“FRIENDS, FOES AWAIT AN ENCORE” screamed the front-page headline in today’s Washington Post.Washington Post front-page headline, Sunday, January 20, 2013: Friends, Foes Await An Encore

And therein lies the problem. President Obama has either friends or foes in America. There is little middle ground.

America’s 57th inaugural ceremony was the theme for my Toastmasters club meeting yesterday morning. Several speakers mentioned during the course of the morning that on Inauguration Day, we’re all Americans. The clear intimation of that comment is that on the other days, those who disagree with us really aren’t Americans. When it was my time to speak late in the meeting, I noted that we are all Americans every day, and we need to remember that. We are a diverse nation with diverse views, but we need to find a way to once again work with the schmucks who disagree with us and move this country forward.

The public doesn’t expect that to happen. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released a poll on Thursday that shows only 23 percent of those polled believe Republicans and Democrats will work together to move the country forward.Pew Research Center for the People & the Press poll results show public expects more partisanship. Sixty-six percent believe the parties will “Bicker and oppose one another more than usual.”

Sounds depressing. But I remain an eternal optimist. This isn’t the first time the schmucks celebrated divisiveness over diversity. In fact, our country has a proud history of bickering and opposing one another.

When I was discussing my Toastmaster mini-speech  in an email exchange with a friend later in the day, she wrote that Thomas Jefferson would be proud of me. I think not. Jefferson was one of the meanest and most underhanded politicians of his time. He quit George Washington’s cabinet in a huff because our first president favored Alexander Hamilton’s nationalistic fiscal policies over Jefferson’s agrarian policies. As vice president under President John Adams, Jefferson did everything he could to thwart Adams’ policies. And, Jefferson paid newspaper editors to paint Adams as a monarchist.

Jefferson was a pro at underhanded politics, but he wasn’t the only revolutionary schmuck. It was the way things were done. Yet our country survived and prospered. And so shall we today. We are all schmucks. The other side just has bigger schmucks. But they are Americans too.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at


4 responses to this post.

  1. I drafted a long reply to this but the system gobbled it up. My main point was that on inauguration day we are all Americans who set aside our partisan views to celebrate the peaceful passing of power and authority. the rest of the year, we are still Ameicans but we no longer set aside our points of view. unfortunately, the ‘thing of the time’ is to name-call and belittle differences of opinion rather than to debate, discuss, and at least from time-to-time, come to accommodation and compromise (which by its very nature cannot always be the minority caving to the majority). one person at the Toastmasters meeting made a very strong point – ‘this is America, and the rest of the world has eyes on what we do an how we do it.’



    • Excellent point, Paul. My former boss made a similar point in a Los Angeles Times op-ed last week:

      “Being a member of Congress — and representing the needs of 700,000 people back home — is both an honor and responsibility. You are always aware that people around the world are watching Earth’s largest democracy, with some cheering it on and some hoping it will fail.

      “These days, I fear that those who wish us ill are rejoicing because Congress is letting itself be defined by its differences.”



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