Point of View: Murkowski could hold key to unifying America

A lot rides on the outcome of the Georgia U.S. Senate run-off elections, but some things will be the same no matter who wins. Whether the next Senate Majority Leader is Mitch McConnell or Chuck Schumer, the partisan divide in this country will deepen and the never-ending election campaign will grind on. At what point do Americans start shooting each other, motivated by a perception of patriotism?

There is another option.

For the first time in years, I see elected leaders who have the potential to reverse our self-destructive course and start to bring this country back together. There are three of them, and one is our own Sen. Lisa Murkowski. And they could do it using an Alaska model. Both houses of the Alaska State Legislature have, on numerous occasions, done something that neither house of Congress has ever tried: a bi-partisan coalition with a moderate leader. Senators Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Susan Collins (R-Maine), and perhaps other Republicans, could join with Senate Democrats to elect a new majority leader who would be either one of those three or a moderate Democrat. Whoever has the best skills in leadership, diplomacy and out-of-the-box problem solving should be chosen. And they could get to work solving America’s most urgent and most serious problems.

The strangest thing about the current partisan divide is that it is not about one over-riding issue that cannot be compromised, such as slavery or the Vietnam War. Except abortion, all of America’s problems can be effectively addressed if leaders would deal with them in the spirit of problem-solving and flexibility. What divides Americans is not issues but a small number of people in politics, in the media, and in the Internet, who work very hard to divide us. They won’t go away, but we can reduce their influence if we have leaders who will work together and who agree on objective facts.

It would take tremendous courage for any senator to join such a coalition. Presuming the Democrats do not achieve a majority by capturing both seats in Georgia, it would take a great deal more courage on the part of any Republicans who would dare to leave a Republican majority. But a Republican majority in the Senate cannot achieve anything but obstruction and continuation of the perpetual campaign.

And the beauty of this idea is that all three of these key senators could, for reasons particular to their own states, win re-election.

Here in Alaska, the big surprise in the recent election was the passage of the initiative Ballot Measure 2 (ranked choice voting/instant runoff), despite opposition from the Republican Party and high profile Democrats, and despite its length and complexity. Its passage proves that the majority of Alaskans are tired of excessive partisanship. And it will give Alaskans the opportunity to choose moderate leaders, instead of being forced to choose only between the candidates chosen by the political parties. In addition to bi-partisan coalitions, ranked choice voting/instant run-off elections is another way that Alaska (along with Maine) could prove to be a model for the nation.

Pamela Brodie and her husband Larry Smith design and build timber frame buildings in Homer; she also makes stained glass windows and mosaics.