Since the Civil War, America has never been so divided. (Credit: Pixabay user Perlinator) CC0 Creative Commons

Since the Civil War, America has never stood so divided. But in that great war the lines were clearly visible — north and south, union and confederate, secessionists with their Articles of the Confederacy against those loyal to the Constitution.

Great men and women — patriots of earlier generations have passed the torch of freedom with the expectation that we would raise it even higher, forever the steady beacon of hope and boundless opportunity for the world. Yet today, our politics have become a form of low brow entertainment that has fractured our nation.

Instead, we have reduced this sacred duty handed down by our founding fathers to nothing more than a celebrity feud subject to likes, shares, and crude memes.

Rudderless, we seek refuge by aligning with the group we most closely identify with — whether it is Christian, conservative, progressive, independent, Millennial, Bernie supporter, activist, or any of the hundreds of competing interests.

We wrap ourselves in the warm embrace of likeminded souls, rarely straying from our comfort zone, unwilling to find common ground with those we are quick to label our enemy so that we may outright dismiss them and their ideas.

There is a sense of security in those who agree with us, those who defend our safe space, regardless if their support is based on facts or a cogent point of view. We reserve our bitter disdain for anyone who dares to disagree with us, never stopping to consider that maybe, just maybe they have something to offer us.

In 2018 America, the mere illusion of agreement has become an imperative, more important than noble aims such as integrity and righteousness, without any regard to the advantages of cooperation or real consensus.

If the goal of Russia’s intrusion into the 2016 election was to sow discord and create confusion, then they are winning this war.

We have become a nation of competing tribes, with family members pitted against each other as each of us staunchly defends their team regardless of whether the issue warrants their attention, much less their support. Safe within our echo chamber, we create enemies of our brothers and sisters, lashing out at them while the call to resolve the tough problems facing our country goes unanswered. We feel we are accomplishing something with this flurry of activity which often feels like a Pyrrhic victory.

America, we are so much better than this.

I am afraid that history will judge us harshly for we have lost the one defining characteristic that has made our nation the greatest on the planet.

We have no sense of unity. We are, after all, the “United” States.

While we often disagreed on how to get there, America always wanted what was best for America. Today, it is more often about winning, or at least the other guy losing. We talk about “flipping a district” or “turning our state blue”, but so rarely do we demand of our candidates anything other than a change.

What America needs now more than ever are leaders. Real leaders, like those who made this nation.

Usually, we look towards these individuals to bring us together, to remind us to rise to greatness, to encourage us to work together to find solutions to the problems facing our country. Absent today are those voices which demand we climb higher, work harder, and do better. In its place, we find the sad substitute of angry finger pointing and whataboutism.

We are in desperate need of candidates who embody the strength and bravery to draw us together, not popular faces who loudly proclaim their patriotism while selling Washington to the highest bidder. We don’t need empty promises and spin, we need substance.

From this day forward, you are not on the red team, the blue team, or the green team. You are not required to blindly support the agenda of any political party because the solutions to the challenges of this nation can come from anywhere — and must come from more than just your special interest group. How foolish that our leaders reject proposals which benefit the citizens of this nation simply because the ideas originate from the wrong side of the aisle. We simply cannot prosper and excel while leaving behind the other team for the sake of putting one in the win column.

In case it needs to be said, your country is more important than a political ideology.

Do not support me because I have a “D” after my name. Do not support me because I represent change. I want you to vote for me because I am a leader who will fight for what is right for Arizonans and Americans. And I hope you cast all your votes with that in mind.

Because that is what this nation desperately needs right now — candidates that can rise above party and politics, and see that we only win when each of us is represented by those who do what is right for our country.

The revolution we need must be fought in ourselves for we must battle to no longer be easily influenced by party affiliation or single issue, to stop reacting to dog whistles, to cease casting our fellow Americans as the enemy. We are tasked by our founding fathers to be better informed, more vigorous in our pursuit of truth, and more compassionate of others.

My name is Bob Olsen and I am running for US House of Representatives in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District.