(April, 2021: This page currently being revised and updated)
How do we fix it?
If one accepts the premise on prior pages for what is causing partisan dysfunction, here then is a prescription for fixing it, in order of priority
- Democrats: rediscover empathy
This is the number one thing that can be done to reverse the partisan downtrend. If the core Democrat voter re-embraces its reputation for worrying about the plight of others, applies that empathy toward appreciating the struggles going on in the Midwest and then supports candidates that advocate sensitivity toward those issues, that will liberate the party leadership to build a bigger tent, the broader coalition needed to enact lasting solutions. That, in turn, would force the GOP to also tack back toward center.
From that first step, the following:
- Elect officials that genuinely, unapologetically champion working with opponents to get things done.
Ideally this candidate would already have a successful track record of doing just that. As of January 2020, there are at least three candidates running who fit this bill, possibly four.
This is incredibly important. The Republican party already has its 2020 candidate, and unfortunately this year’s does not fit this criteria (Maybe next time). But for the Democrats, I’m confident polling shows a meaningful chunk of current and former Republicans willing to vote Democrat if the candidate will simply show genuine empathy to some select center-right Republican causes. “Visit damn Wisconsin,” as it were. Additionally there are numerous centrists who are tired of politicians too far from center — in either direction — unable to get “jack” done. This coalition is not difficult to build, as long as the Left allows it. So, Left, allow it.
Being anti-social is so 2010’s.
- Genuinely and urgently address the issue of declining middle class economic opportunity.
No more lip-service. This has to be legitimately addressed. It will become the number one domestic politics issue in America in the coming decades, mark my words. Democrats, right now you are calling this problem, “Income Inequality,” which is has a whiff of division. Try calling it “Revitalizing Middle Class Opportunity” and view it as an industrial policy approach to creating opportunity, not simply redistributing spoils. Why did Germany, Sweden and Japan win the world’s leadership for robotics manufacture? Shame on us. We need to win the next cycle.
If we fix this problem, the precipitating anger driving our current polarization substantially goes away.
- Reconsider the need for fair and balanced news delivery. Revisit the Fairness Doctrine.
This will be a tricky one, because there are vested interests and the issue of freedom of speech is core to American values. But is it in the national interest for the majority of the voting public to receive only a highly polarized version of the news? That is not sustainable. We need to do something about it.
- Educate Americans at all levels on the importance of, and how to collaborate with opponents
We are a competitive nation and that’s a good thing. But Americans also want to get things done. Most don’t want to hate each other. Nearly all even know the fundamentals of how to collaborate with others; they do it every day with their spouses, coworkers, sports teammates, etc. They need to be reminded of the importance of doing so in politics.
- First, fund a national PSA campaign aimed at championing the importance and benefits of collaborating with opponents.
- Second, we should be teaching this is school. When I graduated high school I had learned to be a fearsome competitor, but didn’t know “jack” about how to take ownership for collaborating on a team, other than through coach-guided sports. I had to self-teach that in college, and it was a “train wreck” at first. This is not that hard to teach; we should do so.
Nearly all Americans know the fundamentals of how to collaborate with others; they do it every day with their spouses, coworkers, sports teammates, etc.
- Better understand the effects of social media on information dissemination and, if necessary, act to preserve its integrity
There has already been a lot of academic research completed on the impact of social media on news dissemination, discussion and social opinion forming. Congress needs to empower a panel to gather up that research, synthesize it and assess if it may be appropriate to establish “guard rails” around this technology to prevent nefarious consequences. I think social media is a fantastic and powerful technology, but like any new capability, it will predictably have some negative consequences until society learns how best to use it. The industry, no matter how well-intentioned, cannot police itself. The public will never trust a Mark Zuckerberg. It is in the industry’s own interests to let a trusted independent body apply guidelines to ensure the safety and security of our community.
- Demand sustainable progress from our politicians.
It’s not good enough to win office, if one gets nothing done in office. We need to demand that our politicians get things done. Not that they fight “the other side,” but that they figure out how to reach a consensus with the other side on how to move forward on key initiatives. Yes, of course this is hard. This is why we must choose leaders that have shown they can work with others to do hard things. They don’t get paid to get elected; to tell us what we want to hear; they get paid to get things done. That is the expectation we have to set.
Of course this last point sounds great in rhetoric, but I don’t actually yet know how to accomplish it. Certainly starting with item #2 at top would be a great start.
Do some of these initiatives makes sense to you?