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Our nation’s capital looks like a far-away authoritarian land with 25,000 National Guard soldiers and thousands of police officers deployed to keep Joe Biden safe for his presidential inauguration on Wednesday.

Portrait of GV Wire News Director Bill McEwen

Bill McEwen

Opinion

America hasn’t been this divided since the Civil War, and the immediate future is filled with huge challenges that include the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession it birthed.

Thanks to President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, we now have the vaccines to corral the pandemic and kick-start the economy.

The question is, will Americans regain their political equilibrium and end the hyperpartisanship and extremism dividing our country?

Or, will we take things even further to the extremes, fulfilling the observation of our third president, John Adams, that “there hasn’t yet been a democracy that didn’t die by suicide”?

Here are five difficult steps — among many — we should take to save our republic:

Condemn Violence When You See It

The day after the deadly Capitol riot, a YouGov poll indicated that 21% of Americans and 45% of Republicans said they supported the actions of pro-Trump supporters who overpowered the police and entered the halls of Congress in a failed attempt to block certification of Biden’s victory.

Violence must not be a substitute for democracy. It doesn’t matter if the violence is at a Stop the Steal protest or a Black Lives Matter demonstration. Unfortunately, there are people who excuse or try to explain away the burning of buildings, the looting of stores, and the armed storming of state and U.S. capitol buildings.

To heal, we must denounce all violence and hold accountable the people who participate in it, as well as leaders who defend it.

Will we take things even further to the extremes, fulfilling the observation of our third president, John Adams, that “there hasn’t yet been a democracy that didn’t die by suicide”?

End the Pandemic ASAP

More than 400,000 Americans have died and many others face compromised health for the rest of their lives after contracting COVID-19.

Social isolationism has stressed us all and, despite the stimulus checks and loan programs, many Americans have lost their jobs or businesses. Food insecurity is rampant.

Yes, Trump could have done a much better job. But that is yesterday’s news. Our concern should be about what’s ahead.

It’s incumbent that Congress pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccines in 100 days and provide $1,400 checks to Americans to stimulate the economy.

Members of Congress have a duty to debate the details and challenge anything they find fuzzy or out of line.

But the quicker we put the pandemic behind us, the quicker we can heal — physically and emotionally.

Coronavirus vaccines are prepared for drive-thru serving residents 65 and older in northeast Fresno on Jan. 14, 2021. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)

Reject Extremism and Partisanship

Two years ago, political scientists Nathan P. Kalmoe of Louisiana State and Lilliana Mason of the University of Maryland published a paper titled “Lethal Mass Partisanship.”

Their findings revealed that among Democrats and Republicans about 42% of people view the opposing party as “downright evil.”

Scarier still were responses to this question: “Do you ever think: ‘we’d be better off as a country if large numbers of the opposing party in the public today just died’?”

About 20% of Democrats said that they did think that; 16% of Republicans agreed.

The professors, at that time, also looked ahead to the 2020 presidential election.

About 18% of Democrats said that “violence would be justified” if their candidate lost; nearly 14% of Republicans agreed.

During World War II and through the early 1990s, we saw many members of Congress dedicate themselves to doing the people’s business — not merely advancing party goals. Since then, Republicans and Democrats have moved farther to the right and left, respectively. As a result, they work against each other instead of with each other.

The solution: abandon party-line voting and base your vote on the character of the candidates and the quality of their ideas. End the purity tests and support lawmakers who focus on solutions instead of demonizing opponents. Expand your boundaries and interact with people who are different than you.

Admittedly, none of this is easy. In our yearning for simple answers to complicated challenges, we often split into “us vs. them” tribes. Some scientists say our brains are hard-wired that way.

About 18% of Democrats said that “violence would be justified” if their candidate lost the 2020 presidential election; nearly 14% of Republicans agreed.

Demand Immigration Reform

The truth is, both parties raise tons of money and win elections by maintaining the status quo on immigration. Thus neither Republicans nor Democrats are motivated to settle their differences and move forward with sound policies that lift up people and the economy.

The American economy needs immigrants. Our birth rate is so low that it’s a ticking time bomb for our financial well-being. Certainly, we should make it less expensive for young couples to have babies while establishing their careers. One way to do that is by government investment in childcare. But we also need immigrants who will do the jobs Americans are reluctant to perform. We need the specialized skills and entrepreneurial spirit that immigrants bring, too.

Immigration is fairly easy to fix. Here are the basics. Start with the tight borders that nearly all Americans want. Then Congress provides the funding to fully vet anyone coming into this country legally and to nab those entering illegally. Provide a path to citizenship for those who have been here illegally for a decade or more but haven’t committed serious crimes.

The challenge here is purely political. Solving the problem eliminates a hot-button issue both parties capitalize on.

Elect Leaders at All Levels Who Support Smart Police Reform

The bad cops and the well-intentioned cops who simply don’t have the chops for one of society’s most important jobs must be weeded out.

The “defund the police” mantra from the left after the killing of George Floyd and other Blacks is an example of emotion sabotaging the clear-headed thinking needed to improve things.

So must the politicians who fail to recognize — or don’t care — that people of color are disproportionately killed, injured, and arrested by police.

But any solutions must be grounded in the reality that police work is dangerous. There are many bad actors who don’t think twice about shooting officers in a nation where it’s ridiculously easy to get guns.

The “defund the police” mantra from the left after the killing of George Floyd and other Blacks is an example of emotion sabotaging the clear-headed thinking needed to improve things.

Doing police work right is expensive. And, given the recent scapegoating of police officers, it’s going to be difficult to recruit people with the emotional intelligence and passion for public service to do the job right.

Let’s end racial profiling and unjustified shootings without further endangering the lives of those entrusted with keeping the peace.

2 Responses

  1. MICHAEL PISTORESI

    The “Big” question is if the Democrats want this nation to heal will they apologize for the way they behaved for the last four years and change their attitude of “Our way or the hiway”? If not they can pound sand and Conservatives will give the new President the same courtesy that the Liberals provided the last one.

    Reply
  2. Ron Sherrin

    Scapegoating of police officers? “The left”? Tight borders nearly all Americans want. You’re a real bridge builder Bill. Really?? Big ag wants tight borders? Since when did that happen?. Any big in the valley?. Tell them to comply with E-Verify.

    Here is what we need. We need truth. Turn off the voices of truth decay, and hate like Jim Franklin and Ray Appleton. Put some heart on the airwaves. All I hear on KMJ is a steady diet of anger, hate and stupidity, for breakfast lunch and dinner, every day. Why??

    The U.S. has 4% of the world’s population, and 20% of the world’s Covid deaths. We’re rounding the corner Bill, I guess it was that operation “warp speed”? Definitely some warped thinking here. No national plan, left it up to the states, kept it political, blue & red. That’s what Donald Trump did. Truth Bill.

    TRUTH is the answer to our problems Bill. Tell all your right wing Republican brethren to stop lying. You could have written a much shorter editorial and just focused on TRUTH, highlighting all the liars in the valley, liars like Devon Nunez who has calls from Lev Panas on his call log. Liars like Jim Franklin who continues to spread the BIG LIE about the election. That guy thought it was fine to impeach Bill Clinton but was dead set against impeaching Donald Trump.

    TRUTH Bill. We’re going to hold Trump, and his supporters accountable for all the lies, the endless lies, the relentless lies, and all the ugliness we saw in Trump’s America. We can unite after that.
    Let the shaming begin.

    Thanks Bill

    Reply

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