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Vantage Point

Months after the presidential election, the fracture the campaign created still appears vast and far from repair or even bridging. The question in this installment of Vantage Point:

How can Americans come together under the new administration after last year’s hard-fought, divisive presidential campaign?

Abbas Ali

Professor, Management, and Editor, How to Manage for International Competitiveness

During different historical stages, nations are often confronted with divisive issues. Polarization and passion are a striking reality. However, nations under thoughtful and spirited leaders can overcome difficulties that otherwise appear to be fatal. Indeed, the very factors that fraction a nation can lead to strengthening its social fabric. Just before the election of President Kennedy in 1960, the nation was polarized. The election of the charismatic leader turned out to be instrumental in bringing the nation together. 

Under the Trump administration, the US has a pressing need for a compassionate message of hope, inclusion, caring, and tolerance. Those who seek comfort and assurance of the absence of intolerance and bigotry should feel they are welcomed and appreciated. An enlightened leader should reach out to ethnic and religious minorities and demonstrate intention at every step that the administration takes. This will deepen unity and minimize alienation.

David Chambers

Associate Professor and Chair, Political Science

Alexander Hamilton feared the dangers of a politics emphasizing “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity.” He and the other framers of the Constitution aimed to prevent the expedients of the moment from damaging the public good. Despite their efforts, these “little arts” have become a noxious part of our national political life, lying at the heart of the corrosive partisanship that poisons our discourse. How do we rise above this pettiness and rediscover the power of our national motto, e pluribus unum (out of many, one)? In a plea for consensus on the final day of an acrimonious Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin implored his colleagues to “doubt a little of [their] own infallibility” and “sacrifice [their biases of the moment] to the Public Good.” Franklin’s advice marks the path to the national reconciliation we seek. But, it is neither a quick fix nor an easy solution.

Krys Kaniasty

Professor, Psychology, and Coauthor, “Can Appraisals of Common Political Life Events Impact Subjective Well-Being?” in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology

I research how people cope with disasters. Our country is experiencing processes resembling public reactions to human-caused disasters like technological catastrophes, industrial accidents, chemical spills, or drinking water contamination. I am not being facetious or taking a political stance. The term “toxic or corrosive communities” frequents scientific literature describing socio-psychological fallouts of such events. Affected communities bitterly debate the severity of harm and divide into antagonistic factions that try to empower themselves by forming competing social forces. Deleterious psychological consequences of human-induced catastrophes persist longer than those of natural disasters. Yet, our research also shows that people eventually recover because we are resilient. What helps to recover? A sense of cooperation created by superordinate goals. Inalienable rights like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not partisan issues. Make America great for all, but do not forget the world we all share. Simple.

Mary Williams

Professor, Nursing and Allied Health Professions, and Interim Dean, College of Health and Human Services

At one time, health care delivery was physician centered. Efforts to reduce the costs associated with care eventually led to insurance companies’ becoming the drivers of health care. This created a flawed system; care has not improved or become more affordable. The US is one of five countries with the highest infant mortality rates in the world. After a divisive election, political parties remain polarized, with no indication of a united commitment to fix health care delivery and reimbursement issues. While well intended, the current system [Affordable Care Act] has not proven to be the solution. Is there hope for creating a fair, accessible system that results in better care delivery at an affordable cost? In my opinion, members of Congress will be motivated to work collaboratively on a quality, affordable health care system only when they are mandated to be covered by the same health care plans as the rest of the country.

Mileah Kromer ’03*

Associate Professor, Political Science, and Director, Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center, Goucher College

A great way to come together after a divisive campaign is to focus attention on our state and local governments. These elected officials do amazing work for their respective communities that is often overshadowed by the politicking at the federal level. There is this great adage about the work our local officials perform: There is no Democratic or Republican way to fill a pothole. A perfect sentiment in these divided times.

Interestingly, citizens know far less about the governments that are closest to them! We should step away from cable news and attend a local community meeting or public forum, volunteer our time to improve our neighborhoods, and take an opportunity to meet with elected officials. Even the most heated discussions feel less divisive face-to-face than they do on Facebook. The cure for political division is local thinking and active engagement.