Dear President-Elect Biden,
It was fitting, albeit chilling, to see you stand near Cemetery Ridge on the battlefield at Gettysburg recently to remind us of the potentially horrific costs of runaway American division. The serenity of the sunny pastoral scene behind you belied the blood-soaked history of the landscape, where 50,000 of our boys and men were cut down at the hands of their own brothers over three days of carnage in July, 1863. Such mêlées represent nations at their nadir, and today ring out as a harbinger of our future.
While there are countless opinions on the roots of our current discord and the remedies necessary for changing course, few survive the harsh light of systematic, empirical research. However, decades of investigation into how deeply divided societies like ours change course suggest that how leaders view and approach these entrenched problems — especially early on in their tenure — can make all the difference. Just as we need to leverage our best science to combat COVID-19, so should we apply it to combat toxic polarization — the other pandemic facing America today.