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Op/ed: Bipartisan Dialogues Could Save Our Divided Nation

Universities Can Bring Together Republicans and Democrats for Urgently Needed Reconciliation, Education Researcher Says

By Steven J. Klees

two people rowing American flag as it snaps in half

Increasingly violent political rhetoric and deepening partisan divisions require mediated face-to-face discussions to bring about national reconciliation, a UMD education researcher writes in an essay in The Baltimore Sun.

Illustration by Shutterstock

Simply discussing our society’s deep political rifts with members of our own groups is no longer enough to stave off grave dangers to our country, writes Steven Klees, a University of Maryland professor of international education policy, in a new essay in The Baltimore Sun.

With harsh political rhetoric, threats and actual partisan violence on the rise, universities could move to sponsor intergroup dialogues involving members of communities that clash, leading to a better understanding of commonalities and differences, and improved communication skills to foster further dialogue, Klees writes.

We are so polarized, and it is threatening our democracy. Jan. 6 showed that political violence is on the table. Election officials, school board members and others around the country are being threatened. A recent survey of Wisconsin Republicans found that 43% agreed with the statement: “The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.” This is intolerable. We need a national dialogue, a national conversation between Republicans and Democrats to dial this extremism down, to understand each other better.

The need to better understand each other has always been there, but now it’s urgent. I started personally to feel this necessity when Donald Trump got elected in 2016. But the polarization in our country has grown by leaps and bounds since then. There may be 50 million or more people who believe the election was stolen. That gave us Jan. 6, and it could lead us to a horrifying future in which elections have lost their legitimacy. But even worse, tens of millions think civil war may be necessary, and many more fear that it could be coming.

Read the rest in The Baltimore Sun.



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