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Introducing: 'Beyond Right and Left'

In the coming weeks, The Fulcrum will unveil a refresh of its website and daily newsletter for subscribers, including a new look, additional features and introducing new regular contributors and columnists writing on a variety of topics relating to democracy.

Today, The Fulcrum shares the inaugural column, Beyond Right and Left, from new regular contributors Mark Gerzon and Chris Gates. Chris Gates and Mark Gerzon are co-directors of Philanthropy Bridging Divides, a transpartisan conversation among America's philanthropic leaders:

We are pleased to introduce our 'Beyond Right and Left' column that will be published for the first time in the newly redesigned and reimaged Fulcrum newsletter in August. The Fulcrum's co-publishers, David Nevins and Debilyn Molineax, are long time friends and colleagues and we are excited to be working with them on this new effort. The diverse field of those working to renew and reinvent democratic practice in our nation needs a forum to share new ideas, have civil debates and find creative ways to move our country forward. We believe that The New Fulcrum can provide that space.

Our column, which will be published monthly for now, will bring a passionately transpartisan perspective to the conversation. We use the word 'transpartisan' with full intentionality here. We hope to talk about issues in a way that explicitly transcends the old way our country thinks and talks about the issues of democracy and divides. We don't intend to balance perspectives on the left with perspectives on the right, which is an often used frame for a 'bi-partisan' conversation. Instead we hope to bring a fresh point of view that explicitly calls into question the old, and in our minds outdated, political spectrum of 'Left-Center-Right'. While traditionalists can tie themselves into knots as they debate where they and their opponents stand on that divisive, one-dimensional map, our experience tells us that more and more people are rejecting that type of simplistic labeling. As former Senator Bill Bradely famously said, almost no one wakes up in the morning thinking about where their lives and points of view sit on that spectrum. Our experience bears that out.

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As a team, we bring decades of experience in thinking about and working to improve our democracy. Chris has led three different national organizations, the National Civic League, Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement and the Sunlight Foundation. He has advised many non-profits and foundations in the field of democracy reform and regularly speaks about democractic theory and philanthropic practice at conferences and universities around the country. As president of the Mediators Foundation, Mark has helped launch dozens of bridge-building initiatives. He has also written numerous books that have tracked the growing polarization in America, ranging from A House Divided: Six Belief Systems Struggling for America's Soul to The Reunited States: How We Can Bridge the Partisan Divide. We are also both in a post-partisan space, having previously been active in the world of politics but both having stepped away for reasons that we will explore in subsequent columns.

Currently we serve as co-directors of Philanthropy Bridging Divides, which provides confidential space for philanthropic leaders from a wide variety of perspectives to talk about how philanthropy works and how philanthropy can help our country bridge divides and find common ground. Now in its fourth year, these quiet, confidential conversations have led to new collaborations between very unlikely partners around issues like building civic empathy, strengthening economic opportunity and finding ways to reform and renew democratic practice in our country. We have also had a rich dialogue, at times a difficult one, about how the issue of bridging ideological divides relates to our current and urgent conversation about racial justice. Our goal is not to force agreement but to understand different perspectives and explore innovative ways to learn and work together.

This set of experiences, old and new, will be the grist for our mill as we write about the challenges facing our nation. We also hope this column will catalyze conversations within The Fulcrum community. We know there is much that we can learn from all of you and we hope that we can inspire you - and be inspired by you - to think about our work in a new light and from a fresh perspective.

Finding political commentary on the 'Left' or 'Right' is not hard these days. Everyone has a point of view, and increasingly those POVs are polarized. The more partisan they are, the more popular they often become.

This is why we are calling our column 'Beyond Right and Left'. We are not interested in adding to the acrimony or promoting more polarization. On the contrary, we intend to amplify multiple points of view, especially those that urge us to think outside the box of our current right/left frame. Our goal is not to preach, but to inquire; not to persuade, but to learn; not to divide, but to connect.

We will challenge ourselves, and our readers, to take democracy seriously, and take our national motto - e pluribus unum,"out of many, one" - to heart. We will share diverse perspectives, even some with which one or both of us disagree. We will quote people from across the traditional political spectrum. To fulfill our commitment to our readers and to our country, we will do our best to dig under the ideologies, brush aside the partisan hype and go beyond the hashtags.

Will you sometimes disagree with us? Absolutely. Will we occasionally make you angry? Probably. But will you leave each column feeling more deeply and thinking harder? We certainly hope so.

You can help us by reading what we write, and letting us know what you think. Even if voices in the public square are strident and the walls separating us are high, we are still fellow citizens. It is time for us to talk respectfully with each other and then listen to each other as if our lives depend on it. Ultimately, perhaps, they do.

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