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Civic Ed
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"Your Thanksgiving table can talk politics and agree on something," write Howard Konar and Steve Kull.

Thanksgiving and civility, part 2: Four topics worth putting on the table

Konar is the founder of Common Ground Solutions, a nonprofit that seeks to increase civic engagement and improve political discourse. Kull is the president of Voice of the People, a nonprofit that's developing methods for citizens to crowd-source policy proposals with broad appeal.

It's a sign of our fractious age: Each Thanksgiving, as millions of families prepare for the holiday weekend together, we see numerous "how to" guides for navigating and avoiding political discussions. "Even the most innocent mention of politics or social issues could threaten to turn MawMaw's house into the thunder dome," wrote CNN.

No one wants a cable TV shouting match to ruin the holiday. But the idea that we are too hopelessly polarized to have a reasonable conversation about politics is wrong. In fact, on many of our toughest issues, like health care, immigration, taxes and political reform, large majorities of Americans share a remarkable amount of common ground.

Nonpartisan, in-depth surveys show that red and blue Americans routinely agree on many difficult issues — crossing party lines, defying conventional wisdom and finding more common ground than you might expect, and far more than you find in Congress.

Your Thanksgiving table can talk politics and agree on something. Here are four examples of policy areas on which majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents generally agree.

Health care. More than three in four Americans oppose letting insurance companies charge higher rates to people with pre‐existing conditions, or charging older people dramatically more than they do younger ones. Eighty-eight percent want to make it easier to get generic drugs on the market. Almost eight in 10 want to protect patients from surprise medical bills for services that are out of their health insurer's network.

Immigration. Almost seven in 10 Republicans and Democrats would allow undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to stay here for work or study, so long as they pass a background check. Also, 69 percent want more temporary work visas for industries like landscaping and hotels. Majorities of both parties favor deterring illegal immigration by requiring employers to verify employee immigration status using the E-verify system.

Budget and taxes. Majorities of Republicans and Democrats agree on spending cuts and revenue increases to reduce the deficit by $376 billion. They support new taxes on Wall Street, rolling back the recent tax cuts for people making more than $200,000 a year and increasing taxes on alcohol. They also agree on modest cuts to defense spending and on cutting subsidies to agricultural corporations.

Political reform. Almost eight in 10 Americans want to stop the revolving door by banning members of Congress from lobbying for five years after they retire. More than eight in 10 demand real-time transparency from corporations, unions and others on their campaign spending. Almost as many want to keep legal bans in place on political activity by churches and universities that receive tax-deductible donations. More than 70 percent want term limits for legislators, and three-quarters say it's time to give third-party candidates better opportunities to compete in elections.

In other words, pass the pie and keep talking — there's plenty for your red and blue relatives to agree on. Once you find areas of agreement, you're much more likely to have constructive discussions in areas where you don't agree.

Listening carefully to other points of view might even teach all of us something we didn't know before. That would be one more reason to give thanks.

We’re all about the issues that have broken American democracy — and efforts to make governments work again for you, your family and your friends.
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The House on Friday passed legislation to restore a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. The bill would require advance approval of voting changes in states with a history of discrimination. Here President Lyndon Johnson shares one of the pens he used to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Passage of historic voting rights law takes a partisan turn

In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.

The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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Big Picture

TV stations fight FCC over political ad disclosure

Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.

With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.

This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.

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1952 Eisenhower Answers America

On TV, political ads are regulated – but online, anything goes

Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.

With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.

Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.

Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.

I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.

Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.

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