3 Radical Ideas for Unity
Joe Biden hasn’t even been president for a week, but the spin machines at the polar ends of our political spectrum are already hard at work. The president’s call for unity has been sliced and diced every which way imaginable, but what is sorely lacking in the conversation are actual, practical, executable ideas for how to unify this country.
The divide is deep and painful across the states and across family dinner tables. We have only to look at the Capitol Riot and the now year-long politicization of masks to see that what started as a political football game — are you Team Red or Team Blue?— has become a dangerous and life-threatening chasm between the left and right. I do not pretend to have the answer, but I would like to offer three radical ideas that could help us.
First, make them sit together. Joe Biden would make his call for unity crystal clear (and very newsworthy) if he made foes sit together at the upcoming State of the Union. Yes, technically, it’s not an official State of the Union because it comes just a month after he takes office, but on February 23, President Biden will address a joint session of Congress. As Americans, we are exhausted—and quite annoyed—each year as we watch and listen to the two camps separately applaud for only the lines in the president’s speech that they agree with. Enough. Our own children behave better than that. Have them stand up, switch seats, and sit next to someone of the opposing party. It would be a powerful statement to the nation.
Second, let’s revisit the Fairness Doctrine. Yes, there used to be an actual policy that prevented the polarization of our media. It is time to bring it back. First enacted in 1949 by the FCC, the Doctrine called on television broadcasters to present balanced reporting on controversial issues. It was gutted in the 80s, a move that famously gave rise to Fox News. Our media landscape is wildly different now, but a modern Fairness Doctrine would break down the barriers between the red bubble and the blue. News, facts, and truth should not be the privilege nor the burden of one side. We have seen the disastrous effects of tearing down that policy, and it is high time to bring it back. We all deserve the same information.
Third, replace polls with digital voting. There remain large-scale impediments to digital voting for political offices. Hopefully, one day, with the proper tech and privacy guards, we will be able to vote for President from our computers. Until then, there is a middle step to birth and refine that kind of system: ask Americans to vote on major policy proposals online. Since the Hillary debacle, “polls” have soured their brand. No one actually believes any polling about anything anymore. (That’s a bold statement; let me clarify: I don’t believe any polling about anything anymore.) Polls are regarded as partisan and biased.
But a nationwide, official digital voting system, set up and run as a joint venture between Congress and the White House, could take the true temperature of how Americans feel about proposed policies. Make digital voting an event. Make it monthly, dummy-proof, and fun. Every first Friday of the month, we all vote on one policy proposal from the comfort of our laptops. This kind of popular vote need not negate nor replace our representatives, but it can provide more information to them and to the media. And it can restore trust in the voice of the people.
We have done a lot of talking about unity this last week. It is time for some new thinking about how to make it actually happen.