A Grain Of Saul

A Grain Of Saul: What Would It Take To Unify The United States?

It's a question every American should consider.

A Grain of Saul is a weekly column that digs into some of the biggest issues we face as a nation and as an international community in search of reliable data, realistic solutions, and — most importantly — hope.  

A friend of mine recently asked me a simple question I can't seem to shake: "What would it take to unify this country?"

I've known this friend since we were in third grade, and — despite having vastly different opinions about big issues in America — we consistently talk in a courteous way about politics and almost always find common ground. Those conversations got him wondering how the country could come together like he and I so often do.

At first, my answer was that I didn't know. 

While I've written in this column that Americans agree on more than Republican or Democratic politicians want you to believe, there is still a tense nature to political discourse that seems impossible to get over. Some Trump supporters are ardent that he's the best thing since sliced bread. Some Trump opponents believe he's the closest America has ever gotten to a dictator. 

Which brings me to my first and most troubling point to make: I don't think the country can ever be unified under President Donald Trump.


TORONTO - FEBRUARY 4: Protesters with signs during a protest in front of the U.S. Consulate to denounce Donald Trump's immigration policies on February 4, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. Shutterstock /  arindambanerjee

As a reporter, I've interviewed all kinds of American voters over the last two years, and here is what I can tell you with certainty: millions of women will never forget the "grab 'em by the pussy" tapes. Millions of Hispanics will never forget his disparaging words about Mexicans and undocumented immigrants. Muslims will never forget his travel ban. Loyal supporters of Barack Obama will never forget how Trump has maligned the former president and accused him of not being American for more than five years.

With that in mind, the first step toward unifying the country is going to be a moderate presidential candidate and a bipartisan cabinet. If the goal is bringing people together, there is no chance of that happening unless the leadership brings Democrats and Republicans together. Too many feel their voices are not represented. For a unified country to exist, we need our next president to surround herself or himself with everyone from Ted Cruz to Bernie Sanders — not just people who already support their own views.

Then, we need to act on issues where there is consensus. With a more bipartisan group governing the country, we could address the desires of the United States that are more uniform. Some polls show 92 percent of Americans want expanded background checks for gun purchases. Others show 76 percent of Americans oppose sending conventional ground troops to the Middle East. Seventy-one percent of Americans want a raise in federal minimum wage. Just 11 percent of Americans are "very satisfied" with their access to affordable health care. As Sally Yates noted in a recent Washington Post op-ed, there is even a consensus about criminal justice reform. So, let's tackle these issues while there is an overwhelming consensus.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 22: Health-care reform advocates march in the streets outside of a meeting of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) on October 22, 2009 in Washington, DC. Shutterstock / Ryan Rodrick Beiler

We'll also need media that focuses more on people solving issues than causing problems. At A Plus, we do our best to illuminate "positive news" — and when it comes to politics, that means focusing on the problem-solvers. Still, it isn't always easy. Pointing to the people who are causing problems, not solving them, is usually easy. And it's always divisive. Instead, we should put more energy toward highlighting the Americans — government workers and otherwise — who are coming up with positive solutions for problems many Americans face. If we did that, we'd realize people from both sides of the political spectrum are constantly contributing to the greater good in our country.

We need to restore faith in our institutions. Federal courts, the intelligence community, and the Constitution are all vital to unifying the country. They act as the deciding voices on important issues and laws, whether it's threats from overseas or if a new policy violates the constitution. But right now, Americans are more wary of these institutions than ever before. A recent Washington Post report found that only 36 percent of Americans "can place 'a great deal' or 'a good amount' of trust" in what former FBI Director James Comey "says about possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election," despite the fact Comey has largely repeated the conclusions of the entire intelligence community. A strong faith in the honesty and function of our institutions would do a lot to build faith that our country is run with integrity.

If we are able, we need to leave our own neighborhoods and explore our country. Most of my best learning moments have come from leaving New York City, going home to Pennsylvania, and visiting other parts of America. I have been lucky enough to travel to the midwest and southern parts of the country, and to even explore liberal enclaves in California and rural towns in Alaska. All across the country, there are a variety of political views born out of circumstance and lifestyle, and you can't truly appreciate the value or legitimacy of those views without experiencing them firsthand. Rural Americans who are worried about immigration would be wise to experience a city like New York if they can. There, diversity is a strength and a blessing. Metropolitan Americans who are able would be wise to spend a week in middle America, where the financial needs and lifestyle choices are wildly different from those in the big city.

Farmer with organic tomato crop on farm. Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images

Most of all, we need to believe being unified is possible. There is no greater barrier to unifying our country than the simple belief that it isn't possible. Of course, these few steps aren't all it would take. Instead, they are probably the bare minimum. But before we even start to think about electing a more moderate leadership group, learning about our fellow Americans face-to-face or reforming the media, we need to first believe bringing the country together is possible. We need to trust that American kinship has a strong enough foundation to begin a conversation with people from the "other side," and that a love of country and a desire for unity is enough to open the door for real change.

For more political coverage, you can follow @Ike_Saul on Twitter

Cover image via Shutterstock / Rawpixel.com


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