Can President Biden’s call for unity be achieved? We ask Knox Co. GOP/Dem party leaders

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Stop the shouting and lower the temperature. That was the plea from President Joe Biden moments after taking the oath of office Wednesday.

“For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos,” he said.

Can Biden’s call for unity be achieved? If so, how? WATE 6 On Your Side’s Blake Stevens asked the chairs of the Knox County Republican and Democratic parties to find out.

Knox County Democratic Party Chair Matt Shears believes it’s possible with appropriate changes, including federal policy. He believes regulations should be considered regarding misinformation, particularly on social media. It’s been linked to some political extremism and violence throughout the U.S.

The second solution, he explained, is empathy and grace in our one-on-one interactions with others.

He said that includes: “looking at people you may be prone to think of as your enemy, working to make those people your friends, hearing those people, acknowledging their experiences, acknowledging where they come from, and working to unite each other,” he said. Shears also thinks we should engage in political conversation with family and neighbors, because avoiding the discussion, “makes us immediately just kind of demonize people that may think differently than us.”

Randy Pace, Knox County Republican Party Chair, believes unity will largely depend on how the administration governs.

“You serve the entire country, not just your base, not just the people that agree with you,” he said. He believes it will be important for the Biden Administration to find issues in which there is consensus among most Americans. “We have become polarized on the left and the right in some small measure. The majority of this country is not that polarized.”

Pace also believes recent executive actions that would undo work of the Trump Administration, including rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, further divides the country.

“I’m deeply concerned about going backwards. we’ve made tremendous strides over the past four years in some respects and I don’t want to see us go backwards. Our economy is important. It’s important to everyone,” he said.

Both Pace and Shears believe political divisions can be mended. In fact, despite being on opposite sides of many policy debates, the two have connected by phone.

“Just being able to know who Randy is,” Shears said, “to have his number in my phone, to having had conversations with him, I think, helps get the ball rolling.” Pace took their example of civility a step further by adding, “I’m more likely to have a conversation with Matt Shears than somebody in Washington. It all starts right here in our own backyard.”

It was exactly what Biden was referring to when he spoke about how we can begin to solve the challenges facing the public: “Let’s begin to listen to one another again, hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in it’s path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war.”

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