Why Willis is wrong on our nation’s divisions

Although I usually find Bonnie Willis’ columns well researched, reasoned, and balanced, I respectfully disagree with the assessment and prediction she cites in her column titled “The Day After the Elections: A Prediction.“

Ms. Willis predicts that we will come together as a nation after the election (regardless of who wins) just as two sibling brothers usually come together to work things out after a fight.

Although I would love to agree with her prediction, as a lifelong devout student of politics, I must unfortunately disagree.

Ms. Willis’ oversimplified analogy and optimistic prediction that our existing national differences in political ideology can be overcome just as easily as two fighting boys can be ordered to “works things out” overlooks the deep divisions that our great nation and its electorate is currently facing.

Ms. Willis rightly points out that our great country has great documents like our Declaration of Independence and Constitution that serve as a unifying foundation that continue to provide “parental” guidance and direction.

However, she underestimates the obvious and long-standing polarization engulfing our two houses of Congress and the common voter.

The reality is that since the founding of our nation, we have never been as polarized as we are today.

While conducting graduate work at Harvard University last year, I came across the work of UGA’s Dr. Keith Poole who proves this exact point.

As an expert on political and electoral polarization, Dr. Poole manages VoteView.com, which tracks the extent of polarity going back to the first U.S. Congress.

Further evidence of this widening ideological divide can also be seen in the following: the inability of recent Congresses to come together and produce fiscal legislation as evidenced by the failure of the bipartisan Select Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction to address the budget deficit, the partisanship vote of the Affordable Care Act, the inability to generate a comprehensive immigration bill, the splintering of the Republican Party engendering a more conservative Tea Party that derides bipartisanship, and the prescient warning to the near extinction of bipartisanship that the highly respected Republican Senator Olympia Snowe issued when she announced she would no longer serve in the U.S. Senate after this term. Her profound warnings can be read at the Washington Post OpEd column of March 1, 2012.

So although I consider myself an optimist, the aforementioned facts ground me in the reality that our nation will have to undergo a political shift to the center before we can begin to heal the wounds of the prevailing partisan polarity.

Only a move toward the political center can reunite us as a “national family” capable of withstanding heated fights, not simply the end of this election season. Accordingly, I propose citizens take up the following four recommendations:

1. Ask elected representatives to engage in bipartisan negotiations to enact sound and lasting legislation instead of demanding a partisan agenda that is responsible for the existing political paralysis. We would all be better served in obtaining bipartisan legislation that is designed to last than passing partisan legislation worthy of repeal by an incoming new majority.

2. Listen and view multiple credible news sources. Listening solely to Fox News for Republicans is not a balanced perspective. Likewise, Democrats should view news programming beyond those on MSNBC. Moreover, reading print media from multiple conservative and liberal news papers formulates a more objective and independent opinion or conclusion.

3. Avoid the prominent and erroneous perception that Rush Limbaugh and Ed Schultz are political analysts. Although they are self-proclaimed political commentators, their lack of thoughtful or objective analysis more aptly places them in the category of political satirists. Their partisan and often inflammatory messages are meant for ratings, not reason.

I recommend that people avoid listening to both Limbaugh and Schultz as their messages stir up more political and national divisiveness.

4. Remember that we are one country and in essence, one extended family that must come to agreement on important decisions.

In this regard, I could not agree more with Ms. Bonnie Willis; however, we must first realize how divided we are so we can aptly realize the extent of the work ahead.

Semper Fidelis.

James Ruvalcaba

Fayetteville, Ga.

[Mr. Ruvalcaba says he is a recently retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marines where he served as a Cobra attack helicopter pilot and strategic planner. He holds advanced degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and most recently Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.]