OPINION: Short-Sighted Mudslinging Leaves Our Democracy on Life Support

January 18, 2017, 6:28 AM

— -- On the eve of Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th president of the United States, I am hopeful and pray leaders of all stripes, but especially Mr. Trump, conduct themselves in a manner that helps repair the serious divides, damage and brokenness in our body politic.

I also hope they look at the long-term interests of our democracy, and not the short-term advantages of political wins.

Athletes through the ages have looked for advantages and done things to help them put themselves in the best possible position of winning a competition. They have come up with training regimens, diet and mental resources to give them an upper hand. But in the last few decades, some athletes have drifted into the use of steroids to gain that advantage.

This use of steroids gave certain athletes an edge in the short term, making them faster, or stronger, or more aggressive and thus causing them to set records or win games under normal circumstances they would not be able to. But this short-term gain from steroids set them up for long-term damage to their bodies.

The same has been true in our body politic for the last few years. The two political parties have conducted themselves in ways in the short term to get political advantage: not telling the truth, using spin to deflect on issues, leaving integrity behind, using ends to justify means, creating campaigns which attacked personally and relentlessly and putting party over country. Many won in the short term, and these tactics grew increasingly worse.

And then in 2016, new records were set on doing whatever it takes -- stretching the bounds of "moral" means to get to the end of winning. And now we are in a place that we have no common set of facts, we can't come together for the common good and the country seems tribal.

These short-term tactics have caused serious damage to the organs of our body politic. They have damaged our ability to listen to one another. They have damaged the First Amendment and need for a vibrant press. They have damaged nearly every institution in Washington D.C., including our judiciary and our intelligence agencies. They have left the body broken and harmed, and our democracy on life support.

As Trump prepares to give his first speech as the leader of America, I would suggest to him and others of both parties to stop with the harmful short-term tactics, and begin to heal the long-term body of our wonderful country. Here are five things he and they could do:

1. Use language that is inclusive and seeks unity rather than words that exclude others and divides.

2. Appeal to people's best instincts and not the worst. Take people out of their fears and lead them courageously to a place of peace and compassion.

3. Put country over party. Stop with the partisanship and the mode of following others like lemmings because they wear the same jersey.

4. Rebuild trust in our governmental institutions before you seek to create new programs or expand existing ones. Make us believe again in the ability for us to come together to solve problems.

5. Be the humble servant leaders America hungers for where we come together as citizens for a broader purpose -- serve the country, and then go home.

This is just my start, and now is the time for a new beginning. Mr. Trump you have been entrusted with the most important job in the world, and the majority of Americans are praying you can be a great leader, wishing for your success. Though we all can cheer when something is blown up, even a dysfunctional federal government, transformational leaders are those that build for the long term, not just win in the short term.

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

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