Is the Partisan Divide Too Big to Be Bridged? | The New York Times

The Project for Civic Health is one of many ongoing efforts in the nation to improve our public discourse and promote collaborative problem-solving. Recently, Jonathan Weisman, a reporter at The New York Times, published an article titled “Is the Partisan Divide Too Big to Be Bridged?” This article caught our eyes as it showcased the sentiment that drove our effort to build common ground in Washington state.

Weisman mentioned the “outrage industrial complex” — which includes politicians, cable news, and social media — as contributing to worsening our nation’s heightened divisions. It produces media content that specifically increases engagement by provoking anger or rage. The intent behind this ranges from generating more ad revenues to causing social disruption; meanwhile, the effects may negatively impact the actions or attitudes of those who view the content. It also exacerbates the political polarization that we have today, making it harder for anyone to reach principled compromises or find common ground when possible.

In his article, Weisman also highlighted a number of nationwide civic health-related organizations and movements that are working to counter the effects of the “outrage industrial complex.” Trust for Civic Life, for example, is providing financial awards to groups engaged in community-level democracy efforts, backed by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the MacArthur Foundation, the Emerson Collective, and others.

Some other organizations that were mentioned as part of the bridge-building effort include Rural-Urban Exchange (Kentucky), NewGround (Los Angeles), The Lyceum Movement (Midwest), BridgeUSA, and Braver Angels — with whom the Project for Civic Health has worked closely in the past.

Weisman did note that these efforts to promote democratic pluralism seem small and beyond reach when big actors such as cable news and social media push the wave in the opposite direction. As many subjects today have become increasingly divisive, if you don’t engage in genuine conversations with people holding different thoughts and opinions, one participant said, “that lets them [the ‘other side’] drive the narrative” — which Weisman stated as a recurring issue in the movement.

However, many individuals involved in the organizations mentioned previously find the effort worthwhile, even with all the challenges. Quoting another participant in the article, “Relationships are the root and the flower. They are the point at which social infrastructure creates infrastructure for anything to happen.”

Read Jonathan Weisman’s article in The New York Times.