Skip to content

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Quality relationships strengthen democracy

Molineaux is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and president/CEO of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.

This is the third and final editorial in a series about bridging divides and thwarting authoritarianism. Read part 1 and part 2.

The quality of our relationships is one measure of our national strength and our country’s well-being. “A house divided against itself can not stand,” as Abraham Lincoln once noted. Authoritarians have noted this, too. Hence their efforts to spew lies and conspiracy theories designed to weaken our nation.

My ongoing (and rhetorical) questions about our ability to strengthen democracy and bridge our divides include:

  • Given how smart we are, why do we allow ourselves to be divided?
  • What is so damn important about our political identities that we splinter ourselves into warring camps and suffer alone or in grievance groups?
  • How might we use our skills as mediators, coaches, conflict specialists and bridgers to remind us and those around us that politics is only one part of who we are?
  • We have common human needs and common goals, which we seem to forget. How can we remember better?
  • Who are we really? Who must we become?
  • How do we discredit the conflict profiteers and minimize their damage?

Systemically, we need scholars of authoritarianism to lead the way. As human beings sharing a community, we need people to have the skills of bridging and conflict resolution to self-govern in a healthy way, once we have chosen our democratic republic and/or improved upon it.

A September article about a psychologist highlights the importance of high-quality relationships and supports the underlying hypothesis of the bridging divides work for self-governance:

“A high-quality relationship is one in which we have an ongoing sense that our partner has our back,” says Alexandra Solomon, a licensed clinical psychologist, author and host of the Reimagining Love podcast.

Solomon adds other factors that can come into play, such as a sense of trust and commitment. “Commitment is essential,” Solomon notes. “That sense that you were here yesterday, you’re here today, you’re going to be here tomorrow. That sense of continuity helps us relax and makes it safe enough to be vulnerable.”

We have all experienced trauma, from family dynamics to the education system to the pandemic and more. When we lose relationships over politics, that is an additional trauma. Now we have an entire body politic that is traumatized while we are experiencing massive change due to multiple crises.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

We need each other more than ever before. Yet societally, we are experiencing an epidemic of loneliness. When an authoritarian group recruits, it offers a community and the vulnerable among us the opportunity to decide it’s a better option.

Can we imagine what it’s like for someone to have our back? To have confidence that our fellow Americans and people different from ourselves are committed to our happiness and well-being? Of course, we need to provide that for others, too.

We need to have each other’s back in society – that’s liberty and justice for all, as we used to pledge in school.

Our multiple crises feel urgent. Many of us already know what is needed. It is time to be bold. It is time to turn ideas into action. Let us act now; to nurture and prioritize high-quality relationships with people who are different from ourselves. Denounce political violence and take pledges to accept election results. Advancing the American experiment is the work of our lifetimes. And if we succeed, we will rededicate to one another (via bridging divides) and to our democratic republic (via non-violent, pro-democracy acts).

Let’s stop studying the problem and start the work. That’s the essence of the bridging divides and pro-democracy work for everyday people.

Read More

Caped person standing on a mountain top
RyanKing999/Getty Images

It takes a team

Molineaux is the lead catalyst for American Future, a research project that discovers what Americans prefer for their personal future lives. The research informs community planners with grassroots community preferences. Previously, Molineaux was the president/CEO of The Bridge Alliance.

We love heroic leaders. We admire heroes and trust them to tackle our big problems. In a way, we like the heroes to take care of those problems for us, relieving us of our citizen responsibilities. But what happens when our leaders fail us? How do we replace a heroic leader who has become bloated with ego? Or incompetent?

Heroic leaders are good for certain times and specific challenges, like uniting people against a common enemy. We find their charisma and inspiration compelling. They help us find our courage to tackle things together. We become a team, supporting the hero’s vision.

Keep ReadingShow less
Isaac Cramer
Issue One

Meet the Faces of Democracy: Isaac Cramer

Minkin is a research associate at Issue One. Van Voorhis is a research intern at Issue One.

More than 10,000 officials across the country run U.S. elections. This interview is part of a series highlighting the election heroes who are the faces of democracy.

South Carolinian Isaac Cramer developed a passion for politics and elections at a young age, witnessing his mother cast her first vote after achieving her long-standing dream of American citizenship. He joined the Charleston County Board of Voter Registration and Elections in 2014 and began serving as its executive director in March 2021. He oversees election administration for more than 300,000 registered voters in South Carolina’s third most populous county. Charleston spans along the state’s southern coast and shares a name with the largest city in the state, where Cramer resides.

Cramer, who is not affiliated with any political party, has received prestigious honors for his extensive efforts to reform election administration and ensure elections are fair and secure. He earned a Clearinghouse Award from the Election Assistance Commission in 2022 and the J. Mitchell Graham Memorial Award from the South Carolina Association of Counties in 2023. He is also a two-time recipient of the state’s Carolina’s Excellence in Elections award. Earlier this summer, he was appointed president of the South Carolina Association of Registration and Election Officials.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

Keep ReadingShow less
Secret Service agents covering Trump

Secret service agents cover former President Donald Trump after he was wounded in an assassination attempt July 13.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Violence lives in all of us

Molineaux is the lead catalyst for American Future, a research project that discovers what Americans prefer for their personal future lives. The research informs community planners with grassroots community preferences. Previously, Molineaux was the president/CEO of The Bridge Alliance.

Whenever we or our loved ones are harmed, it is our human tendency to seek vengeance. Violence begets violence. Violent words lead to violent actions, as we’ve witnessed in the assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump.

The violence of the gunman is his alone.

Our response to violence is about us.

Keep ReadingShow less
Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Don Bacon

Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Rep. Don Bacon won the "Life in Congress" award from the Congressional Management Foundation.

The best bosses in an unusual work environment: Capitol Hill

Fitch is the president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation and a former congressional staffer.

Our nation’s capital is known for many things — but good management practices are not among them. Stories regularly surface of bizarre tales of harassment and abuse by members of Congress. An Instagram feed a few years ago unearthed dozens of stories by staff outing less-than-desirable managers and members for their bad practices. But what about the good leaders and good managers?

Like any profession, Congress actually has quite a few exemplary office leaders. And the beneficiaries of these role models are not just their staff — it’s also their constituents. When a congressional office can retain great talent, sometimes over decades, the quality of the final legislative product or constituent service rises immensely.

Keep ReadingShow less
Rep. Gus Bilirakis and Rep. Ayanna Pressley

Rep. Gus Bilirakis and Rep. Ayanna Pressley won the Congressional Management Foundation's Democracy Award for Constituent Accountability and Accessibility.

Official portraits

Some leaders don’t want to be held accountable. These two expect it.

Fitch is president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation and a former congressional staffer.

There is probably no more important concept in the compact between elected officials and those who elect them than accountability. One of the founding principles of American democracy is that members of Congress are ultimately accountable to their constituents, both politically and morally. Most members of Congress get this, but how they demonstrate and implement that concept varies. The two winners of the Congressional Management Foundation’s Democracy Award for Constituent Accountability and Accessibility clearly understand and excel at this concept.

Keep ReadingShow less