Finding common ground beyond the partisan divide is essential to elected officials.

During the 51st Arizona Legislature, we served Tucson’s 9th District at the state capitol. Ethan is a Republican. Steve is a Democrat.

We shared a commitment to find ways of working together to serve the constituents we represented, despite our differing views on a range of issues.

That is the heart of what has made American democracy so resilient and admired around the world — the commitment of elected officials to find common ground across the partisan divide.

This commitment and resiliency are being sorely tested during the political season in which we find ourselves.

Our country’s hard-won freedom is under threat — by a rising tide of tribalism, demonization of those with different views and backgrounds and political violence.

But there is a way forward. Our nation can be strengthened if we each recommit ourselves to the essential American values of empathy, welcome and respect for ourselves and others.

Even today, what unites us as Americans is greater that what divides us.

In Arizona, our state’s greatest accomplishments were achieved when people with differing viewpoints, parties and ideals found a way to reach beyond political differences to serve a greater good. They humanized and empathized with other people, even where they had significant differences.

Economic development, transportation, education, public safety, public health and water policy are not partisan issues. They are central to our quality of life, regardless of our ideological underpinnings. We all benefit when our elected officials work together to assure these basic services are well-managed so that we can take them for granted.

That’s why Democrats Carl Hayden and Mo Udall united with Republicans Barry Goldwater and Paul Fannin to support and build the Central Arizona Project, without which we would be in economic and existential crisis today. These leaders disagreed on many issues but they all wanted to make Arizona a better place.

We don’t and never will agree on every issue, including some important political and social ones. But our common hope for a better future for Arizona and a respect for other people and the political process gives us a context in which we can debate and discuss our differences respectfully.

Our founders have blessed us with freedom, democracy and a way of life that is fragile and must be protected. To be a part of the American experiment is a rare privilege and our cherished freedoms must be earned by every generation, not only with battles against external enemies but by building internal cohesion that is more powerful than the seduction of petty tribalism that sets us against each other.

There is no single correct answer for how society can progress, whether from the left or the right. Anyone who believes this is toying with the corrosive and essentially un-American forces of autocracy. Mutual understanding of differing views is the central tool that allows us to make our way forward. Together.

Now that the 2018 elections are over, we must focus on fostering unity among all our citizens, regardless of political beliefs and backgrounds. Whoever you are, wherever you came from, however you voted and whatever brought you to those votes, we are all Americans.

We are bound together by our belief that tomorrow will be a better place than today, a respect for our Constitution to settle our disputes and a deep understanding that America can still be that shining city on a hill, an inspiration for all those who seek life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We hope you will join us.

Ethan Orr, a Republican, and Steve Farley, a Democrat, served together in the Arizona Legislature. Both are from Tucson.