Opinion | A Divided Country: What Can Be Done?

To the Editor:

Re “A Repudiation That Never Came,” by Jamelle Bouie (column, Nov. 6):

Can we stop being morally indignant that half the country voted differently than we did?

This nation was founded and built on conflict over values: the role of government, the divide between church and state, the limits of individual freedoms, who is a person. We are a people in constant tension with one another over values.

This endless struggle may seem at times as absurd as Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill, only to have it fall back down for him to start anew. It is hard work. It seems to go nowhere. We grow exhausted, physically and spiritually. But it also is the meaning of being American.

The Constitution’s preamble memorializes the basis on which we agree to push that rock up the hill each day: to form a perfect union, to establish justice, to promote the general welfare and to secure the blessings of liberty to us and those who follow us. The rock falls. We start over. It is not easy. But we push our way back up the hill to preserve America. We push back up the hill because the struggle to do so is what it means to be American.

Jessica Kurzban
Los Angeles

To the Editor:

In “A President Sabotages His Own Country” (column, Nov. 5), Nicholas Kristof expresses bewilderment about how voters in this election could have voted for President Trump in greater numbers than ever, after four years of experiencing his bungling of Covid-19, his endless lies and his attacks on American institutions.

In Thomas L. Friedman’s column on the same day, “Even Before a Winner, America Was the Loser,” we find a plausible answer, from Rich Lowry, National Review editor: Mr. Trump, repellent as he is, is seen as the only means available to resist “the overwhelming woke cultural tide that has swept along the media, academia, corporate America, Hollywood, professional sports, the big foundations, and almost everything in between.”

The Democrats are regarded by many who in the past would have been part of their base as identified with the trends of “wokeness” that accuse white people, and particularly white men, of complicity in systemic racism, patriarchal oppression and “toxic masculinity.” Moreover, Democrats have taken stands on issues such as abortion and policing that denigrate values and beliefs a lot of ordinary people hold dear.

If Joe Biden is going to help heal the terrible divisions that afflict us, he must not only address the wreckage due to Mr. Trump but also work to reform the divisive and counterproductive agenda of the woke “progressive” left.

Richard H. Miller
Winston-Salem, N.C.

To the Editor:

Thomas L. Friedman has written another brilliant column, outlining the deep, irreconcilable divides in our country. He describes the fear of less educated whites that the country’s population is moving heavily toward people of color and different cultural backgrounds, and that they are being left behind by a skilled technological society that they believe ignores their needs and demeans them. There is also a rural and urban divide. These differences have deeply divided America, exacerbated by the Trump presidency.

A century and a half ago America fought a civil war over issues painfully analogous to these. Perhaps it is time to consider a similar solution, but by peaceful means. The fractionalization of the country is leaving deep scars that will not heal.

Perhaps recognizing this can lead to peaceful separation of the union into red states and blue states acceptable to both sides. The states on each coast could join in a blue union, with a few states in between, perhaps even joining with Canada to unite the geographic separation.

Ken Lefkowitz
Medford, N.J.

To the Editor:

It is time to end the hatred on both sides. A first step would be for President Biden to fully pardon President Trump, and for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to do likewise. Historians mostly agree that Gerald Ford was wise to pardon Richard Nixon. The good of the country must come first.

President Trump gave voice to many voters who previously felt hopeless. Although personally flawed and corrupt, as are a great many politicians, he did keep many of his promises and brought needed balance to our politics. More than 70 million citizens voted for him. He would have been re-elected by a wide margin but for a virus. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment is that he may have made liberals a little less arrogant.

A pardon is both needed and appropriate. We need to come together as a nation.

Elizabeth Stessel
Westfield, Mass.

To the Editor:

As a lifelong Democrat, an Oakland resident and a lesbian, I am thrilled by the prospect of a more diverse administration, the hopeful emblem for which is Kamala Harris, Oakland’s pride.

But I also fear more division and stalemate. I’m apprehensive about the prospect of relentless Senate blockading by Mitch McConnell — against all things perceived as Democratic, blue, liberal.

That is why I urge liberal support for at least two respected Republican cabinet members, who could encourage Republican senators — and those voters who did not support Joe Biden — to be more receptive to the new administration’s initiatives.

The truth is, Democrats demonize and “other” Republicans as much as the other way around. It’s time to have leadership nudge our divided country toward real dialogue and reconciliation, in brave, practical and highly visible ways.

Mary Grover
Oakland, Calif.

To the Editor:

Re “We Still Don’t Really Understand Trump,” by Frank Bruni (Sunday Review, Nov. 8):

Like Mr. Bruni, I wonder how more than 70 million Americans could have voted for Donald Trump. I understand that many who live away from large, diverse urban areas believe that “elites” look down on them and have strong negative feelings about nonwhites and immigrants. That said, I am baffled as to why his failure to manage Covid and its economic fallout — which must have affected many directly — wasn’t more important in their electoral decisions.

Part of the answer is that many of them do not share the view that, in fact, he did fail. I heard an elderly person in Florida tell an interviewer that she thought Mr. Trump had done all he could about the virus. Yet those of us who read The Times and other mainstream media know that Mr. Trump rejected science-based recommendations. As a result we did worse than every other developed country.

Since the data don’t lie, my assumption is that those facts did not make an impression on Trump voters. Why? Because they get their news and views from sources — Fox and social media — that overwhelm them with “alternative facts.”

To make progress on the many fronts that need attention, this is a problem that must be overcome.

Stephen M. Davidson

To the Editor:

As I read the opinion pieces and letters to the editor since the election, it remains obvious to this New York Times reader that your journalists and many of your readers still don’t understand President Trump’s supporters. I accept that and expect that this mistaken and condescending view (we are all “deplorables”) will yield gains for the G.O.P. in 2022 and 2024.

Gerald Katz
Edwards, Colo.

To the Editor:

The most important takeaway for Democrats is that it’s time to get to know the voters in all of the states, and learn how to communicate in a way that does not frighten or insult them.

The Democrats may be capable of developing good policies, but they stink at communicating them. Carefully worded polling often shows that a majority agree with Democratic proposals to combat systemic racism, address income disparity and reform the health care reimbursement system. But when the masses hear “Defund the Police,” “Occupy Wall Street” and “Medicare for All,” they recoil.

As a liberal living in a small town in Michigan, I can attest that no amount of patient explanation of the actual policy proposals overcomes the impressions left by these sadly worded slogans.

The best thing Democrats could do is stick with their ideas and hire the Lincoln Project folks to sell them. The slick and glitzy slogans that appeal to parts of the coasts may be cool, but they don’t play in Peoria.

Mary K. O’Neill
Ypsilanti, Mich.

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