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Millennial Action Project

Steven Olikara founded the Millennial Action Project in 2013 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Meet the reformer: Steven Olikara, cultivator of young and centrist leaders

Seven years ago Steven Olikara founded the Millennial Action Project to incubate a younger generation of diverse, technologically savvy and pragmatic leaders committed to bipartisan collaboration. The spark was a meeting two years earlier of college students awarded Truman Scholarships for public service — including Olikara, then at the University of Wisconsin. Before MAP, Olikara did a stint at the World Bank and advised the philanthropies of musicians Usher and Akon. He was on the 2017 Forbes list of the 30 most important policy and legal figures younger than 30. His answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What's the tweet-length description of your organization?

The largest nonpartisan organization activating young lawmakers to bridge the political divide and strengthen U.S. democracy.

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Courtesy: Chuck Nacke

"When we get lost in the rhetoric of polarization, we forget that we're all on the same team," argue the authors.

Common ground in politics is possible. It just needs coverage.

Bond and Olsen are co-founders of Common Ground Committee, a nonpartisan organization that seeks to promote productive public discourse.

Turn on any cable news channel and you'll likely hear talk about the divisiveness of our politics, and there are numbers to back that up. Only 38 percent of Americans say the United States is heading in the right direction, and an annual poll tracking discourse shows 93 percent say America has a civility problem. As discouraging as these numbers seem, the tide may be turning.

A recent poll from Georgetown University found that 85 percent of voters want finding common ground to be a main goal of politicians. A survey from Hidden Tribes of America found that 77 percent of Americans believe that the differences between us are not so big that they cannot be bridged.

As the co-founders of Common Ground Committee, we've repeatedly seen this shift first-hand. Whether it's at one of our forums with political leaders or in conversations with family, friends and colleagues, we've found that people actually agree on more than they realize. They just have to engage in the conversation. What's more, people will often share experiences of seeking and finding common ground with those who hold different political beliefs.

Unfortunately, we rarely get the chance to witness agreement between political leaders from different parties. The media portrays politicians as constant adversaries rather than collaborators. This representation has consequences: Research suggests that negative feelings toward the opposite party's leadership are much stronger than those directed at individuals.

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Open Government
Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's team has either ignored, manipulated or subverted the requirements for analysis and participation on numerous policy actions that range from addressing climate change to the division of waiters' tips, writes Shapiro.

The White House is upending decades of protocol for policy-making

Shapiro is a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University.The Conversation

Whether it's overhauling asylum procedures, adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census, or rolling back fuel standards, a pattern has emerged when the Trump administration changes policies and creates new ones.

An announcement is made, media attention follows, the policy is formally proposed and finalized – generating more news coverage along the way. In many cases, judges suspend the new policy as lawsuits work their way through the system. Unusually, the Supreme Court often ends up determining whether the new policy can go into effect.

All presidents since the 1960s have embraced a process known as policy analysis that requires careful consideration and deliberation at every step of the way. In most cases, the public also gets to weigh in before a final decision is made. Based on my research about regulatory decision-making, I've observed a sea change in how Trump's team is dealing with public policy compared to previous administrations.

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