During a recent morning run, as I jogged past lawn signs supporting President Obama or touting his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, it occurred to me that my neighborhood is as divided as the rest of the nation. The sheer number of these signs on every street showed me that in the 30 years since I immigrated to the United States, no election was as polarizing and aggressive as this one has been.
Our current political divisiveness in the U.S. is comparable to similar standoffs in Mexico and Venezuela, two countries that recently held elections which I covered for Univision. While in Mexico in July, I witnessed the deep split between supporters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s candidate and eventual victor, Enrique Pena Nieto, and those who fully rejected him. In Venezuela earlier this year, voters were faced with a stark choice: They were either for President Hugo Chavez or against him; there was no room for debate. Chavez was re-elected in early October.
Deep political and ideological divisions in all three countries have made compromise and progress more difficult, and more unlikely. Indeed, these days Americans seem to be living in the Disunited States, and whoever is elected next week will face the task of trying to lead a constituency that is hopelessly at odds. With members of Congress deeply loyal to their respective parties and ready to stand their ideological ground no matter what, I don’t see how Obama or Romney can convince legislators to come together to deal with the urgent issues facing our nation, such as the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
It’s no secret that I am concerned about securing a path to citizenship and thus a future for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. It’s incredible that the most powerful country in the world treats its most vulnerable residents so terribly, forcing them to live in the shadows. It’s time for us to fix this problem, but whether Obama or Romney wins the presidency, neither can tackle it on his own. He will need bipartisan support for immigration reform, but for now that seems impossible.
After all, the American president is not a superhero. Consider the challenges the newly elected president will face as he tries to address the nation’s economic concerns, a problem that ought to bring the parties together. There are 23 million unemployed Americans looking for work. Creating jobs would require bipartisan cooperation, the formation of political alliances and long, patient negotiations, but none of these elements is abundant in Washington at this time. Meanwhile, the federal government continues to spend much more than it collects in taxes, and our political parties cannot agree on a solution for bringing down the deficit. Our children may have to pay back our staggering debt someday.
Both parties are also averse to changing gun laws, though doing so would prevent senseless massacres. The victims of the mass shooting in Colorado earlier this year, as well as the victims of so many other gun-related tragedies that have long faded from the front pages, deserve better. Still, neither Obama nor Romney dares to publicly support an assault weapons ban _ the parties will never come together on this issue. This is one of the great American taboos, and it’s a lesson we have yet to learn.
Just like there are lessons we have yet to learn from the war in Iraq. Launching a military conflict for the wrong reasons was a mistake that cost the lives of 4,486 American soldiers and more than 105,000 Iraqis. Yet as international attention becomes more focused on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, media commentators often mention war. Yes, we must ensure that Iran doesn’t build a nuclear bomb; the future of Israel and the stability of the region depend on that. But we must first exhaust every diplomatic option and establish a bipartisan game plan within Congress, presenting a united front to Iran’s leadership. But given the political climate this, again, might be wishful thinking.
The U.S. has reached a pivotal point in its history. In order for our country to remain a superpower, a beacon of hope and the anchor of the global economy, as both Democrats and Republicans hope it will, it is urgent that we solve our problems involving employment, immigration, the deficit, arms possession and war. However, none of the solutions will be easy, and whoever wins on Nov. 6 will need support from his opponents in order to move the country forward.
From the declaration of independence from England to our response to the devastation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the source of this nation’s leadership has always been Americans’ unity in the face of adversity. But this fiercely contentious presidential race shows that we are far from being united _ for evidence, just walk around your neighborhood or turn on your TV. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the winner of next week’s presidential election is that of bringing us back together.
By Jorge Ramos Avalos.
(November 02, 2012)