Sen. Elizabeth Warren has made her presidential run based largely on policy proposals to address what she views as critical to America, from health care to climate change. If one Googles, “I’ve got a plan for that,” chances are Warren’s name will quickly appear.

I find policy proposals on the campaign trail to be somewhat overrated. The view from the Oval differs from the perspective on the outside.

In addition, any policy proposal must be able to count to 218 in the House and 51 in the Senate, not to mention that the idea sent to Congress will look different, assuming it passes, once it returns for the president’s signature.

As former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson eloquently opined, “Everyone has a plan, until they get hit in the mouth!”

Superior public policy ideas, accompanied by white papers ad nauseam, will not be the barometer that will decide the 2020 election. It didn’t work in 2016, why would it work in 2020?

The victor in the 2020 election will be the one who best answers the following question: What type of nation do we want to be going forward?

In 1992, “It’s the economy stupid” captured the attention of a nation that was in the throes of recession. In 2008, Sen. Barack Obama excited the electorate with the promise of “hope and change.”

On the cusp of the 2020 election, America is at a different point — a point that has witnessed the current administration taking liberties with the nation’s democratic guardrails in unprecedented ways.

Elected officials we send to Washington from different political parties should fight vigorously for their perspectives, but at the end of the day respect the fact that they are presented with the awesome responsibility to do the people’s business. Or would we rather be marred in reflexive binary discourse that can only produce a zero-sum game where one side winning is directly linked to the other side losing? How long can we maintain obstruction as the coin of the realm?

But it’s not incumbent upon any candidate to answer the aforementioned question in isolation. What are “we the people” prepared to do? We cannot sit in our silos of conformity that only has room for those who think the way we think.

Do we want to maintain the corrosive ethos of “us vs. them,” which makes one only aware of the foibles of those in opposition? Collectively, we are suffering from the same terminal disease.

Recently, I got into a lively Facebook exchange because I posted a story about MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell retracting and apologizing for reporting a thinly-sourced story about President Trump’s finances on his prime time cable news show, saying he was “wrong” to have done so.

I wrote: “This is what happens when the pressure to be first overrules accuracy!”

Viewers of MSNBC were outraged; some accused me of “ravaging” O’Donnell. He ran a lead story, salacious in nature, based on a single source. At what point does this align with journalistic ethics?

What if it were, say, Fox News’ Sean Hannity instead of O’Donnell that were the subject? I suspect those opposing my posting would have cheered, while supporters of Hannity would most likely have been outraged. Yet, it was not a story about any individual, but one of fundamental journalistic ethics.

There’s no plan that will alter this type of human behavior, which is becoming hard-wired into the American psyche.

None of what I’ve offered is key to addressing climate change, providing health care for more individuals or tackling China’s nefarious trade policies. Nor does it speak to how Artificial Intelligence will impact every American’s life in positive and negative ways.

Are we to be a nation committed to a fixed orthodoxy that moonwalks toward a vision of a past that never existed? Are we to be a multiethnic mosaic that uncomfortably embraces multiple perspectives of a shared historical narrative? Does truth only align with the side we support? Will dissent continue to be the cherished value that was enshrined in the First Amendment?

As Benjamin Rush said in 1787: “There is nothing more common than to confound the terms of the American revolution with those of the late American war. The American war is over: but this is far from being the case with the American revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed.”

If the “revolution” is indeed an ongoing enterprise, we definitely need more than a plan to sustain it. Otherwise, with plans in tow, we may be forced to ask two additional clarifying questions: Where are we going? And why am I in this hand basket?

The Rev. Byron Williams (byron@public, a writer and the host of “The Public Morality” on WSNC 90.5, lives in Winston-Salem.

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