880 In Depth: Can our democracy be healed?

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The battle over the presidential election is seeming to make the partisan divide deeper and wider, but two former local members of Congress have launched an effort to heal our democracy.

Democrat Steve Israel and Republican Susan Molinari, former members of Congress, say the state of the union is fragile.

"There's been a complete breakdown of people's faith in democratic norms," Israel said. "It's as if we are living on two planets — one is red, the other is blue and we're in kind of like this interstellar combat. It is an existential threat to the United States of America. We are not the United States, we're the divided states."

Israel and Molinari are starting the Campaign for The Future of Democracy at Cornell University to start the conversation to bridge the partisan divide.

"It's going to be hard, but if we don't start someplace then democracy is going to die in America," said Israel, the onetime Long Island Democratic Congressman who is now director of the nonpartisan Institute for Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell.

Israel says the Campaign for the Future of Democracy is a nonpartisan "partnership of Republicans and Democrats who want to rebuild Americans' resilience to the notion of democracy."

Israel and Molinari are serving as co-chairs of the campaign and believe there is reason for optimism.

Molinari says, "I think that you should get hope that we had record turnout" in the voting this year.

Molinari, a former Congresswoman from Staten Island and Brooklyn, said she believes that if in fact Joe Biden is sworn in as president in January, Americans can find hope in a Vice President Kamala Harris "our first female vice president who comes from mixed background that can give so many other people the ability to aspire to higher office".

Israel told WCBS 880's Peter Haskell that he's optimistic that "both parties will understand that they've got to find some common ground on the pandemic and the economy."

Israel says he's "really optimistic" about some kind of consensus on infrastructure, which will be a critical step to providing jobs and fuel growth in local economy's.

The students at Cornell also give Israel hope.

"They're not interested in bashing each other based on blue and red, they just want solutions," Israel said.

For more on our conversation on healing democracy, listen to this week's 880 In Depth podcast. Look for it wherever you get your podcasts.