Farewell Address

March 26th, 2009

As it is often said, all good things must come to an end. Unfortunately, and probably for some fortunately, this will be my last column in this newspaper. However, I would like to sincerely thank all of you who have devoted your time to reading it. Whether you have agreed or not, your support is much obliged. Here is my last hurrah: The political landscape has drastically changed over the past decade, resulting in an ideologically motivated two-party system of extreme partisanship.

Although the two-party system has driven policy for some time, the current degree of isolation among the parties is extensive and alarming.

Legislative decisions are being crafted solely along party lines. Until recently, such intense partisanship was contained to politicians and members of government. Now, the division has spilled over into the public (myself included). More and more, political beliefs and affiliations are becoming personal.  Recently, I read a column written by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. In it, he cites author Bill Bishop, who argues U.S. citizens are segregating themselves into communities where people think the same. He claims that almost half of Americans live in counties where Democratic or Republican landslides occur.  This should not suggest the United States is risking a civil war. However, continuing on a path motivated by divide risks serious consequences. Think back to the November elections.  Throughout the country, reports cited alleged instances of voter intimidation. Even though this has happened in previous elections, the recent instances seem uniquely different (for my lifetime, at least).  In North Carolina, some claimed that a white man placed a casket outside of a voting station with photos of Barack Obama inside. Others complained of Black Panthers in Philadelphia intimidating people trying to vote. As much as the menaces might have thought, this is not Chavez’s Venezuela.  Nevertheless, the deepening polarization among Americans has led to a conditional acceptance of such actions (so long as no actual violence occurs). All the while, the United States continues to navigate through a complex and fragile global environment. Economic turmoil, terrorism and militarizing rogue states continue to test U.S. resolve.  Solving these dilemmas requires a renewed discourse. That is, Americans must be willing to diverge from paths of partisanship toward routes of productive discussion. This is not to say everyone will embrace the challenge. In a free and inclusive society, idiots motivated by ignorance and selfishness will always exist; such is the price of liberty.  However, allowing these individuals to dictate the nation’s direction will lead to regression. Increases in progress and prosperity will only result in working together to resolve political disputes. Individuals must be willing to take a more pragmatic approach not based on respective political parties.  Leaders of both parties must be willing to compromise and promote a unified approach. Moreover, we must work to understand why we disagree, not why the other is wrong. Otherwise, the nation might have difficulty dealing with real threats to stability.