Hope for Unity During a Divisive Election Season

Public Agenda is in the middle of a move to Brooklyn, so no new content for the blog today. However, we wanted to take the opportunity to share some posts from the past that we hope will make you feel more optimistic about our country’s future during an unsettling election season.

We also invite you to help transform the civic discourse by participating in #TextTalk2016, an initiative to stimulate a more civil, informed and engaged conversation about the issues that matter.

Revitalizing Democracy, Community by Community 
At the level of national politics, the American democracy is in clear crisis. Rampant gridlock and partisan bickering undermine progress and earn the mistrust and frustration of the populace. Fortunately, a better story is unfolding in many local settings.

Less Divided than We Look
Certainly, there is some evidence in the Pew research of a hardening of positions among the ideologically minded, and we don’t deny that there are important disagreements among the American public. Still, this evidence does illustrate that common ground is not only attainable but, on many counts, already exists.

Participatory Budgeting’s Promise for Democracy
We have much to learn, but what we already know is that this approach to decision-making holds great promise for our democracy and for the civic health of our communities.

With Dialogue, People’s Opinions Can Change and Do Stick
Engaging in dialogue — which is more of a personal exchange rather than debate — with someone who has views and experiences different from your own causes both you and your conversation partner to examine perceptions and assumptions. It humanizes those different views and experiences and softens tightly-held or extreme opinions. Often, such experiences cause people’s opinions to shift more quickly than they would otherwise. And these opinion shifts tend to hold.

Fixing Politics by Strengthening Networks for Engagement
David Brooks is right that strengthening the web of community networks can help fix politics, at every level of government. There are practical ways to do this — this is a matter for policy, law, cross-sector collaboration, and long-term planning. We should be proactive, and think constructively, about how we want our democracy to work.

This post originally appeared on Public Agenda’s blog, On the Agenda.