Any voter worried about the country’s future should Google the interview with H.R. McMaster last Sunday on “60 Minutes.”

The retired lieutenant general was President Trump's national security adviser in 2017-18 and speaks with great historical insight. What McMaster emphasized was the terrible vulnerability of the United States to hostile nations because of internal divisions fueled by partisan demonizing. The now-entrenched habit of blaming the other party for all ills, of spreading outrageous lies, and of dismissing bipartisanship as weakness has created a dysfunctional government.

But democracy depends on political diversity and the freedom to dissent, not a lock-step loyalty to one party or to an authoritarian strongman. As McMaster observed, China is exploiting its leverage on the U.S. economy to gain concessions that solidify its global strength. Russia is meddling in the U.S. election process (as it did unmistakably in 2016), spreading disinformation to further divide and demoralize this country.

Vladimir Putin is confident the incumbent will continue to sow hatred and confusion. Exhibit A: serious concerns about a pandemic were pushed aside and the coronavirus task force silenced to advance an economic agenda more helpful to reelection. Now the U.S. has more total COVID-19 deaths by far than any other country.

When political leaders vilify the opposing party using scare tactics and when compromise becomes a dirty word, the nation slides further toward self-destruction. Several months ago, just before the COVID outbreak in Europe, my wife and I visited Spain. I had been reading the book “Ghosts of Spain” by Giles Tremlett, which probes the enduring paranoia bred by the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39.

In the city of Almería, we toured underground bunkers created by local miners to protect citizens from Spanish artillery shells and bombs. In the 1930s, the right-wing dictator, Gen. Francisco Franco, ordered the Spanish military to attack left-leaning towns and cities where people resisted fascism. It seems unthinkable and yet it happened. That’s the subject of Picasso’s most famous painting, Guernica.

Could it happen here? Putin is counting on it.

McMaster implores us to put aside partisan hostilities to address huge problems that confront us all: a still-raging health crisis, a recession, an impending environmental nightmare and persisting racial injustice. National security depends on unity and civility.

J. GERALD KENNEDY

professor

Baton Rouge