Skip to content
Search

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Looking to join a depolarization community? It starts with you.

Volunteers

"Our collective future as a nation is dependent upon you and other volunteer organizers," writes Molineaux.

Rawpixel/Getty Images

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

Last weekend I received an email from a supporter of our parent organization, the Bridge Alliance Education Fund. He pointed me to a subreddit talking about a lack of response from a depolarizing/bridging organization that had promised to connect him with a local group. The commenter was responding to a prompt, “Why are you a member of Braver Angels?”

Braver Angels says on its website: It is "a national initiative to depolarize our politics and remake our political culture from the ground up in a spirit of trust, citizenship, and good-will." They mean it. Their business model includes membership fees to pay for a very small, national staff. The rest is up to volunteers.

They are not alone in the work to bridge divides. There are literally hundreds of organizations with similar aims to help everyday Americans of all political stripes reach out and find common ground with their neighbors. You can find over 500 of them here. Some of my favorites are Living Room Conversations, American Values Coalition, BridgeUSA, Civic Genius and Essential Partners.

As I read through the complaint, I experienced a blinding flash of the obvious. There is a void of local leaders who are willing to risk their social capital by building an alternative to partisan organizing. In other words, there is a lot of interest in checking out alternatives that are about bridging and connecting, but a lot of reticence to be the one organizing it. There are widespread expectations that “somebody else” will be the organizer. This is true, no matter which organization you choose.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter


What a Gordian knot (or catch-22).

Just as there is a market for the bridging movement, there is also dissatisfaction amongst those seeking solutions because we don’t have enough people in local communities to lead. The bridging movement needs local leaders. Our nation needs YOU to lead.

All of the organizations listed above have small staffs, and an expanding knowledge of tool kits, guides and support (training and online hosted events) to help volunteer organizers succeed. We need to rethink what involvement looks and feels like. We are in an information war with threats of political violence. To win, we need an army of volunteers to be the local leaders who bridge our many divides. Division is too profitable and concentrates power for us to mount a campaign with paid staff.

Our collective future as a nation is dependent upon you and other volunteer organizers. It is these unpaid and unsung heroes who will lead us out of this mess. It’s not fair. But it’s what we have. As a nation, we are reliant upon the goodwill of people who are willing to take risks, engage across differences and model for us the nation we could become.

The easiest way to start something new in a local community is to make a pact with two friends to help you. Then every time you see each other, you have a purpose that is connected to healing the nation. Even if your group never gets bigger than the three of you, that’s three people who are working together to build a better future and avoiding the toxic partisan culture.

If you are ambitious, invite others to join in your activities. You likely know a lot of people in other groups and settings. Make it fun (game night!). Have serious conversations. Focus on common ground and liking each other. Have group agreements that transcend divisive rhetoric. Allow people to be triggered, apologize and come back together. Practice being in a community that you’d like to have in the broader world. In today’s time of uncertainty, we need each other. We are interdependent. We have to create our future for ourselves.

Will you step up and be the organizer for breaking through the toxic polarization? Who are your two friends? Because if not you, who? And if not now, when?

Read More

Thomas Main

"I think the roots of racism run deep in this country. This means that the potential audience for illiberal racialist movements is much deeper than the potential audience for anarchism and communism," said professor Thomas Main

Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation

Illiberal ideas are having a negative effect on our political culture

Berman is a distinguished fellow of practice at The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, co-editor of Vital City, and co-author of "Gradual: The Case for Incremental Change in a Radical Age." This is the first in a series of interviews titled "The Polarization Project."

In a 2022 speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, President Joe Biden issued a dramatic warning: Democracy in the United States is “under assault,” he announced. Biden declared that the dangers of rising extremism, particularly from “MAGA Republicans,” posed a “clear and present danger” to the country.

In making this claim, Biden was echoing the sentiments of countless pundits, think tanks, and editorial pages that have been warning of a “coming crisis.” According to Rachel Kleinfeld of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "Ideas that were once confined to fringe groups now appear in the mainstream media. White-supremacist ideas, militia fashion, and conspiracy theories spread via gaming websites, YouTube channels, and blogs, while a slippery language of memes, slang, and jokes blurs the line between posturing and provoking violence, normalizing radical ideologies and activities."

Keep ReadingShow less
People walking out of a polling station

Two people leave a polling station in London after voting in July 4.

Hugh R Hastings/Getty Images

Watching the U.K. election gives a feeling of electoral envy

Sheehan Zaino is a professor of political science and international studies at Iona University, Bloomberg political contributor and senior democracy fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress

Many Brits were perplexed when Rishi Sunak called for general elections, particularly given polls suggesting his party would lose. The results prove their concerns were valid.

As an American, I questioned the timing of the election as well, although for a very different reason.

Was the choice of a rare summer poll, on our Independence Day, meant to stick it to us? By choosing our nation’s birthday to go to the polls, perhaps the Brits were trying to rub our nose in the fact that for all our Framers got right (and there’s a lot!), there are a few areas where they faltered, primary among them our electoral process.

Keep ReadingShow less
People seated ina  large room

Attendees at the Braver Angels convention watch the presidential debate.

Jeff Sevier

Building civic hope through Braver Angels

Boyte is co-founder and senior scholar of public work philosophy at the Institute for Public Life and Work.

Last month’s Braver Angels convention in Kenosha, Wis., began with perhaps the largest debate watch party in the nation. Around 700 delegates observed the exchanges between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on a giant screen in the chapel of Carthage College on the shore of Lake Michigan. Equal numbers of Republicans wearing red lanyards and Democrats wearing blue ones, roughly 300 of each, with 170 independents and “others” identified by yellow and white, mingled together.

To emphasize the BA mission of bridging America’s toxic polarization, the site for the convention was chosen because Kenosha is midway between Milwaukee, host of the Republican convention, and Chicago, where the Democratic convention will take place.

Keep ReadingShow less
Meat case at the grocery store
Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu via Getty Images

Soaring grocery prices are not acts of God

Hill was policy director for the Center for Humane Technology, co-founder of FairVote and political reform director at New America. You can reach him on X @StevenHill1776.

Since the pandemic, going to the grocery store has become a jarring experience. On a recent visit, I packed my purchased items into my tote bag and then gawked at the receipt in disbelief.

I’m not alone. Griping about the high cost of groceries has become a national pastime. It’s not just a figment of our imaginations: Grocery prices have soared nearly 27 percent since 2020, higher than overall inflation.

Keep ReadingShow less