The University of Southern Maine hosted U.S. Sen. Angus King, an Independant from Maine, on Nov. 13th for a wide-ranging, virtual conversation.
Rebecca Davis Gibbons, an assistant professor of Political Science, led the discussion that touched on topics from partisanship and the press to race, climate change and the Nov. 3rd election.
The Independent from Maine lamented the division in the country and said he is saddened by the intensity of dislike between Republicans and Democrats.
“We need to get to a place where we understand that really fundamentally we have so much more in common that we differences,” King said. “We have to get away from a place where we are demonizing, turning opponents into enemies.”
Part of the problem is the diversification of media and the increasing availability of content tailored to one’s own beliefs.
“We basically have developed into a society whose people are walking around in different realities with different perceptions of facts,” King said
It undermines people’s ability to address public policy, he said.
“If you can get the people around the table to agree on the facts of the situation, policy prescription is pretty easy. It becomes almost self-evident,” King said. “But if people don’t agree on the facts, it is practically impossible.”
King also talked about race and his decision to join protesters this summer in Washington.
“There was a symmetry to that for me because I had been at the March on Washington in 1963,” he said. “And it was one of the most meaningful experiences in my life. That was Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech. I was a 19-year-old in a tree at the Lincoln Memorial.”
He couldn’t resist joining protesters this summer in their response to the George Floyd killing.
“I walked up to the Capitol then down over the hill to Pennsylvania Avenue. It was meaningful and important.”
He has been asked if there is systemic racism.
“The answer is ‘yes,’” he said.