our first African-American president had closed the chapter on race-based hate in America, forgetting that it took more than 200 years to reach that milestone. We also have yet to elect the first woman president.

Charlottesville shows we are nowhere near ending racial hate in America, and that we are in desperate need of moral leadership to take us beyond tribalism and ignorance in order to form a more perfect union.

I love America. I love the ideals at the root of our founding and the example we have set throughout our history for the world.

But let's not kid ourselves. American history is filled with instances of us acting on our worst instincts and displaying a clannish nature.

In the name of Manifest Destiny, we pushed aside and committed atrocities against the native peoples who first occupied this land.

And then last year we watched as a campaign run by the person who is now president sought to appeal to fear, division and hatred to win.

Must we ask, "How could Charlottesville happen?"

We still haven't finished forming a more perfect union.

If that is the test, then President Trump has thus far failed to exhibit the moral values that are supposed to define our country.

And that is not only a missed opportunity, it makes me sad for our country.

Many of us in America share responsibility for what happened in Virginia.If you use hate and division to rally people, you share in it. If you point at Mexicans or Muslims as the problem, you share in it. If you don't call out leaders who use desired ends to justify questionable means, who look the other way at racism and white nationalism because adherents may vote for them or their party, you share in it.

We are all far from perfect, but we should strive to perfect ourselves and treat all others with respect, dignity and love. So too should our leaders.

Americans must stand up and demand more than politics as usual from our elected officials and hold them accountable for what is unfolding in America today.

I believe we will get through all this and come out the other side better, but there is no guarantee of that unless the best of us stand up and lead our leaders.

As someone once said, democracy is a gift, not a given.

To form that more perfect union that hopefully we all desire, we must act from a place of love, not fear. That is the only path to the dream of so many who sacrificed their all. We owe it to them to be better than this.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.