In just over a year, we will find ourselves living in a post-Bush era.
A post-Bush era – the phrase practically comes with a built-in sigh of relief and a promise for long-awaited change. We will soon see, though, how much change America is actually ready to handle.
The next president will have to face many important issues that currently hang in the balance. America can make progress in countering global warming or continue to treat it as a less-than-serious problem.
Women can enjoy the freedom of Roe v. Wade or find their reproductive rights severely limited. We may see many of our peers being sent off to Iraq, or we may be lucky enough to welcome them home.
In addition to possibly enacting different policy, we may find a president who even looks different than those of the past. With a white woman and a black man in the race, America finally has the chance to diversify its history of middle-aged, white, male politicians.
Of course, these differences inevitably raise questions: Is America ready for a president that is a woman or a black man? In an age of war and terrorism, can America deal with such a drastic break in tradition?
My answer to that question is that it’s actually the wrong question to ask. With partisan politics playing more and more of a role, the issue isn’t if America is ready for a physically different president, but rather is it ready for an ideologically different one?
During the past eight years, we have witnessed a new and dangerous level of partisanship. Instead of uniting people to promote a common agenda, politics have become a divisive tool to advance an agenda for only a few. Everything has been politicized, including science, religion, even our own bodies, and we’ve become more politically intolerant in the process.
Even in Ann Arbor, where we trumpet the value of constructive dialogue, how many times can we honestly say we have engaged in a respectful debate with people of different viewpoints? How often do we seek out news from sources offering different perspectives? The party line has turned into a party wall, restricting the flow of ideas while we sequester ourselves on our own respective sides.
However, I’ve managed to find some hope for moving past partisanship. Strangely enough for a blue-state liberal, I found my hope in the Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani, while far from perfect, stands for a sort of ideological break in how politics today are conducted. Instead of pandering to the standard Republican agenda, he has reaffirmed his support for gay rights, abortion rights and gun control, even though it may cost him considerable conservative support. Giuliani offers the possibility of compromise and respect for other viewpoints, an essential quality in any leader.
Similarly, I respect Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) for retaining his pro-war stance despite caucusing with the increasingly anti-war Democrats. Likewise, Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) support for immigrant rights is a courageous break from his party line.
Regardless of whether I agree with them, it’s refreshing to see politicians who do not strictly pander to their party just to make sure they get elected.
To overcome the bitterness of the last eight years, we need a candidate willing to respect viewpoints from across the aisle, one who will work toward bipartisan compromise.
Similarly, citizens must also start thinking independently and engaging in respectful dialogue with people of different views in order to break through the partisan divide.
With an article in The New York Times last Thursday proclaiming Giuliani ahead of his opponents in the polls and the Senate’s recent agreement on a new bipartisan immigration bill, maybe we won’t even have to wait for a post-Bush era to begin a new era of compromise.
Rachel Wagner can be reached at email@example.com.