by Neil Wollman, Ph. D. & Senior Fellow – Bentley University
To restore the civic bonds among the American people will require moving beyond the extreme partisanship that characterizes our current moment. Biden has called for healing, unity, and lowering the partisan temperature – and has reached out to Trump supporters.
A National Dialogue with resulting legislation and institutional changes, and that engages all segments of our society, can start to bring us together. To be most fruitful, this dialogue should center on common ground solutions to the steady erosion of our civic discourse, democracy, and trust in public institutions.
A substantive National Dialogue would involve the creation of task forces around the country comprised of diverse citizens, trained moderators, and recognized experts, that would air diverse viewpoints and craft recommendations on how to solve our key national challenges. Burning topics that suggest themselves include strengthening our democratic system and trust in elections; restoring belief in the value and fairness of our media, educational system, and governing institutions; restoring civility to our public life; and promoting a society that offers opportunity and justice to all and where people can unite in common purpose.
To have real teeth, the task forces ought to be organized as official Presidential government entities, and their composition and logistics should be worked out on a bipartisan basis. Ideally, there should be an extra emphasis on involving Trump supporters in task force deliberations, as a tangible demonstration of Biden’s sincerity in taking seriously the discontent that fueled Donald Trump’s rise.
Finally, the recommendations of the task forces need to be accorded real, rather than merely rhetorical force, and incorporated into Executive branch and Congressional policy deliberations, legislation, and the work of public and private institutions.
It will take years to right the listing ship that America, symbolically, has become, far from the beacon of opportunity and hope that our nation has long represented in the world. But we can make a start to heal our divisions, rebuild our institutions, and help Americans move beyond the cynicism and despair many feel about our current society and politics.