After a year’s worth of rhetoric-laden ads and political bickering, the presidential election is over, and everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. Well, some people anyway. The incumbent President George W. Bush beat Sen. John Kerry in a close race, and, in his victory speech, promised to heal the divides wrought by the election. But was it just the election year with its intense campaigning that has seemingly polarized the nation between the right and the left?
[hula]According to many critics, over the past four years the actions of Bush and his administration have divided the country both internally and with the rest of the world. Domestically, Bush’s policies regarding many social, environmental, and monetary issues have upset many, and the war in Iraq has been an ongoing problem in regards to the United States’ relations with foreign powers. Clearly not everyone in America opposes the president and his policies, but the fact remains that Bush is accused of being a divisive leader.
If you believe that a university presents a diverse sampling of the population, it is not surprising to find that the students and faculty of MSU have different viewpoints in regards to this accusation. Some students disregarded the claim that Bush is a divider, saying that it is unreasonable to expect that a president be able to please everyone. Philip Lator, an accounting junior, stressed this point.
“America has always been pretty divided down the middle as far as Democrats and Republicans go,” Lator said. “You’re never going to get everyone to agree with you 100 percent, there’s always going to be somebody upset.”
But other students say that it has not simply been the decisions Bush has made that have been divisive, but the way he has made and implemented his decisions as well, especially in regards to the war in Iraq.
“With respect to foreign policy, he’s kind of alienated other nations,” said Nick Abbruzzese, a mechanical engineering masters student. “His stance has been so strong, and he hasn’t really tried to work with other nations at all.” Bush’s seeming lack of desire to solicit support from other nations for his actions in Iraq also upset Andrea Stavoe, a biochemistry junior, who said it created larger gaps between the United States and the world.
“We all live in the same world, we all have to deal with the same issues, war is going to affect people everywhere,” she said. “It’s important to keep our old allies while gaining new ones.”
Such arguments, however, do not hold up well with Bush supporters, who cite the coalition formed to deal with the situation in Iraq.
“There are a lot of allies that are helping with the Iraq war,” said Lator. “It’s not us against the world, but people try to perceive it that way.”
Richard Hula, MSU professor and department chair of political science, said that social issues dealt with in Bush’s first term have played a large part in the polarization of the nation’s populace.
“Domestically, redistribution of welfare, gay rights, sexual rights, abortion, those are all hot button issues, and I think the administration has played to those instead of trying to see where you might find common ground,” Hula said.
In regards to international issues, Hula agreed Bush’s actions in Iraq and lack of solicitation of support from other nations has isolated the country from the world scene.
“There’s simply no question he’s divided us from the rest of the world,” he said. “It would be hard to maintain that the Bush presidency has created a united international community.”
To heal the divisions, Hula said it is important for Bush and his administration to reach out and try to appease those who disagree with administration policies. “He needs to be able to accommodate some difference of opinion.”
Over the next four years, the country may find itself straddling the fence like in the Clinton years, or still crowding at the far edges of political thought. Only time will tell if Bush’s second term will heal the rift forged by the election and certain policy decisions or if his promise to unite will fall short.

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