President Franklin Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act on Aug. 14, 1935, as part of his New Deal policies. (AP)

Working for the common good is what makes America great. And working for the common good matters because it is the best antidote to the perils of polarization we face as a country, now and in the near future.

Every election in our country, including the one that will occur this coming Tuesday, is in some way a referendum on the common good. That’s because the ultimate purpose of politics and government is to ensure that the benefits of society — peace, prosperity, mutual support — are shared as broadly as possible.

That’s why the common good should be at the forefront of people’s minds, and the primary criterion for judging candidates.

The common good can be difficult to grasp because our politics are clouded by toxic polarization and special pleading by special interests. But throughout American history, especially at the most contentious moments, the country has embraced mind-blowing ideas and reforms that sought the common good and made this country a great nation. Just a few examples:

When American colonists declared to a violent and capricious world that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” …

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