Political Polarization and Demonization Must End -- Here's How to Get Started

Last week, Pat Caddell and I wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal about President Obama’s approach to politics, and the way it has polarized America.

We made it clear that we feel very sadly that he has divided rather than united the American people, and we pointed to issues relating to class, party and race.

Speaking for myself, I am very pleased that so many people reacted positively, and I am indeed saddened that some -- as I expected – have questioned our motives and intentions.

Indeed, some interpreted the piece as an effort to fuel a right-wing agenda.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

We wrote as traditional Democratic liberals who favor a broad agenda committed to social justice.

Personally, c and Pat Caddell and I were seeking to take a proactive role in seeking to emphasize the need for conciliation and reconciliation.

Indeed, having written a book on the subject called "Declaring Independence," as well as a number of op-ed articles on the same theme, it should not be surprising for anyone who has followed my work to understand that.

And in light of a recent Rasmussen survey of likely voters -- that found that 61 percent of respondents expect politics in Washington to become more partisan over the next year, while only 19 percent think there will be more cooperation -- it was clear to me, and I believe Pat Caddell as well, that it was important to do everything we could to try to minimize this trend.

As part of this effort, we felt that it was very important to talk about the role, sadly, that many of President Obama’s policies and approaches have played in exacerbating this tendency.

In the piece, we took pains to emphasize both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for our current culture of demonization.

We indicated that Republican administrations – such as those of George W. Bush and Richard Nixon -- have engaged in divisive politics that are -- as President Obama rightly said during the 2008 campaign -- responsible for "crippl[ing] Washington and turn[ing] national politics into a blood sport."

Moreover, we reiterated a point that we have both made numerous times: that the Republican Party has not put forth a positive agenda of change. Such an agenda is necessary if the GOP is going to play an increasingly important role in the governance of the country – as is likely after the 2010 midterm elections.

Both of us, I believe, were motivated to write the piece because we believe that there is a fundamental need for the president to continue the progress he made on race and race-related issues during the 2008 campaign and to avoid the divisiveness that characterized a number of the issues that we alluded to in The Wall Street Journal piece last week -- most recently the Shirley Sherrod controversy.

Above all, we wanted to underscore our position that we need a national conversation on racial issues.

Indeed, the president should address the issue of minority empowerment the way that people like Jack Kemp– who spoke profoundly and eloquently about the issue of unemployment and empowerment through lower taxes and stimulating private employment – have in the past.

Similarly, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) has reiterated that our country has a “keen interest in overcoming negative politics and working together…in a manner that improves the health, wellness and thus life opportunities of every American, regardless of race, ethnicity, language preference, or geography” – as she wrote in a letter sent to President Barack Obama and top Democratic congressional leaders in advance of the White House health care summit.

Put simply, both of us believe passionately that we need policies that unite the races – not divide.

Such an agenda includes an employment strategy that will benefit poor whites and poor blacks – specifically young people

We need policies that will create the kind of long term private sector employment that will get our economy going.

Specifically, we tried to underscore the need to talk about family structure – both black and white – that the president began to address eloquently during the campaign.

We are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to advance a positive agenda, and hopefully most will consider our piece in The Journal, and this supplemental essay, a positive contribution in that regard.

Doug Schoen is a Fox News contributor, pollster and author of "The Political Fix." (Henry Holt).

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