Caroline Randall Williams

Honoring Black History Month 2022

During the month of February, we celebrate the many accomplishments of Black Americans and look closely at the often-ignored impact of Black history in our nation. Since 1976, this month has meant a time for reflection and acknowledging the legacy of injustice perpetuated at the expense of Black lives. This year’s theme is, Black Health and Wellness, “[which] acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birth workers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora.

This year, Common Ground Committee seeks to highlight influential Black leaders who have agreed to tell us their stories. Below you’ll find a list of those leaders and accompanying content we’re proud to produce and share:

Caroline Randall Williams

Caroline Randall Williams Caroline Randall Williams is an award-winning poet, young adult novelist, and cookbook author as well as an activist, public intellectual, performance artist, and scholar. She joined the faculty of Vanderbilt University in the Fall of 2019 as a Writer-in-Residence in Medicine, Health, and Society.

If you want to listen:

“I’m a living intersection of Black Southern narrative and white Southern narrative. I have to have common ground because I do come from both.”
–  Caroline Randall Williams

Daryl Davis

Daryl DavisDaryl Davis is an award-winning musician with a degree in Jazz. He was the first Black author to interview KKK leaders and members, detailed in his book, Klan-Destine Relationships. He is a race reconciliator and lecturer, has received numerous awards and is often sought out by news outlets as a consultant on race relations and white supremacy.

If you want to listen:

If you want to watch:

“Ignorance breeds fear. We fear the things that we don’t understand. If that fear is not addressed and resolved, that fear will escalate to hatred because we hate the things that frighten us.”
– Daryl Davis

Hawk Newsome

newsomeHawk Newsome is a political activist working at the forefront of the New Civil Rights Movement and the co-founder and chairperson of Black Lives Matter Greater New York. He is also a former candidate for the New York City Council and former Special Projects Coordinator at the Bronx County Office of the District Attorney.

If you want to listen:

“I would love to sit down with poor white folk in rural settings across America and talk to them about classism…and then we could sit back and come to the conclusion that it is the 1% and the people that they hire to represent them… I’m sorry, the government, who are keeping us pitted against each other.”

– Hawk Newsome

Dr. Brian Williams

dr williamsDr. Brian Williams is an Associate Professor of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at the University of Chicago. He is a renowned keynote speaker, the Vice-Chair of the One America Movement, a guest opinion writer featured in the Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News, and hosts the podcast Race, Violence & Medicine. Back in 2016, Dr. Brian Williams led the trauma team that treated police officers ambushed by a sniper on July 7, 2016 – the largest loss of life for US law enforcement since 9/11.

If you want to listen:

“The lack of understanding of the history of policing in this country and how it has meant to isolate and control Black Americans…is a problem.”

– Brian Williams, MD.

Professor Ilyasah Shabazz

Professor ShabazzProfessor Ilyasah Shabazz is an author, artist, mentor, and implementer of cultural and community outreach initiatives, serving diverse populations. She promotes higher education for at-risk youth, interfaith dialogue to build bridges between cultures for young leaders of the world, and participates in international humanitarian delegations. She is the daughter of Dr. Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X.

If you want to listen:

“If we’re taught hate, we’re never going to solve any problems.”

– Professor Ilyasah Shabazz

Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr.

shreiff toulonSheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr. is the 67th Sheriff of Suffolk County, New York and is the first Black American to be elected to a non-judicial countywide office. He has more than 30 years of criminal-justice experience centered upon corrections intelligence and combating gang violence. Prior to serving as Suffolk County Sheriff, he worked for the New York City Department of Correction.

If you want to listen:

 “When I realized that I was going to win [the election for Sheriff], several people informed me that I’m not only the first African-American to be elected to Sheriff but the first African-American to be elected to a county-wide position in Nassau or Suffolk county…history.”

– Sheriff Toulon

Donna Brazile

brazileDonna Brazile is an adjunct professor, author, syndicated columnist, television political commentator, Vice Chair of Voter Registration and Participation at the Democratic National Committee, and former interim National Chair of the Democratic National Committee as well as the former chair of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute.

If you want to listen:

If you want to watch:

 “We have to get to a place where we can foster civility in our conversation.”

– Donna Brazile

Maya Wiley

maya wileyMaya Wiley is a former candidate for New York City mayor. She is a nationally renowned expert on racial justice and equity. She has litigated, lobbied the U.S. Congress, and developed programs to transform structural racism in the U.S. and in South Africa. She previously served as the Senior Vice President for Social Justice at the New School University and the Henry Cohen Professor of Public and Urban Policy at The New School’s Milano School of Management, Policy & Environment.

If you want to listen:

“We do live in a violent society. That is a violent society born out of slavery and racism and genocide against Native Americans. In the context of today, the violence that we’re seeing in communities of color are absolutely driving a policing focused on containment and control of entire communities because of the color of the skin of the people who live there.”

– Maya Wiley

Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice Condoleezza Rice is an American diplomat, political scientist, civil servant, and professor. She is currently the Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. From 2005 to 2009, she served as the 66th Secretary of State of the United States, the first Black woman to have held this post.

If you want to watch:

“When you are in the business, as an individual citizen, of helping other individual citizens, that is actually the highest form of democracy.”

– Condoleezza Rice

Michael Steele

steeleMichael Steele is an author, political commentator, and attorney. Steele made history when he was the first Black American to be elected as the seventh lieutenant governor of Maryland. In 2009, he was chosen to serve as the Republican National Committee chairperson. He is currently a political analyst for MSNBC and his writings on law, business and politics have appeared in The Wall Street JournalThe Washington, and The Journal of International Security Affairs, among others.

If you want to listen:

If you want to watch:

“While the civil rights march continues and while there’s been a lot of ground covered, there are a whole lot of folks who got off that road or never got on that road who are still teaching that bad behavior to the next generation.”

– Michael Steele

Common Ground Committee is committed to providing tools to encourage productive conversations on today’s key issues. Visit our portal, Bridging Racial Divides where you can find a custom news feed on the latest stories about racial issues in America, and an array of video, blog, and podcast content. We hope that hearing from and watching these prominent guests gives you the courage to tackle difficult interactions with others. Going forward, our team plans to continue amplifying the voices of Black Americans standing up and fighting against hate in the nation.

fake news

An Introduction to Fake News

Fake news is often cited as a key driver of polarization in the U.S.  But what exactly does it mean when people cry “fake news?” The following post, which is part one of a series, digs deeper to help you navigate an increasingly confusing array of information. 

So, what is fake news?  It is a term used by both sides of the political spectrum to cast doubt on information being presented as fact, ranging from a biased and disparaging version of events to more technologically complex deep fakes, a science of falsifying images and audio to make something that never happened appear real. 

Cornell defines fake news as “fabricated information that mimics news media content in form but not in organizational process or intent. Fake news outlets, in turn, lack the news media’s editorial norms and processes for ensuring the accuracy and credibility of information. Fake news overlaps with other information disorders, such as misinformation (false or misleading information) and disinformation (false information that is purposely spread to deceive people).” 

Fake news is a significant contributing factor in the increasing spread of polarization in the US. But when we refer to “fake news,” what exactly do we mean?  

What is fake news? 

In very general terms, fake news can be defined as false or misleading information presented as news. That said, by digging a little deeper you can find more than one definition. According to this white paper published by Simmons University and The Institute of Museum and Library Services, fake news has traditionally been “limited to falsified news stories… fake news outlets that present themselves as legitimate, often by mirroring real news outlets and even adopting names and URLs that integrate parts of the real outlet.”  

However, as times change so has the real scope of fake news. Fake news can now be broken down into two categories: misinformation and disinformation. Misinformation is defined as inaccurate information that is generated without the intention to deceive; whereas disinformation (or propaganda) is defined as false or misleading information constructed knowingly and disseminated with intent to deceive. 

Perhaps the most insidious is the deep fakes, which take advantage of a machine learning technique called a “generative adversarial network,” or a GAN, invented in 2014 as a way to algorithmically generate new types of data out of existing data sets. A GAN can look at thousands of photos and then produce a new one that is like an amalgamation of those photos, like an entirely new image of a politician. The multi-use technology can also be used to generate new audio from existing audio, making it seem as if a public figure has said or done something they never did. 

The Impact of social media 

Misinformation and disinformation are not new by any means, but with the introduction of social media, the pace of viewing and sharing has increased exponentially. We are now exposed to this false information daily, and in a time of increasingly sophisticated technology, it can be hard to differentiate between legitimate news, distortions, and outright fabrications. Often this falsified information garners inflammatory responses from both sides of the aisle (and all sectors of the population) and can influence decision-making.  

Who is responsible for fake news? 

The short and simple answer is — anyone who has the means and motivation to create and post mis- or disinformation. As the movement away from local news continues, a new market for entertainment news is expanding. This confluence of events has opened the market for unreliable news sources and social media has given it a platform to thrive. These days, fake news can be spread by big players with large social media followings (e.g., celebrities, politicians, influencers, etc.), and social media algorithms reward more inflammatory posts by cycling them more frequently and prominently.  

But it’s not just the big players who are responsible for spreading fake news. Anyone can be responsible for the spread of illegitimate news and posts, and everyone who hits “share” or “send” on social media platforms contributes to the whiplash.  

What makes matters so difficult is determining the difference between the gradations of fakery. has been dedicated to debunking outright false viral claims since the 90s. But these days, we’re dealing with new levels of falsehoods.  

“The fictions and fabrications that comprise fake news are but a subset of the larger bad news phenomenon,” Snopes founder David Mikkelson wrote on his site last November, “which also encompasses many forms of shoddy, unresearched, error-filled, and deliberately misleading reporting that do a disservice to everyone.”

In our next post on this topic, we will dive into how to spot the difference between falsehoods, which in the early days of Snopes were nicknamed urban myths, and bad news.  

Until then, you can learn more about the media’s role in moving forward through information and misinformation by watching our fascinating 2020 conversation with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace and New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman, in partnership with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. 

View the event as well as highlight videos: Wallace & Maggie Haberman Talk Fake News & The Media ( 

Reading business news

The Business Case for Civics Education

It’s no secret that polemics and partisanship have run amok in recent years. The factions within the government have trouble collaborating, creating bottlenecks that keep things from getting done. People fight online via social media. People clash in the streets in protests. People argue on-air on cable news panels. Sometimes it seems as if people have forgotten how to disagree without fighting. Are there any pockets of public spaces that haven’t been examined for potential to foster understanding and civility?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has an answer: the workplace. Two years ago, the Foundation published a white paper on the eroding civility of discourse, the general lack of understanding about civics, and the connection between the two. And while the paper was published in 2019, the findings don’t seem dated by all that has happened. They seem all the truer.

Employers are uniquely positioned to help ensure that the next generation of Americans are equipped to play a productive role in civic life, writes U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation President Carolyn Cawley in the introduction to “The Business Case for Civics Education.” Business leaders can bring a powerful voice to this discussion by sharing knowledge and prioritizing civic education of all forms in communities across the nation. This report is the first step in our efforts to make the business case for civics.

Through a combination of surveys and interviews with company leaders, the Foundation—in concert with Harvard Business School—examined the civility and civic sensibility of the workplace today. The motivation was to investigate the role that businesses can play in healing a divided country. The goal was to figure out how and demonstrate why it makes good business sense.

When it comes to talking about divisiveness in our country, business isn’t really a part of the discussions, either as a source of supporter or an avenue to improvement. “And that seemed like both a missed opportunity for interested organizations like ours,” Cawley recalls.

An interesting note of optimism stands out among the data immediately. In its annual Civility in America survey, Weber Shandwick found that 68 percent of Americans felt there was a civility problem in the nation. But some 89 percent of the respondents called their places of employment very or somewhat civil, even a refuge. And perhaps they need to be; this is the one place where all races, religions, and ages congregate and need to get along for a common goal.

“I think this is a really interesting point. The workplace might be one of the last places where people come together from all views and backgrounds and identities because, in almost all the other places in our lives, people have tended to pigeonhole into communities that look like them, think like them,” said Cawley. “And those places are not going to work smoothly and productively if you have cancel-culture and other polarizing elements creeping into the workplace.”

But it’s not just a matter of what workplaces shouldn’t be. It’s what they could be. Companies could be leaders in helping employees better understand—and value—what it means to be engaged as a civic-minded citizen.

The health of civics education is “quite bleak,” Cawley said in the introduction to the paper. Research by Educating for American Democracy found that the federal government spends an average of $50 per student on STEM curriculum, compared to five cents per student on civic education. The findings led the foundation to launch a public relations campaign aimed at convincing corporations that supporting civics education was not only their civic responsibility but in their own best interest.

In many workplaces, it’s already being done. Paid days off to vote, or to fulfill jury duty. Some companies encourage time off for community service or volunteering at the polls. There could be employee resource groups or town-hall-style meetings, Cawley suggests, to provide information and context behind the basics of civic engagement and why it matters. “Communicate how important it is to be an engaged citizen, that it’s our obligation as citizens to make this whole thing work,” she said. “It’s not telling people what to think, or how to vote, but to be involved — that we aren’t going to be successful as a country if you don’t understand how this all works.”

And how does civic education play a role in rebuilding that trust, engagement, and strengthening our democracy? Civic educational programs can help reduce polarization, increase community volunteerism, and foster civil conversations around diverging viewpoints. Allstate, for one, developed an employee program called The Better Arguments Project, which with the Aspen Institute, helps people develop the tools to have better, more civil arguments. Sounds a lot like helping its employees bolster the critical skills of emotional intelligence.

With the support and buy-in of the private sector, the foundation believes, the country stands a better chance at healing the tenor of disagreements, distrust, and misinformation that are undermining the wellness of the country.

“We need to be much more self-aware and collaborative,” says Cawley. “We have democracy and capitalism, and civics is where the two meet. It’s a three-legged stool. They have to work together.”

Visit to learn about critical issues, how to create positive change and restore hope. 

Bruce Bond on Polarization

Bruce Bond on Business Brief: The Economic Impact of Polarization

Political polarization is creating instability in business. Can we hope for a less divided future?

In this video segment, our co-founder Bruce Bond joins Andy Hirschfeld, host of the daily news show Business Brief, to speak about the impact of political polarization on the economy and brands. He also discusses how Common Ground Committee is pushing back on polarization in America through tools like the Common Ground Scorecard, and how such action can help address economic instability.

Watch the interview to learn more about how companies are reacting and responding to this issue, where we see hope for the future, and how to find inspiration and tools to help heal the nation.

common ground around the dinner table

Your Essential Guide to Civil Political Conversations This Holiday Season

thanksgiving dinner

Around many dining tables this holiday season, there’ll be an extra guest in the room. The elephant, of course. Politics, and all the differing opinions about the tumultuous events of the past year.

We live in divisive times, and unfortunately, our difficulty reaching across the aisle can extend to reaching across the table. Whether or not your gatherings this year include extended relatives, conversations, even among immediate siblings, parents, and significant others, can cover a lot of rocky terrain over a long day and evening.

This year might seem a lot more fraught than most. But the same guidelines for civil conversations apply, even leaving room for constructive disagreement. Let’s have a look at the attributes of folks who seek to meet on common ground, rather than simmer in the far corners of the room.

Tap into the power of listening.

The importance of listening in productive dialogue should not be underestimated. It’s through active listening that both parties feel heard and validated, which in turn enriches conversation and cuts unnecessary tension. Listening first this holiday season can help you make connections, find empathy, and put you in a better position for meaningful discussions around the dinner table. Without listening, it can be easy to get stuck in arguments and never reach common ground. In order to save more time for food and merriment, consider using the power of listening when engaging with family and friends this year.

Commit to seeking agreement rather than “winning.”

It’s difficult to achieve a balanced conversation based on connecting with someone if you’re constantly formulating your next retort. You have to actively listen to their points, rather than crafting your own retaliation. You never know — you might even find yourself swayed a bit by their insights. You don’t have to aim to end the night by winning or losing and certainly not by compromising your principles. You just have to get to a civil place where you can agree to disagree and pass the cranberry sauce with a pleasant expression.

Remember it’s possible for good people to disagree.

We all have very different backgrounds that make us who we are, and have shaped the principles we hold firm. But different values and beliefs aren’t synonymous with good and bad. Very different formative experiences can create strong, fundamental differences. If you sense you aren’t going to be able to meet amicably in the middle with this person, perhaps it’s best to find a pivot to another aspect of the conversation.

Use facts, not emotion.

Emotional arguments aren’t a great basis for a conversation, because if both people are speaking from the heart in heated opposition, it’s hard to arrive at the conclusion that it’s possible for good people to disagree. If you have good facts, figures, and statistics, open your toolbox and use them. But let the other person do the same — and if theirs are solid, acknowledge that, even if it doesn’t fit well with your narrative.

Bring down the temperature.

If you find the conversation becoming too heated, do whatever you can to de-escalate a potentially hostile situation. Name-calling and tossing around stereotypes are indicators that things are traveling in the wrong direction. Don’t give in to the temptation to reciprocate with pejorative terms of your own. Storytelling is one way to grab attention — just make sure the takeaway is one of neutrality, or learning something unexpected. And remember – family is always more important than politics.

 Want more tips on healing the divide over Thanksgiving or any gathering? Watch our webinar Ten Ways to Heal the Divide,” with Living Room Conversations founder Joan Blades and founder of Bridge USA, Manu Meel, moderated by Common Ground Committee co-founder, Bruce Bond.

Get ready for the holiday season by downloading Common Ground Committee’s “Essential Guide to Better Political Conversations this Holiday Season.”


Can We Find Common Ground on The Justice System? – Part II

With severe polarization dividing America, it has become increasingly difficult to find common ground. But data shows bipartisan support for key justice system policies. 

As the American population grows in size and diversity, we are continually affected by those around us. Those closest to us help shape our creation of thought. Perhaps unintentionally, trusted people and information sources in our lives may keep us from seeking out and understanding other perspectives.  

Nowhere is this problem more severe than with a political messaging machine that urges its base to see issues only in terms of red or blue, obscuring the fact that Americans do actually agree on many important issues. An ongoing research study by Voice of the People, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing the majority opinion to light, is attempting to bridge this gap by surveying a diverse subset of American voters to inspect similarities in thought and opinion between the right and the left.

Through in-depth surveys in which respondents receive briefings on key policy proposals and evaluate pro and con arguments, the study has to date identified 185 common ground positions on a wide range of policy issues.  

And despite how polarized Republicans and Democrats may seem on justice system issues, the following policy proposals show high levels of bipartisan support.

Limiting Negative Consequences of Criminal Records 

A national sample of 2,487 registered voters were asked to respond to several proposals on limiting the consequences of criminal records. The data indicates that 60% or more Democrats and Republicans agree: 

  • Employers and licensing boards should limit the use of certain criminal records as a basis for rejecting an applicant or firing an employee 
  • To provide protection to employers who knowingly hire individuals with criminal records 
  • To limit the use of certain criminal records from being used as the basis for rejecting an applicant or evicting a tenant from public housing 
  • Criminal records can be sealed for a minor cost for arrests that do not result in convictions 
  • To automatically seal records for nonviolent drug offenses five years after the offender completes their sentence

Learn more about policy proposals and survey responses.  

Reducing Incarceration Rates through Sentencing Reforms

A national sample of 2,417 registered voters were asked to respond to several provisions on the Next Step Act. The data indicates that 60% or more Democrats and Republicans agree: 

  • To reduce the mandatory minimum sentences for one-strike drug offenses 
  • To create a new sentencing category for those who store or transport illegal drugs or drug money, that comes with no mandatory sentence 
  • Early prisoners, convicted as juveniles and those who have served at least 20 years of their sentence could be given the opportunity to be released early at the discretion of judges  

Learn more about policy proposals and survey responses. 

What does this data mean for the American people? 

The study shows that, while we live in a time of great division and opposition, it is critical that we not lose sight of the ways in which we can all come together. Findings from this study open the possibility that the right and left may find agreement on other polarizing topics.

Perhaps by parting the red or blue curtain clouding our vision, we can see more clearly just how much common ground we share as Americans. From this shared foundation, we can push forward together to create real change for the next generation. 

Let’s talk! Reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tell us which policies you would like America to #findcommonground on this year. 



Can We Find Common Ground on The Justice System? Part I

It may seem America’s political parties are more sharply divided on the justice system than nearly any other issue. Yet data shows we’ve already found common ground. 

It is perhaps universally accepted – one may even say expected – for the American people to disagree. We are a country that came together swiftly. Public opinion may break apart just as fast. 

Yet a political dynamic that urges citizens to view all issues through the lens of red or blue obscures the fact that Americans actually agree on many important issues. Now, an ongoing research study is attempting to bridge this chasm.  

Pioneered by Voice of the People, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing the majority opinion to light, the study surveys a diverse subset of American voters to inspect similarities in thought and opinion between the right and the left. Through in-depth surveys in which respondents receive briefings on key policy proposals and evaluate pro and con arguments, the study has to date identified 185 common ground positions on a wide range of policy issues.  

And, despite how polarized Republicans and Democrats may seem around justice system issues, the following policy proposals show high levels of bipartisan support.

Improved Treatment of Prisoners

A national sample of 2,487 registered voters were asked to respond to several proposals to reform the treatment of people in prison. The data indicates that 60% or more Democrats and Republicans agree: 

  • To limit rates that prisons and jails can charge inmates for phone calls 
  • Restrict the use of solitary confinement 

Learn more about policy proposals and survey responses.

Police Reform

A national sample of 3,226 registered voters were asked to respond to several proposals on police reform.. The data indicates that 60% or more Democrats and Republicans agree: 

  • It should be made a duty for officers to intervene in cases where another officer is using excessive force 
  • To recommend that all officers wear body cameras and keep them on when dealing with a suspect or responding to a call 
  • To create a national registry of police misconduct available to the public and all police departments 

Learn more about policy proposals and survey responses.

Study results to date show promising signs that American’s right and left can find agreement on polarized topics if conversation and thoughtful proposals are fostered. And data collected shows bipartisan support for even more areas of justice policy. Stay tuned for a look at common ground positions that go beyond policing and prison, to criminal records and sentencing reform.

Let’s talk! Reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tell us which policies you would like America to #findcommonground on this year. 

Opinion: Laws should unite, not divide

In this piece written for The Hill, Common Ground Committee co-founders Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen make the case that laws should unite, not divide. You can also listen to a behind-the-scenes conversation with the authors below.

For the past decade-plus, we have made it our mission to improve political discourse through our nonprofit, Common Ground Committee (CGC). That mission hit a speed bump with Texas Senate Bill 8 (SB 8). As heads of a non-partisan organization, we don’t take a position on whether abortion should or should not be legal, but we recognize the strong moral concerns held by both sides. We even understand how it is that the Texas legislature would think this legislation is a good idea. But SB 8 sets a dangerous precedent and unnecessarily adds even deeper divisiveness to an already contentious issue.the hill logo

By putting enforcement into the hands of private citizens, and offering a significant financial incentive, the Texas legislature is effectively weaponizing disagreement.

Other states are following the Texas lead — Florida just introduced its own SB 8-inspired abortion bill. If this strategy proves successful, what would stop liberal-leaning states from passing similar restrictions on gun ownership? We wager that supporters of SB 8 would not approve.

Disagreement is fundamental to a healthy democracy. But when lawmakers are determined to take whatever means necessary to achieve their outcomes, we end up with laws like SB 8.

If we are to function as a healthy society, all citizens — no matter their political leanings — should speak out against laws that are designed to pit citizens against each other. We have plenty of laws that by their nature generate passionate debate. But deliberately designing into legislation the ability for citizens on one side of an issue to economically hurt fellow citizens on the other side will almost certainly inflame factional conflict and deepen even further the divisions that plague our nation.

To be sure, it is an open question as to whether the Texas law will stand, despite the Supreme Court’s “shadow docket” ruling, as evidenced by the ongoing court battle. But even if the Texas strategy is ultimately deemed unconstitutional, it did not occur in a vacuum; rather, the bill reflects a wider tendency by legislators to craft laws that reflect only the viewpoint of the majority. In short, it’s exactly what James Madison and the Founders were fearful of when they spoke of “tyranny of the majority.” It’s how we wound up with legislation like the “For the People Act” or the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017” — laws crafted with no input from the minority that effectively encourage bitter debate by the very nature of their partisan leanings, even if they aren’t signed into law.

Turning citizens into the enforcers is a natural evolution of this trend.

If Americans took the time to talk to one another, they would find the people they demonize are not morally bankrupt. In fact, they might have more in common than they think — even on issues as divisive as abortion. A 2016 poll from Gallup found that a majority of pro-choice and pro-life Americans agreed on 9 of 17 points, including making abortion illegal in the third trimester and making it legal in the case of rape and incest.

This doesn’t mean Democrats and Republicans will suddenly abandon their principles on abortion — for both sides it will always be a question of right and wrong born out of deeply held values. But conversation lets us see the other side as actual, reasonable human beings who arrived at their beliefs through their own experiences. Laws like SB 8 can only exist when legislators stay in their own bubbles and see a difference of opinion as a moral flaw. We need to burst those bubbles and elect leaders who are open to the idea that their perspective is not the end of the discussion.

Prior to the 2020 elections, we released the Common Ground Scorecard, a tool to help Americans see how likely members of Congress and candidates were to find common ground. The average score for all of Congress is 29/110. To put that into perspective, the average score for members of the House Problems Solvers Caucus is 55/110. As primary season fast approaches, these are the types of legislators we need doing business in Congress.

“If we took the same approach to our personal relationships that some members do to Congress, we wouldn’t have any functional relationships in our lives,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a member of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, in a past episode of our podcast series “Let’s Find Common Ground.” Fitzpatrick’s Democratic counterpart Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), said she has no interest in voting for a law that is everything she wants but has no chance of passage. For these two legislators, collaboration means progress, and progress overrules party.

SB 8 is a preview of what could come if politicians continue to let partisanship dominate the legislative process.

We are on a dangerous path, but it’s not too late to change course. We as citizens must stand up and push back against legislators who seek to divide us with laws and, if necessary, replace them with those who seek to unite us by finding the common ground that enables good legislation.

– This article was originally published in The Hill on October 15, 2021.

Working together community

What’s New in the Bridge Community: September 2021

Bridging the divides that separate Americans with different politics and world views can’t be accomplished by one single organization. Change takes a community, working together towards a common goal.

That’s why we are honored to be part of a robust and growing national movement of bridge builders that are working to reduce incivility and toxic polarization.

How Our Movement Grew In the Past Month:

Common Ground Committee is now part of Citizen Connect, a non-partisan platform that shares civic events from 400+ member organizations working to heal divides and fix our politics. Explore the tool.

Living Room Conversations partnered with us to produce a Universal Basic Income discussion guide, featuring content from our “Finding Common Ground on the New Economy” event with John Kasich and Julián Castro. Download the guide.

CGC is a streaming partner for “Our Declaration: An Evening With Danielle Allen.” This conversation with a Harvard political scientist will stream live on our Facebook page on Thursday, September 30, 2021, at 7 pm ET. Learn more.

Together, we can accomplish more. If you haven’t already, make sure to connect with Common Ground Committee across all our channels to see upcoming conversations, partner content, and opportunities to make a difference as we continue to grow this movement.

Follow Common Ground Committee:


An Evening with Danielle Allen

Tune In! “Our Declaration” Livestream with Dr. Danielle Allen

Can the Declaration of Independence, a centuries-old document written in a time of slavery, provide a roadmap for a modern, multiracial democracy?

Common Ground Committee is partnering with The Village Square and Florida Humanities to offer “Our Declaration: An Evening with Danielle Allen” on Thursday, September 30th at 7 p.m. ET via Zoom.

At a time when the future of American democracy is under threat from across the political spectrum, and when a disturbingly high number of citizens seem to no longer believe in the American project, this Harvard professor’s body of work “thrillingly affirms the continuing relevance of America’s founding text, ultimately revealing what democracy means and what it asks of us.”

Learn more and register, or follow Common Ground Committee’s Facebook page to catch the program live stream!