Capitol

McCarthy’s Win is Like Making Sausage

As the 118th congress began, Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected House speaker in an after-midnight 15th ballot, navigating a week of tension and roadblocks within his own ranks. The news coverage of the drawn-out and, in some moments, the angry process highlighted the concessions forced upon McCarthy to gain support from his own party to win the Speakership. It raised questions about whether minority factions have too much power- and put a spotlight on the way the U.S. system works. Not only was it the subject of ridicule in some corners of the world but even some Americans were questioning whether our system works at all.

While we agree it was a difficult process, we disagree with the view expressed by so many who said that it demonstrated our government is dysfunctional. We believe it was a clear indicator that our government works as intended. The Founding Fathers designed the American government to reflect the broad interests and perspectives of US citizens. Our current government is narrowly divided, demonstrating what we believe is a more closely aligned public opinion than is commonly believed. At the same time, each party has vocal ideological factions that often dominate public discourse and the attention of the press. The narrowness of the majority means that some concessions needed to be made to bring the faction along with the majority.

Negotiation and compromise have always been a hallmark of our government. The importance of this process leads to opportunities to build a policy that takes into consideration the interests of differing ideologies, of a broader view. At the same time, it lessens the probability of extreme views becoming law.

But there is another, in our view, positive outcome from the Speaker election that we believe is now more likely – more bipartisanship. In a narrowly divided Congress where both parties have strong ideological and vocal factions, getting something done will require the pragmatists in both parties to work together rather than depend on their parties to deliver the votes. Some of the concessions Speaker McCarthy made – such as enabling floor debate on some bill amendments – could make it easier for representatives to find bipartisan support for bills they introduce.

There are those who make headlines in Congress for their caustic rhetoric or extreme views, and there are those who accomplish change by working together with colleagues across the aisle to pass legislation.

Much has changed in recent years that bears this out. Since the question of abortion has been remanded to the states, several very red states have had referenda that may have put limits on abortion rights – but did not eliminate them. By contrast, election laws passed in the wake of the 2020 presidential election and characterized as “Jim Crow 2.0” led to higher voter turnout in the 2022 election than in prior mid-term elections and the election of a Democratic senator in otherwise strongly red Georgia. That gave a majority to the Democrats in the Senate while Republicans took control of the house.

Does this show that we have a dysfunctional government? No. It shows our system works. You have to make concessions, and you need to cut deals with those you disagree with, and you can do that without compromising your fundamental principles. In fact, when bipartisanship happens you can get a better policy because broader interests make their way into the bill and the legislation is more likely to be long-lasting. That’s what the Founding Fathers wanted. As long as we have that kind of dynamic going, you’re not going to have too much power in the hands of too few. The way sausage is made can look ugly, but it follows a recipe, and….in the end, the sausage tastes pretty good.

the state of democracy event

Panel of Political Veterans: Midterm 2022 Democracy?

What did the election tell us about the nation’s polarization problem? And what do the results say about the current state of our democracy?  

The people have spoken, and they are tired of the partisan fighting, agree James Carville and Reince Priebus. That was the takeaway shared by both panelists—political icon, Carville and former Republican National Committee Chairman Priebus—in a forum moderated by Bob Shrum, Director of the Dornsife Center at the University of Southern California.  

“The American people have glazed over the vitriol,” Priebus said, and they decided not to blame senators, representatives, and governors on the ballot for the partisanship and rhetoric of the party leaders.  

It’s always democracy in action on election day, Carville commented, whether the message delivered is a move toward centrism or a reaction against the status quo. “The people weighed in, they ran the show, and the politicians have to pay attention,” he said. “Maybe I’m an optimist. But I see a change in behavior, and I see it coming from the public.” 

Election reform, a point of contention, seems to be one of the things the majority of the public has decided to come together on. “There are already states that do mail-in ballots, and do it right,” said Priebus. “It’s time for Republicans to stop complaining about mail-in ballots and accept that it’s election month, not election day. We need to look at the states who do it right, and copy them.” 

Some of the strongest vitriol still surges through social media, and to some extent, the divisiveness in the mainstream media. There isn’t profit to be made in unity, the panelists agreed. There’s money in riling people up and agitating the click-bait culture of division that appeals to the basest instincts displayed on Tik Tok. “Eighty percent of people use the media like a drunk uses a lamppost,” Carville said. “For support, not illumination.” 

However, the degree to which this is or isn’t reflected in the media—and the usefulness of arguing over media bias—is less important than it used to be. Mainstream media doesn’t have the power it used to, Carville suggested, because the whole dynamic of media consumption has changed. Guests who appear on the major media outlets align with their views, and the viewing public knows that. “When people go on shows, they have three talking points, and they tend to agree with their host. People see through that. They want to see something real.” 

This time, in fact, there was no unrest and almost all the election results were accepted – even by those who lost. 

When it comes to putting aside partisanship to get things done, there’s cause for optimism, they agreed. There are several markers of progress that required bipartisan support. For instance, infrastructure and marriage equality, Carville suggested; Priebus pointed to the disclosure of secret money in politics, and the current agreement toward China. “For the most part, Republicans agree on our new hawkish view of China, and for the most part, Democrats agree,” he said. 

And both panelists agreed on the importance of supporting the next generation of candidates — a wealth of talent and energy just sitting in wait on the bench. Youth is also the primary source of optimism for both panelists. Take, for example, the student groups from both Texas A&M and USC that were engaged spectators of the panel event.  

“I think of all the schools with students watching events like tonight’s panel, all over the country,” said Carville. “And I just want to tell you all, this is a fun business – don’t believe that it’s a God-awful business and not a place for nice people. Pitch in and get involved, and we’ll all be ok!”  

common ground logo

Our Story: Bringing light, not heat, to public discourse.

The truth is, most of us want common-ground solutions.

Two-thirds of Americans are fed up with the partisan gamesmanship that has resulted in a dysfunctional government. Because stories of political battles draw more readers than stories of political compromise, we tend to think everyone wants their side to “win” at any cost.

But that just isn’t true.

In fact, two-thirds of Americans – regardless of ideology – want to see their allies listen to the other side and compromise to achieve solutions in which we all win, not just the political majority.

In other words, Americans want solutions that create common ground.

Our mission

CGC inspires and motivates the public to find common ground and reduce incivility and polarization for a stronger nation. We do this by demonstrating how influential people of opposing views can unexpectedly find agreement without compromising core values. We provide innovative content and tools that empower individuals and consequently, their political leaders to do the same.

How it all started

Often, our friendships change and evolve as we grow, attend college, switch jobs, and move to new communities. But some friendships persist. Such is the case with Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen, childhood friends who grew tighter during their school years and remained close as they built families and careers.

While they pursued divergent careers (Erik in financial services and Bruce in information technology), they would often spend time discussing a shared concern: the state of politics in America. When their families vacationed together in August 2009, they decided to translate those concerns into action. They believed there had been a significant shift in tone in the country, particularly since President Barack Obama’s election the prior year, and they wanted to do something about it.

That was the beginning of the Common Ground Committee.

The purpose was simple: To find opportunities to advance policies for the good of the nation by building on a foundation accepted, if not promoted, by both Republicans and Democrats.

In their spare time, Bruce and Erik set up a board of directors and began planning their first event, which would be held in February 2010 and feature Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) in a talk titled, “Finding Common Ground on the Government’s Role in the Nation’s Economy.” That event served as a springboard for growth, partnership, and change.

The Common Ground Committee began as purely an event-driven nonprofit for its first years, usually convening one or two events per year. Speakers have included a pair of former secretaries of state (Condoleezza Rice and John Kerry), former members of Congress, retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, national media figures, and advisors to presidents. In every case, the guests worked to advance the mission by finding common ground on key policy issues, including foreign relations, the racial divide, taxes, and much more.

Early on in the process, the Common Ground Committee developed a key partnership with the Christian Science Monitor and its Editor John Yemma. Now retired as editor but still an influential columnist, John has been an outstanding event moderator and the Monitor, who continues to provide moderators for CGC events, remains an important ally in the search for common ground.

What we’re doing now

Having established the Common Ground Committee as an influential player in the growing movement to reduce polarization and improve the American political system, Bruce and Erik raised enough financial support to devote themselves full-time to the mission by 2018.

And with the new funding came new people and new initiatives. The Common Ground Committee has expanded its staff and now produces a podcast and the influential Common Ground Scorecard, a unique tool to help voters determine which candidates for national office truly want to work across the aisle for the betterment of the nation.

Our vision

We envision a nation no longer encumbered by the anger and polarization that prevents us from moving forward on issues that matter.

How do we find common ground?

The Common Ground Committee has three goals:

  1. Give hope and inspiration that we, as a nation, can work together to make progress on important issues. Those events and podcasts double as opportunities to not only study the issues but also to look for common ground and to demonstrate that, yes, it’s possible to work across partisan lines on behalf of our fellow Americans.
  2. Educate people on the issues. This is where we started and remains the core of what we do – bringing together, in person (through live events) and virtually (with podcasts) to learn how we can advance critical issues such as the economy, gun violence, health care, and more.
  3. Help citizens hold elected officials accountable. The next step in the Common Ground Committee’s evolution is moving beyond education and inspiration to action. Through our Common Ground Scorecard, voters can determine which candidates are serious about working across party lines on behalf of their constituents– and which put party over country.

If you’re interested in learning more about Bruce and Erik and how you can get involved be sure to check out upcoming events and explore the topics we cover.

unify america

How to Have Your Own Common Ground Experience with Our Partner Unify America

Put two strangers in a virtual meeting talking about some of the key issues of our time and it could go any number of ways. 

Now imagine putting two strangers in the conversation who are expressly chosen because they vote differently than you. 

Does the prospect of this make your heart race? If so, it’s likely not just because of the social awkwardness of talking to a complete stranger at length about substantive, difficult things. 

These days, the thought of being paired for an hour with someone who’s different than you — values, experiences, worldview, social issues, politics — is fraught with concern, and the expectation is that it would be unpleasant. What might they say? How will you respond? Will someone get angry? 

However, what if they discover that they share a lot of the same goals for the country? And that they actually enjoy meeting each other? What if instead of wondering, “How are we going to talk for a whole hour?” you end up talking for three hours? This has happened. 

The group Unify America created this, with its Unify Challenge: matching people for a one-on-one chat with another American who might vote differently than you or is different in any number of significant ways. The goals are to break biases, switch up the information sources we feed on daily, and practice really listening. 

People sign up for any number of reasons: a workplace or school initiative; a desire to understand people who think and feel differently; an interest in what drives the current political and social climate; or perhaps a curiosity about what is “different from yourself” looks and sounds like on a personal level. 

When you register, you’re asked a number of questions about your views, are assigned a date and time and are given a log in for a video chat. Once you begin, you watch and wait while an algorithm pairs you with your conversation mate. And then their image appears on video, along with a loose script of innocuous questions to start your discussion. Where did you grow up? And something along the lines of, “How do you think your upbringing and location led to the person you are today?” Which leads eventually to, “How strongly do you feel that abortion should be decided by a unified law encompassing the country, and why?”

Here’s what tends to happen: The designers of the challenge guessed rightly that once we get to know someone, spending time in conversation about what shapes the forces in their world, we are more likely to respond with civility and really consider their point of view. Something that can’t happen on social media, or in most news stories or even opinion pieces published in the media. A person who believes strongly in, say, gun control, and that the overall moral lifesaving good of controlling who can have what might be left thoughtfully stumped when the other says they feel the same way about curtailing abortion rights. 

Unify America was launched in January 2020 to reduce contempt, teach Americans to work together, and build a diverse community to find unique solutions and solve our biggest problems.

It seems like a small thing, this microcosm of understanding and goodwill. But what if it’s not? What if thousands of small conversations like these can play a small part in reducing the anger that’s roiling our country? If so, it’s not just a small gesture between two people, a drop in the bucket. It’s an act of national repair.

american flag voting

Anticipating Voting Season

Another election season is nearly upon us. Most people tend to associate elections with casting a vote. But there’s far more that goes into being an informed voter, and an engaged citizen. 

The first step in becoming an educated voter is finding reliable sources of information about candidates, issues, and ballot questions. 

Common Ground Committee Voting Resources

We have created a portal that will help you vote in the upcoming election.  You can even download our handy, Help Me Vote guide to get started.

We have also created an easy-to-use Scorecard to compare candidates in your region (searchable by zip code or official name). In addition to learning about the candidate’s background, officials are given a “score” that corresponds to their track record of nonpartisan decision-making and compromise.

Partner Voting Resources

There are also a number of other organizations that provide voters with neutral and nonpartisan insights into their ballots, with unbiased sources of information. Many are united under the umbrella of the unifying group, the Bridge Alliance. 

One example is Ballotpedia, a digital encyclopedia of American politics, elections, and policy. It provides curated content on all levels of U.S. politics that is relevant, reliable, and available for all.

Within the Bridge Alliance is a page dedicated to the breakdown of different member categories — focused on topics ranging from think tanks and youth empowerment to fact-checking and corruption. Its page focused upon election integrity is particularly timely as we come up on midterm elections, spotlighting members making progress in opening up our electoral systems and reducing the influence of the political parties.

Similarly, Citizen Connect is a non-partisan platform dedicated to helping Americans heal political divides and strengthen democracy through finding civic organizations and events—based on civility, fairness, and fact-based reason. Its events are both virtual and in-person, held through a variety of outlets and partners.   Citizen Connect has also created a helpful voting portal.

How to Volunteer to be a Poll Worker

When it comes to the smooth running of elections, workers and volunteers are essential to ensuring that elections function efficiently and accurately. Each election requires the work of millions of Americans to uphold this process, the handling of ballots that are the tangible core of democracy.

This is more critical than ever, with multiple states reporting a shortage of poll workers. As the pandemic wanes but is still with us – as are ongoing concerns about political violence — America continues to face a critical shortfall of workers. Some 130,000 poll workers have stopped serving over the past three midterm elections, according to the group Vet the Vote. The organization offers volunteers a link to sign up, with a focus on ushering in the participation of veterans. Sign up opportunities are also available through the portal with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission

While November may seem far off, it is around the corner.   Check out these resources to help you have a voting plan and make the election run smoothly.

vote

How to Vote in the US (Step by Step)

Your Voter Resource Guide

At Common Ground Committee, our goal is to bring individuals together from all sides to bring light, not heat, to public discourse.  We also believe that voting is every citizen’s right, responsibility, and privilege. 

We are here to help you through the voting process — from registering and finding your voting location (or learning how to vote remotely) to learning about the issues and the candidates. 

Get started now with the few easy steps below!

5  Easy Steps to Vote 

Each one of these steps is critical to making your opinion, voice, and vote count on election day.

Step #1: REGISTER to vote

Whatever your political preference, your right to vote gives you the chance to be heard and impact the direction of our country. According to data from the U.S. Elections Project in 2016, 43 percent of voters did not fill out their ballots. Why? Many Americans don’t know enough about the voting process, how to register, or are unaware of registration deadlines. Rock the Vote provides an easy link to get started on your registration in moments. Vote411 from the League of Women Voters Education Fund can also help you check your registration status, get registered, and find information about the issues.

Step #2: Know WHERE to vote

If you aren’t requesting an absentee ballot, make sure you know where you can vote — and have a plan to get there. Of the 29 percent of older adults who did not vote in 2016 (approximately 2,262,000 voters), about half were held back by poor access to transit. Ride share programs and volunteer transportation assistance are available across the country to help seniors and others with mobility challenges get to the polls.

Step #3: Know WHERE candidates stand

Before you cast your vote, make sure you’re informed about the candidates and their stances on today’s issues. Tools like BallotReady and VoteSmart help sort the information on thousands of politicians and the thousands of issues at stake. Common Ground Committee also has a unique tool, the Common Ground Scorecard, to rate politicians on how well they reach across the aisle to find common ground.

Step #4: Have the IDENTIFICATION you need

Some states require proof of identification to vote. Make sure you have the correct personal identification needed in your state (if any) to cast your ballot. 

Step #5: VOTE!

Whether it’s your first time voting or you’ve exercised your right many times, making it a priority to get there is the most important step of all. You have a voice and privilege, so stand up for what you believe. Races can be closer than you’d imagine — so just do it!

Resources for Informed Voting

A sign of a healthy democracy at work is an active network of advocates providing the tools for an educated population. Here are some of ours here in the U.S.

Tool #1: Ballotpedia

Ballotpedia is a non-profit organization focused on educating the public on current political issues, elections, current candidates, and more. Whether you are considering running for office, contemplating your voting options, or looking for the latest news from an unbiased source, Ballotpedia is a tool committed to clarity and neutrality.

Website: https://ballotpedia.org
Instagram: @ballotpedia
Facebook: @Ballotpedia
Twitter: @ballotpedia

Tool #2: VoteSmart

Looking for information on the latest candidates and elected officials? Votesmart has profiles, voting records, contact information, issue positions, public statements, and more. One of its key features is the “Political Courage Test,” which offers a unique kind of transparency: insight into how likely candidates are to give straightforward answers to voters’ questions.

Website: https://justfacts.votesmart.org/
Facebook: @ProjectVoteSmart
Twitter: @VoteSmart

Tool #3: Vote411

Vote411 is known as a one-stop-shop for the information you need for the election process: the ability to check your registration status, register, find upcoming events, discover (and decipher) questions on your ballot, simplify steps for first-time voters, and more. An interactive state-by-state map is a hallmark of the site.

Website: https://www.vote411.org/
Instagram: @vote411
Facebook: @vote411
Twitter: @VOTE411

Tool #4: When We All Vote

It’s critical it is for all citizens to participate in the political process; that’s the belief that drove the formation of When We All Vote. This nonpartisan non-profit organization was founded in 2018 by Michelle Obama, Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monae, Chris Paul, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw. Their ideology? That the country is in a better place and can move forward successfully when you guessed it — we all vote.

Website: https://www.whenweallvote.org/
Instagram: @whenweallvote
Facebook: @WhenWeAllVote
Twitter: @WhenWeAllVote

Tool #5: Common Ground Scorecard 

Let us be one of your trusted resources! The Common Ground Scorecard is your free, online guide for identifying candidates who seek common ground to make progress on the issues. Interactive features (such as a map) help you identify your elected officials (so you don’t have to look them up) making it easy to use. You can even compare up to six candidates.

Website: https://www.commongroundscorecard.org/
Instagram: @commongroundcommittee
Facebook: @commongroundcommittee
Twitter: @commongroundcom

Tool #6: Activote

Activote’s easy-to-use nonpartisan app – learn more about the features – educates voters on important issues, when and where they can cast their vote, connects them with their elected officials, and allows them to make their voice heard by quickly answering key polling questions. Join voters in all 50 states, of all parties, and of all ages & join in on #DailyDemocracy. Try it on the web or on mobile on GooglePlay or the Apple App Store.

Website: https://www.activote.net

Check back here for future updates on voting. Also, check out our recent Op-Ed on mail-in voting, and sign up for our newsletter for more resources to help you vote! 

common ground agreements in the workplace

Bringing Attributes of Civility and Common Ground into the Workplace

Public discourse has grown increasingly polarized in recent years, creating divisiveness that has consequences in government, in communities, within families, on social media, and of course, within organizations and workplaces. 

Political conversations between colleagues are fraught with unintended consequences: uncomfortable or hostile relationships, feelings of exclusion, or alienation, if leadership of an organization takes a stance on an issue that they disagree with.  

In addition to tension, this causes an erosion of employee trust, which is the foundation of a productive and cohesive workplace. Employees are increasingly engaging in political conversations at work, and disagreements are impairing their ability to work cooperatively with colleagues with whom they disagree. Internal messaging that reveals a bias creates an “Us vs. Them” mentality within the organization. Employees need guidance to navigate these conversations in a respectful manner, following messaging that starts at the top. The bottom line—in addition to the financial one—is that top officers need to partner with supervisors up and down the org chart to ensure that internal messaging and leadership promotes unity based on shared goals and values rather than points of contention.  

Common Ground Committee (CGC) is a nonprofit organization that encourages action reducing polarization by bringing together prominent leaders with opposing views in public forums to find common ground. This conversation is as needed in the workplace as it is in government chambers, the media, and street corners.  

 To this end, CGC has created the Ten Attributes of a Common Grounder, guidelines for conducting useful, nonpartisan conversations among disagreeing parties to help them converse more peacefully and productively. They are applicable to all kinds of environments and can be used by an organization’s top officers to promote an atmosphere of trust and respect within the workforce, and to ensure that internal messaging brings light, not heat, to discussions where colleagues disagree. 

IDENTIFY AND SET ASIDE PERSONAL BIASES.
We all carry personal beliefs, ,biases and opinions. As you approach a conversation, be aware of yours. Be willing to test them against new information and recognize when they
may be closing your thoughts to what the other person is saying. 

COMMIT TO SEEK AGREEMENT, PROGRESS AND SOLUTIONS.
Approach discussion or debates with an objective of trying to find common ground and solutions, not win arguments. Use a “let’s work it out” attitude. 

LISTEN FIRST TO LEARN PERSPECTIVES AND EXPERIENCES.
It’s hard to work with someone if you aren’t listening to them. It’s also difficult to engage in a dialogue until the other person knows you have heard them. Active listening establishes the foundation for real communication. It provides the opportunity for the “I never thought of it that way” moment. 

DON’T ASSUME, BUT SEEK TO UNDERSTAND MOTIVES AND INTENTIONS.
Understanding the motives and intentions behind someone’s position is necessary to finding common ground. The challenge comes when we assume, often erroneously, that we know those motives and intentions because we have accepted commonly held beliefs about people who take that position. Don’t fall into that trap. Instead, ask the questions that clarify the person’s true motivation.

USE AND ACCEPT FACTS.
Rather than emotional arguments, bring verified facts to the conversation. If you are presented with verified facts, accept them, even when they don’t fit your narrative. It’s fine to examine
them carefully and to see if something is missing, but don’t reject them dogmatically. 

SEEK OUTCOMES ALL CAN LIVE WITH BUT DON’T COMPROMISE PRINCIPLES.
Don’t go into a discussion with predetermined expectations of the outcomes. Be prepared to be flexible and work to find an approach that addresses the concerns of all parties (including yours). But don’t feel obligated to go along with something that you feel violates your principles. Be prepared to “agree to disagree.” 

ACCEPT THAT GOOD PEOPLE MAY DISAGREE.
Because people have different experiences and viewpoints, they may not share your values. It’s not necessary to always agree on what’s important or why. But it is crucial not to
equate a difference in values with whether a person is good or bad. Don’t let arguments divert you from appreciating your fellow person. If someone is unreasonably dogmatic in a
way that violates your principles, it may be best not to engage. 

STAY RESPECTFUL.
Watch what you are saying and how you are saying it so that you don’t degrade the quality of the conversation. Eliminate pejoratives from your vocabulary. If your temperature starts
to rise, take a breath, and shift to a different line of discussion. 

RESIST DEMONIZING.
There are two points to be made here:
• Name-calling and personal attacks on groups and individuals are currently part of everyday political conversation. Don’t succumb to the temptation to use these methods.
• Watch your own thinking. When you hear these types of attacks, don’t accept them. The more you do, the harder it will be to engage with others. 

DE-ESCALATE HOSTILE SITUATIONS.
• This is about controlling your thought and thereby your actions.
• Be alert to everyone’s temperature. It may be best to shift to a different line of discussion or a totally different topic before people become angry with each other.
• If you find yourself in a hostile situation, don’t contribute to the hostility. Identifying and expressing what you appreciate about the other person’s ideas and intent can help. As with attribute 7, don’t let arguments — even heated ones — divert you from appreciating your fellow person.
 

Common Ground Committee (CGC) is a non-partisan, citizen-led organization that inspires action on polarizing issues by bringing prominent leaders with opposing views together in public forums to find common ground. Since its founding in 2009, the organization has hosted dozens of notable panelists including John Kerry, Condoleezza Rice, Michael Steele, and Donna Brazile to find points of consensus on issues ranging from race and income inequality to America’s role in the world.  

The Flag Of The United States Of America Flying In Front Of The

What is a Common Ground Culture?

Anecdotally, we know what “common ground” means. Finding points of agreement; finding a way to get along.

But what does it mean in politics, and in culture?

Politically, looking for common ground has its roots in the Constitution, striving for the union in a more perfect Union. Back then, we were united against an external foe. Now we’re struggling to find common ground within our union, and we have not yet fully grasped just how important it is to triumph in that struggle.

Our divisions have caused the dominant culture to be one focused on winning, not solving. By that we mean the energy in our political culture today aims at eviscerating those we disagree with. While that kind of victory might feel good at the moment, it imposes a significant cost in the form of social and professional disincentives to work with people holding different points of view. It makes it very difficult to make progress on the country’s crucial issues.

Serious internal divisiveness isn’t unprecedented by any means—Slavery and The Civil War, Vietnam, and civil rights all created great unrest. But for some in the younger generations, this is the first experience with such heated polarized strife.

How to Find Common Ground

In order to have productive and respectful conversations, we have to observe certain foundations of discourse and behavior. At Common Ground Committee, we believe in a set of standards to be applied to all interactions — and we believe in the importance of these interactions. People most interested in our work hold in highest esteem the principles of social decency, and trust; of ensuring that differences of opinions don’t mean differences of respect and degradation of decency.

To this end, we created our 10 Attributes of a Common Grounder, principles to guide the conversations we bring together from across the spectrum of opinions. This is true both in the overall theme and choice of invited guests, as well as the content and tenor of discourse within the events. And, of course, in the candidates, we as citizens choose to support.

To be sure, finding common ground is a tall order. It requires identifying our personal biases—we all have them—and putting them aside for the purposes of a conversation where both parties might learn something, and share something. It involves active listening free of assumptions; a refusal to vilify those with whom you disagree, and a willingness to defuse tension and aggression.

Have a look at our attributes, and consider which relationships in your world might benefit from this approach. Tune into our conversations, and watch our panelists as they strive to uphold our values. Let us know your thoughts on where we succeed in supporting the goal of common ground, and when we fall short. These are tough times, and our union deserves nothing less than our full efforts.

Voting in Primaries

The Importance of Voting in Primaries

Nearly 90% of congressional elections are decided in the nominating contests. That’s a striking number, and one that demands a simple action: Vote in the primaries.

The midterm primaries have begun, and candidates are being selected for local, state, and federal offices. Some states have “open primaries,” in which any registered voter can cast a ballot regardless of party affiliation (or lack thereof). However, in states with “closed primaries,” voters must be registered with a party to participate in that side’s nominating contests.

And that’s where most congressional races are decided. The data is clear: The vast majority of U.S. House districts lean so far to either party that the November result is a foregone conclusion. In 2020, just one-quarter of the voting-eligible population participated in the presidential primaries. And when considering the districts that determined control of the House, just 10% of voters selected 83% of the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a study by Unite America.

With primary elections increasingly deciding the outcome of a race, it’s important that voters engage in the entire process when possible. For partisans, that’s easy. In every state, voting-eligible people who are registered with a party can vote in that party’s primaries. While primary voting is often limited to just party members, other states allow all registered voters to participate.

Advocates of open primaries argue that closed systems are unfair to independents (who make up about more than 40% of the electorate), produce more extreme nominees, and, as publicly funded elections, should be open to everyone.

Opponents argue only members of a party should be allowed to select its nominees and open primaries are subject to subversion by voters of another party hoping to nominate an “unelectable” candidate. (Research out of Marquette University argues such sabotage, if it exists, would cancel itself out.)

Others have argued that partisans in places where their party may be unlikely to win a general election (say, Democrats in Mississippi or Republicans in Massachusetts) should vote in the opposing party’s primary, not to sabotage the race but to try to nominate a more moderate candidate.

Because so few people – the most partisan people – are determining primary winners, candidates who appeal to party wings are most likely to advance to the general election. Voters are then asked to choose between candidates who have ignored the middle. But there are still options for finding candidates who are willing to work across the aisle.

One tool is the Common Ground Scorecard, which assesses elected officials and candidates on their willingness to pursue solutions through listening and productive conversation, rather than scoring political points. Using nearly 20 objective and subjective data points from a variety of bipartisan sources, the Scorecard can help voters determine which candidates to support if good policymaking is more important than party identity. It considers five key areas:

  • Official Performance — bipartisan bill sponsorship for legislators or bipartisan job approval for executives
  • Personal Actions — public conversation across political differences and joining an official from the opposing party for a visit of their district
  • Communication — promoting common ground
  • Commitments — affirmation of Common Grounder Commitments
  • Outstanding Common Grounder — awarded for common ground behavior or boldly champions common ground

The Scorecard grades incumbents and candidates for five offices: president, vice president, senator, House member, and governor. Try it out now.

Learn how your state handles primary voting.

Check the primary date for your state.

Gun Violence Commentary

Co-Founder’s Statement on Reducing Gun Violence

Stop the Posturing and Do the Hard Work.

By Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen

Columbine. Sandy Hook. Parkland. And now, Uvalde.

Will it be different this time?

As an organization that brings people of diverse views together to work toward more progress and less division and bring healing, we believe action can be taken to save lives – once people decide that the solution is more important than the fight.

In the wake of the shooting at Robb Elementary School, we call on lawmakers, lobbyists, activists and citizens to resist the urge to amplify emotionally satisfying but polarizing reactions and stop using the issue to gain political position and power. Instead use this moment to do the hard work of research and thoughtful deliberation needed to craft and advance bipartisan action that can effectively reduce gun violence both now and over time.

There is no denying that, at a broad level, viewpoints on guns break across party lines. Republicans are nearly four times as likely as Democrats to say gun rights are more important than gun control, while nine in ten Democrats, compared to half of Republicans, favor bans on assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines.

Nor is there doubt that gun control is one of our country’s most polarizing issues. The passion with which some Americans defend their Second Amendment right while others call for weapon bans brings more heat to an already fraught issue. Yet this all-or-nothing debate is a manufactured narrative that simply cannot address the issue of gun violence in a meaningful, lasting manner.

In truth, most Americans already agree on common-sense measures that can help. According to Pew Research, overwhelming majorities of both Democrats (91%) and Republicans (92%) strongly favor barring people suffering from mental illnesses from purchasing firearms. And a large majority of both Democrats and Republicans — 93% and 82% respectively — favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks.

To drive meaningful policy change and bring healing to the divisiveness, it’s clear we must leave zero-sum games behind. In a country with more guns than people, there is no absolute panacea to gun violence. Gun ownership and the constitution’s Second Amendment have been cultural anchors since the times of our Founding Fathers and will likely remain so for decades to come.

Yet that does not mean we are powerless to address the death toll. When faced with a public health challenge, working toward harm reduction — even if some members of the public scorn these as half measures — is proven to provide tangible material benefits. By framing mass shootings as a public health issue, not a political one, Congress can set the stage for developing effective, bipartisan solutions.

We believe that to move the needle, we must seek out two things: fact-based regulation on gun access and ownership, and research-based methods that enable early detection of people on a trajectory to cause harm.

Activists are already doing this work and having an impact. Rachel’s Challenge, formed after the Columbine High School tragedy, has helped avert eight mass shootings and save 150 lives annually. Parkland students motivated then-Governor Rick Scott to buck the NRA and sign a sweeping gun bill into law that included raising the minimum age for purchasing rifles and extending the waiting period for purchasing handguns.

The federal government is also showing signs of progress. In collaboration with RAND’s National Collaborative on Gun Violence, we now have research analyzing the effectiveness of gun policy, with “moderately good evidence” found that expanding background checks could make a difference.

This focus on research can lead to better regulatory policy and better health outcomes, as shown by examples from past public health scares. From 1973 to 2012, there were 269 National Institute of Health (NIH) research awards granted for Polio – and just 266 cases in that period. For cholera, 212 awards for 400 cases. In this same 39-year span, there have been over four million firearm injuries. The number of NIH research awards for gun-related harm? Just three.

Along the way, America must ignore distractions, such as calls for repealing the Second Amendment or arming teachers. These ideas are de-facto non-starters while encouraging more divisiveness. Instead, we should follow the lead of experts like Ryan Busse, a former gun industry executive and lifelong firearms aficionado, who on our podcast set aside the talking points and spoke about the challenges with the gun lobby in our search for solutions to gun violence.

To pursue our usual approach to the gun debates effectively means accepting an unforgivable cost. We must seize this moment, together, to start writing a good and lasting ending to this recurring American nightmare.