On February 9, General Clark and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan held a discussion hosted by World Denver, the Colorado Springs World Affairs Council, and the Colorado Foothills World Affairs Council. Moderated by Rob Quirk, the talk centered around the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, the importance of bipartisanship in protecting our democracy, and combating the American political system’s polarization.
The discussion kicked off with the sobering statistic that most Americans believe our democracy does not work. Our domestic polarization has led to an unhealthy political system, leading us to lose our international standing in our allies’ eyes and domestically lose faith in our government. Gen. Clark promoted the health of the United States through bipartisan cooperation, arguing that the polarization of the parties has caused insurmountable gridlock without bipartisanship. Gov. Hogan agreed and suggested that the best way to rebuild trust in our institutions is through passing a comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill by working with others across the aisle. The importance of unity in the face of a global deadly pandemic cannot be overstated.
Gov. Hogan and Gen. Clark next addressed the many Americans that feel disenfranchised by the government, emphasizing that domestic discord must be dealt with to project strength abroad. Gen. Clark promoted a three-pronged approach for helping Americans heal: first, hold those in the Capitol insurrection accountable for their actions, projecting the strength and practical functionality of the government. Second, explain to the public America’s system of governance and the Constitutional process through bipartisan teams, promoting education to fight conspiracy theories and disinformation about our government. Finally, after educating the populace and holding insurgents accountable, prove that the government can actually function properly, bypassing pandemic relief measures and having a successful vaccine rollout. We can project strength and unity through these actions, combating domestic polarization and reaffirming our relationship with our allies. As Gov. Hogan stated, there’s more that unites us as Americans than divides us.
The discussion then turned to President Trump’s Twitter account’s recent blocking and other forms of social media potential overreach. Both Gov. Hogan and Gen. Clark believed that these censorship actions are a slippery slope, as protection from misinformation is good, and it’s important to quell calls for violent action; however, removing first amendment rights sets a dangerous precedent for a democracy. Shutting down the accounts is an acceptable temporary stopgap but should not remain a permanent solution to conspiracy theories and disinformation problems. Gen. Clark also suggested that the government should look into the role of social media companies in democracy.
At Renew America Together, we seek to provide ways to “bridge the gap” in our hyper-partisan political environment. Gov. Hogan provided some insight from his own experiences establishing an independent citizen commission to implement redistricting in his home state of Maryland. Gerrymandering emphasizes both parties’ extremes, as politicians get to pick the voters rather than the voters picking the politicians. Through a non-partisan commission to facilitate redistricting, extreme views in Congress can be significantly curtailed.
The main takeaway from this insightful bipartisan discussion is that most Americans think their political system is broken. This perception of brokenness further translates to America’s weakening position in the international arena and the polarization of US politics. To heal America, cooperation at the highest levels of government must be achieved. Those that benefit from a more polarized government must be held accountable, and we must all work together to achieve a more unified America.