Hernandez addresses polarization at the Mackinac Policy Conference

June 2, 2022

At the 2022 Mackinac Policy Conference, Morela Hernandez, Ligia Ramirez de Reynolds Collegiate Professor of Public Policy and faculty director of the Ford School’s Leadership Initiative, addressed the polarization that seems to be permeating every corner of American society. In a session. Divided We Fall: Confronting the Perils of Polarization,  she joined Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and Van Jones, CNN host and founder of Dreams Corps, in a look at how to build bridges in politics and beyond. 

Hernandez, quoted by the Detroit Chamber, suggested building humility with others, including “fostering and strengthening desires to make things better” and suggested it’s easier to do so in the “controlled environment” of a private corporation.

“When we think about ambivalence, challenge people to think more deeply, and it is uncomfortable to do so. But ambivalence sharpens our understanding of the issues,” she said. “So, it’s not a bad thing to hold that psychological discomfort, for even a little bit, [in order] to understand what you actually stand for.”

Tweet from @RepSlotkin: "There’s no denying that our politics have become more polarized, with decency and civility in short supply. So this morning, I sat down with  @VanJones  &  @UMich  Prof. Morela Hernandez for a panel to talk about how we can counter division with facts and empathy."

Slotkin referred to her work with the bi-partisan Problem Solvers Caucus in Congress, and admonished, “We have to remember that we’re all human beings before we can have that political conversation.”

Jones advised, “Change is hard, even change that you worked for and pray for. When it gets here, it’s hard. The country is choking on change [and]…we will be strangers to each other, and we will divide each other, if we don’t recognize the people on ‘the other side of the aisle’ are also scared too.”

The discussion was moderated by Wendy Lewis Jackson, Managing Director of The Kresge Foundation, which sponsored the session.