Sometime very soon, even before he takes office as our 46th president, Joe Biden should announce that he will pardon Donald Trump for any crimes he may have committed in the 2016 election campaign or while he was president.
Biden’s peremptory action should be emulated by future presidents, maybe even becoming routine in the presidential transition process.
Biden should do so because we need to refocus our ultra-polarized country and our dysfunctional government on solving serious, pressing problems. We can’t waste any more time on politically motivated investigations that only divide us further. There is real work to be done.
Besides the widespread economic damage from the ongoing pandemic, we are facing massive federal, state and local budget deficits, unyielding demands for civil rights and social justice reform, unprecedented threats to the integrity of our elections, and historically disastrous wildfires and hurricanes suggesting the imminence of catastrophic climate change.
Instead of pointing fingers at each other, our government needs to address these and other critical issues.
It’s time to break the cycle of accusations, investigations and political grandstanding that have paralyzed the federal government for so long. We need to accept that, by allowing some wrongdoing to go unpunished, we can accomplish much righteousness instead. And righteous action, rather than retribution, should be our highest priority.
In 1974, Gerald Ford became president after Richard Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment from the Watergate scandal. Ford announced that America’s “long national nightmare” was over and pardoned Nixon for all offenses against the United States. Ford said he wanted to put the disruptive scandal behind us and avoid a long, drawn-out trial that would have further polarized the country.
Many believe Ford’s decision to pardon Nixon caused him to lose the 1976 presidential election. The same result is possible for Joe Biden and his party in 2024. But he should do it anyway.
Once Trump and his legacy are behind us, Biden can then address his biggest challenge and, hopefully, his greatest legacy: Reversing the political polarization and governmental paralysis that is killing us, literally and figuratively.
Biden should launch a bipartisan attack on one of the root causes of our deep political divide. He should lead both sides of the aisle in Congress to ban, restrain or oppressively regulate the psychologically manipulative algorithms and artificial intelligence used by social media, internet search engines and their advertisers that eventually radicalize us by consistent deliveries of singularly slanted “news.”
Ironically, the purpose of the practice is not politically nefarious. It arises from the profit-motivated desire to lure more and more online “clicks.” Regrettably, however, pursuing that commercial objective has the additional effect of subtly, but effectively, exaggerating and intensifying the slant of individuals’ political perspectives whenever we are online.
This is what has created a nation of uncompromising, misinformed ideologues who can no longer comprehend, much less tolerate, the contrary views held by the other end of the political spectrum. It has in turn led to drastic polarization of, and dissonance within, Congress and most state legislatures.
The psychological manipulation and socio-political re-engineering caused by online algorithms and AI has been reported by the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, among others, and was illustrated in “The Social Dilemma,” a Netflix docudrama. It’s real, and it’s really serious.
At this stage, political polarization is the gateway problem. If we can stop it, or at least control it, agreeing on compromise solutions to other national problems will become far more likely. Our divided country is a challenge to civil discourse, a source of ineffective and unresponsive government and a threat to democracy. We can’t wait to address it.
So say it’s so, Joe. Help us forget the recriminations of the past by pardoning Trump. Then help us regain our capacity for reasoned, independent thought by stopping the internet-induced polarization that is killing us, literally and figuratively.
It’s a tall order, but we can do it, together.
Lee Terry is CEO of The Middle Ground, a Denver-based nonprofit that promotes nonpartisan, compromise ideas to address national, state and local problems by posting videos on its website and YouTube channel.
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