In the shadow of the breaking news that bombs were delivered to high-profile Democrats and critics of President Trump, the USC Schwarzenegger Institute Wednesday held its first Bonnie Reiss Memorial Lecture on the subject of bridging the partisan divide. The panel discussing the political divide, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Obama political guru David Axelrod, and former Republican consultant to Schwarzenegger and John McCain Steve Schmidt, placed varying degrees of blame about the divide on the political system of choosing candidates, media talking heads, and most profoundly, President Trump.

Politico California Senior Writer Carla Marinucci moderated the panel.

Schwarzenegger noting the build-up of violence indicated by the mailed bombs and the shooting of Republican House member Steve Scalise at a baseball practice in 2017, argued that politics and political operatives were causing damage to the body politic. His remedy to relieving the problem was his on-going campaign to change redistricting laws around the country so that politicians cannot create safe districts and ignore their constituents.

Axelrod cited silos created by modern media opinion shows that allows views to be confirmed rather than informed, which in turn allows leaders to mine political differences for political purposes. Clearly, indicating President Trump without naming him, he said “you reap what you sow.”

California based political analyst and consultant Steve Schmidt was more blunt. He called the bombing attempts attempted assassinations and partisan acts of violence, which arose out of a cold civil war created by Trump’s governance style of being a tribal leader who was hostile to pluralism and liberty. He called Trump unfit to be president.

Picking up on Axelrod’s approach, Schmidt also attacked what he called the “multi-billion dollar angry industry” that has latched on to modern technology allowing the “nuts” to find each other and promote the current political chaos. Schmidt also endorsed Schwarzenegger’s remedy of redistricting reform in which politicians can currently choose their own voters. He claimed 75% of the American people would choose the middle path of compromise but that the legislators don’t respond to that approach. Schmidt said Ronald Reagan intended to embark on a similar crusade to fix redistricting post-presidency before he got sick.

Panelists agreed that there have been more dangerous and divisive times in our history with the obvious reference to the Civil War. Schwarzenegger told of coming to the United States in the 1960s at a time of three political assassinations, wild battles at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, the turbulence over the Vietnam War and Watergate. “This is not the worst time,” he said.

Schmidt said the mid-term election would offer voters a choice to back renewal or decline of American democracy. He said current leaders have not been good trustees of the inheritance passed on by each generation to preserve American democracy.

Axelrod added that because of our constitutional form of government, democracy moves slowly in reforming a divided country and change is happening fast.

The lecture honored Bonnie Reiss, a Schwarzenegger aide, California Secretary of Education, UC Regent and Global Director of the Institute who passed away in April. Schwarzenegger praised Reiss as a bridge builder who brought Democrats and Republicans together on many projects and that her influence on those she worked with and mentored would remain.