Guardrails of Democracy: Law and Reform

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America’s political system is being challenged. How can our democracy be strengthened?

American democracy is being challenged by hyper-polarization, widespread distrust of competing parties, and vocal extremists whose intrenched views further divide the nation. In a recent poll: Few in US say democracy is working very well, only one-in-six Americans said our democratic system is working very well, while nearly two-in-three voters told a Pew Research Center survey that major reforms are needed.

“I certainly feel we are more vulnerable than we have ever been in the modern era,” says our podcast guest, constitutional law scholar Rick Pildes, a professor at New York University’s School of Law and author of the book The Law of Democracy: Legal Structure of the Political Process.

In this episode, we discuss proposed changes aimed at strengthening democracy, particularly elections — from ranked choice voting and reform of political primaries, to limiting gerrymandering, and campaign finance reform.

Richard Pildes

Richard Pildes is one of the nation’s leading scholars of constitutional law and a specialist in legal issues concerning democracy. A former law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall, he has been elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Law Institute, and has also received recognition as a Guggenheim Fellow and a Carnegie Scholar. In dozens of articles and his acclaimed casebook, The Law of Democracy, he has helped create an entirely new field of study in the law schools. His work in this field systematically explores legal and policy issues concerning the structure of democratic elections and institutions, such as the role of money in politics, the design of election districts, the regulation of political parties, the structure of voting systems, the representation of minority interests in democratic institutions, and similar issues.

He has written on the rise of political polarization in the United States, the transformation of the presidential nominations process, the Voting Rights Act (including editing a book titled The Future of the Voting Rights Act), the dysfunction of America’s political processes, the role of the Supreme Court in overseeing American democracy, and the powers of the American President and Congress. In addition to his scholarship in these areas, he has written on national-security law, the design of the regulatory state, and American constitutional history and theory. As a lawyer, Pildes has successfully argued voting-rights and election-law cases before the United States Supreme Court and the courts of appeals, and as a well-known public commentator, he writes frequently for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and was part of the Emmy-nominated NBC breaking-news team for coverage of the 2000 Bush v. Gore contest.

Common Ground Committee Hosts Panel With Black Race Reconciliator and Former White Supremacist

Daryl Davis and Ryan Lo’Ree will discuss how to reduce tensions in a conversation moderated by NYT columnist David Brooks

Wilton, CT, May 27, 2021- Common Ground Committee (CGC), a nonpartisan, citizen-led nonprofit dedicated to reducing polarization, announced their upcoming, free event that answers the question: “What does it take to combat hate?” Daryl Davis, an award-winning Black musician, race reconciliator and renowned lecturer, has used the power of human connection to convince hundreds of people to leave white supremacist groups. He is joined by Ryan Lo’Ree, a former white supremacist, now working to deradicalize people who have been lured into extremism and white supremacy. Their conversation will be moderated by NYT columnist David Brooks.

“Daryl and Ryan embody Common Ground Committee’s values, by bringing people together through positive conversations and mutual understanding. We are so pleased that they are joining David and CGC for this conversation,” said Bruce Bond, co-founder and CEO of Common Ground Committee. “Our podcast with Daryl last year remains one of our most sought-out of our ‘Let’s Find Common Ground’ series. At a time where division is at an all-time high, in the midst of national racial strife, we are grateful that they are willing to share their expertise, explain strategies that work to combat hate and show us how we can all play a part.”

This virtual panel discussion is presented in partnership with the Bridge Alliance and will kick off the National Week of Conversation 2021.

“We could not be more excited to partner with the Common Ground Committee to host this crucial conversation and kick off the National Week of Conversation,” said Debilyn Molineaux, president and CEO of the Bridge Alliance. “Now more than ever, it’s important to combat the division plaguing our country. Having open conversations is one of the most effective ways to do so. We look forward to hearing from Daryl and Ryan who showcase how conversations can heal divides and how we can learn to listen to each other.”

To attend this free event, please sign up online here.

For interview requests, please contact Emily Cooper at ecooper@momentum-cg.com or 212-671-2086.

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About Common Ground Committee

Common Ground Committee (CGC) (commongroundcommittee.org) is a nonpartisan, 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, CGC has held 14 forums featuring panelists who have reached over 200 points of consensus. Panelists have included such notables as David Petraeus, Susan Rice, John Kerry, Condoleezza Rice, Michael Steele, Donna Brazile and Larry Kudlow, exploring issues ranging from race and income inequality to foreign policy. CGC is also responsible for the “Let’s Find Common Ground” podcast and the Common Ground Scorecard, which scores politicians and candidates for public office on their likelihood to find common ground with the opposite party. Free of political agenda and financial influence, CGC has a singular focus on bringing light, not heat, to public discourse.

About Bridge Alliance

The Bridge Alliance is a coalition of over 90 organizations dedicated to U.S. revitalization. With each organization focusing on a different sector of the movement, our members represent a combined three million supporters in the burgeoning field of civic reform and civil discourse. In addition, more than one billion dollars has been invested towards improving government effectiveness nationwide. We act as a hub of information and connectivity for over 90 civic action organizations. We provide the infrastructure for our members to expand individually, collaborate on shared goals, and inform others that are invested in democracy revitalization. This generates a collective impact greater than any one group could make alone.

 

About National Conversation Project

National Week of Conversation 2021 (June 14-20), the fourth annual, is powered by the #ListenFirst Coalition (listenfirstcoalition.org) of 300+ organizations and invites Americans of all stripes to listen, extend grace, and discover common interests. Another courageous step following America Talks, we hope you’ll join this hopeful mission to defeat toxic polarization and heal America by transforming division and contempt into connection and understanding.

 

 

 

Environment & Climate Change: Can Young Americans Bridge the Gap?

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They agree the government should take action on climate change. Can young voters lead the way to common ground?

Young Americans, aged 18-29, believe that the threat from climate change is real regardless of their ideological leanings, compared to older Americans. Recent polling shows that Republican voters, born after 1980, are much more likely than older Republicans to think that government efforts to reduce climate change have been insufficient (52% vs. 31%).

In this episode, we ask: can the youngest generation of voters put aside partisan differences and agree on policies needed to protect climate and the environment as well as address the needs of business and the economy? We discuss the roles of government and business, and how to find common ground.

Our guests are Danielle Butcher, a conservative political executive and a leader of the American Conservation Coalition; and a liberal, Andrew Brennen, who is a National Geographic Explorer and Education Fellow, who co-founded the Kentucky Student Voice Team.

Andrew Brennen

Andrew Brennen is a National Geographic Explorer and Education Fellow supporting youth led movements and organizations around the globe. As a junior in high school he co-founded the Kentucky Student Voice Team, which helps to amplify and elevate students as partners in improving Kentucky schools.

Today, the Kentucky Student Voice Team consists of over 150 young people from across the Commonwealth and serves as a national model for how young people can hold educational institutions accountable. Andrew graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s degree in political science and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. 

Danielle Butcher

Danielle Butcher is a conservative political executive who aids organizations in developing and implementing their national strategies. Danielle currently serves as Executive Vice President of the American Conservation Coalition and on the Advisory Board of the British Conservation Alliance, where she merges her love of leadership with her passions for free-market capitalism and the environment. She is also a Visiting Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) working on environmental and energy issues. Danielle was recently named to 2020’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

She has spoken at several prominent conservative events including CPAC, appeared as a frequent guest on Fox News Radio and NPR, and has had her work featured in publications such as The Times, The Hill, The Washington Examiner, VOX, and more. With her work prior to ACC, she served in leadership roles at various conservative nonprofits and organizations. Danielle attended Bethel University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she studied Political Science and Rhetoric Communications.

Why it’s bad for America if President Biden gives up on bipartisanship

In this piece written for USA Today, Common Ground Committee co-founders Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen analyze whether President Biden’s call for unity has translated into action, and examine the current opportunity to change how business gets done in Congress.


President Biden has an opportunity to break the ‘winner takes all’ culture in Congress, but he must adjust his definition of what true unity means.

President Joe Biden’s first months in office have been disappointingly familiar. While his predecessor’s combative tone is a thing of the past, when looking at actions (not words), it seems the president’s commitment to collaboration has disappeared.

During negotiations on the American Rescue Plan, Biden essentially said that bipartisan support would be nice, but that he’d be willing to pass the bill without it. The bill was promptly rammed through Congress on a party line vote.

He did not strike many notes of collaboration during his first address to Congress, at one point saying on immigration: “If you actually want to solve a problem, I’ve sent a bill to take a close look at it.” What happened to the promise to “listen to one another” again?

This is disappointing, but there is reason for hope. One of the few moments of promise in his speech was the acknowledgement of a Republican counterproposal to his infrastructure plan. We also were encouraged that he recently held talks with congressional Republicans.

Biden says he “welcomes ideas.” Now he must fully commit to this line of thought. Bipartisanship can no longer be thought of as a “nice to have” commodity. It must be considered necessary for future legislative progress, because healing our great divides is paramount to the health and strength of the nation.

We know how easy it is to pay lip service to common ground. As heads of an organization, Common Ground Committee, dedicated to healing the existential threat of toxic polarization, we see it all too often from both ends of the political spectrum.

While Republicans are now sounding the call for bipartisanship, it wasn’t long ago that their leadership passed President Donald Trump’s tax cuts without any Democratic support.

Biden has an opportunity to break this “winner takes all” culture in Congress, but he must first adjust his definition of what true unity means.

The Biden administration has made clear that it views unity through the lens of bringing the American people together. To be sure, that is a worthy goal, and polling does show that parts of the president’s agenda have support from both Democratic and Republican citizens.

But so does bipartisanship. A new survey from Public Agenda and USA TODAY found that the majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle want compromise, and that they blame our leaders for the polarization.

There’s a lot of talk about “good faith” negotiations. It’s up for debate whether Republicans’ initial $600 billion counterproposal to the American Rescue Plan was a serious offer. But even if it wasn’t, the president could have called their bluff and made a counteroffer. Would Republicans really have been willing to be seen as the ones scuttling bipartisanship?

Vote on hate crimes bill is encouraging

The recent 94-1 passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act was an embodiment of what can happen when Democrats and Republicans put serious effort into cooperation. This type of progress should be commonplace, not a rare occurrence.

Biden should seize the momentum that Sens. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, brought forth and use it to rebuild trust between the two parties heading into the next few months of negotiations on infrastructure.

The type of collaboration we saw on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act is not just a bonus, feel-good story – it’s a necessity for our country to function. If no progress is made on infrastructure via collaboration, we fear a chilling effect that could prevent progress on some of the most important issues facing the country, from guns to climate change.

At such a critical point in the nation’s road back to normalcy, now is exactly the time that Biden should hammer home the importance of collaboration.

It’s encouraging that the administration has called the Republicans’ $568 billion infrastructure counterproposal a “good faith effort.” Former Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich, at a recent event we hosted with former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, said he believed there are aspects of the infrastructure bill Republicans could get behind.

Yet, even as talks show signs of promise, Democrats are setting an arbitrary deadline before they go it alone.

Take Republican proposal seriously

We are not saying that the Republican plan is the way to go to solve infrastructure. But at the very least, the president and congressional Democrats ought to seriously consider it as a first step in crafting a bill suitable for both sides – without putting up roadblocks.

Biden wisely said in his inaugural address that “every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war.” We couldn’t agree more.

Republicans are not going to be on board with every idea the Democrats propose and vice versa – and that’s perfectly fine. But we shouldn’t let those disagreements be a barrier to any progress.

The president has an opportunity to fundamentally change the narrative of how business is done in Congress and give Americans an example to aspire to. He should not let that moment pass him by because in these times of great division, the way business gets done is just as important as the business to be done.

– This article was originally published in USA Today on May 17, 2021.

Bridging the Rural-Urban Divide

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Can a former urban liberal learn how to appreciate the perspective of rural conservatives?

She lived in liberal Seattle and covered science, climate change, and the environment for NPR for more than a decade. Then in 2018, journalist Ashley Ahearn made a big jump, moving with her husband to one of the most conservative counties in rural Washington State.

In this episode of Let’s Find Common Ground, we hear about the profound rural-urban divide in America, and what Ashley discovered about her new neighbors and herself when she switched from the city to the country, now living on a 20-acre property with a horse and a pickup truck. We also discuss how politics and views of the land and climate differ greatly according to where people live.

Recently, Ashley Ahearn launched her 8-part podcast series, Grouse, which looks at life in rural America through the lens of the most controversial bird in the West — the greater sage-grouse. One of her great passions is storytelling, and helping scientists better communicate their research to the broader public.

Read the Episode Transcript

Ep. 28-Bridging the Rural-Urban Divide

Ashley Ahearn

Ashley Ahearn is an award-winning public media journalist who has covered science and the environment for NPR and member stations for more than a decade. She co-created, hosted, and produced the national climate change podcast, Terrestrial, in partnership with the NPR Story Lab and KUOW in Seattle. Ashley’s stories have appeared on Marketplace, All Things Considered, Here and Now, The World, and other NPR shows.

She has a master’s in science journalism from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California and has completed reporting fellowships at the Knight Center at MIT, the Vermont Law School, the Metcalf Institute at the University of Rhode Island, and the Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources. A few years ago she moved to rural Washington State and started her own podcasting company, Ahearn Productions, which released an eight-part series about sage grouse in partnership with NPR member stations across the West. Grouse was listed as one of the top 20 podcasts of 2020 by the Atlantic Magazine. In her spare time, Ashley rides motorcycles and moves cows on horseback or plays in the sagebrush with her husband and dog.

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Dr. Peter T. Coleman

Depolarizing America: Ending Toxic Polarization

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Should we be aiming for unity and ending toxic polarization? A top expert on conflict resolution weighs in.

When Joe Biden became president he wanted to bring Americans together, to forge unity. But maybe unity isn’t what we should aim for. Our guest this week says instead of focusing on that elusive goal, Americans need to concentrate on what’s damaging all of us: toxic polarization.

In this episode we look at what toxic polarization is and how to end it, person by person.

Peter Coleman has advised the Biden administration on how to detoxify America. He is a mediator and psychologist who specializes in conflict resolution. A professor of psychology and education at Columbia University, he is the author of the forthcoming book, The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization.

Read the Episode Transcript

Ep. 27-Depolarizing-America-Ending-Toxic-Polarization

Dr. Peter T. Coleman

Dr. Peter T. Coleman is a professor of psychology and education at Columbia University who studies polarizing, intractable conflict and sustainable peace, and whose next book titled, The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization will be released by Columbia University Press on June 1, 2021.

Dr. Coleman is a renowned expert on constructive conflict resolution and sustainable peace. His current research focuses on conflict intelligence and systemic wisdom as meta-competencies for navigating conflict constructively across all levels (from families to companies to communities to nations), and includes projects on adaptive negotiation and mediation dynamics, cross-cultural adaptivity, optimality dynamics in conflict, justice, and polarization, multicultural conflict, intractable conflict, and sustainable peace. Learn more.

 

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Women's History Month 2021

Celebrating the Role of Women in Shaping History…And Our Future

Women's History Month 2021

Women’s History Month, recognized each March, celebrates the vital role of women in shaping our history – and our shared future. As a citizen-led nonprofit dedicated to driving more progress and less divisions, we have been fortunate to explore some of our era’s most pressing issues with women who are breaking ground in their pursuit of democracy, truth and the creation of a thriving nation that upholds our common ideals.

As we pause to celebrate the accomplishments and progress of women, hear directly from seven iconic CGC panelists in these videos from our YouTube channel, featuring some of our most engaging forums and podcast conversations.

Condoleezza Rice

Born in Birmingham, AL, Condoleezza Rice was raised in the racially segregated South. A member of the Republican party, she was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve first as the country’s first female National Security Advisor and later as the first Black female Secretary of State. Along with former Secretary of State John Kerry, Ms. Rice was a guest panelist at our forum Finding Common Ground on America’s Role in the World. (For your reading list: No Higher Honor: a Memoir of My Years in Washington by Condoleezza Rice.)

 

Donna Brazile

As campaign manager for Al Gore, in 2000 Donna Brazile became the first Black woman to manage a major party presidential campaign and served twice as acting Chair of the Democratic National Committee. She is an author and contributor to Fox News. Along with former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, Ms. Brazile was a guest panelist at our forum Finding Common Ground on Government’s Role in Bridging Racial Divides. (For your reading list: For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics by Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry & Minyon Moore.)

Susan Rice

One of the country’s most prominent diplomats, Susan Rice was appointed under President Barack Obama to serve as the first Black woman ambassador to the United Nations. She was later named National Security Advisor. Currently, she serves as director of the Domestic Policy Council for the Biden administration. Along with Gen. David Petraeus, (US Army, Ret.), Ms. Rice was a guest panelist at our forum Finding Common Ground on the New Cold War. (For your reading list: Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For by Susan Rice.)

Maggie Haberman

Maggie Haberman is a CNN political analyst and New York Times White House correspondent. One of journalism’s most influential voices, in 2018 she received a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Trump administration and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Along with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, Ms. Haberman was a guest panelist at our forum Finding Common Ground on Facts, Fake News & The Media.

Caroline Randall Williams

Harvard graduate Caroline Randall Williams is an award-winning author, activist and scholar. She is the descendant of enslaved people and the great-great-grand-daughter of Edmund Pettus, a Confederate officer and grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, for whom is named the bridge in Selma where the 1965 civil rights march known as “Bloody Sunday” took place. Ms. Williams appeared as a guest on our podcast episode My Body Is a Confederate Monument.

Ilyasah Shabazz

Ilyasah Shabazz is the daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. She is an award-winning author, community organizer, social activist and adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is passionate about promoting higher education for at-risk youth and interfaith dialogue to build bridges between cultures for young leaders of the world. Ms. Shabazz appeared as a guest on our podcast episode What Racism Means to Me. (For your reading list: Growing Up X: A Memoir by the Daughter of Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz.)

Abigail Spanberger

Democrat Abigail Spanberger is serving her first term in Congress after defeating a Republican incumbent in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. Previously, she served as a federal agent and as a case officer for the CIA. Along with Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, a fellow member of the bipartisan Problem Solver’s Caucus, Ms. Spanberberger appeared as a guest on our podcast episode Seeking Common Ground in Congress.

Watch our full Women’s Series playlist and subscribe to Common Ground Committee’s YouTube channel to see new content as it is added.

Manu Meel and Jessica Carpenter

Depolarizing America: Bridging Divides on Campus

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With American democracy in crisis, can college students save the day?

There is concern that American democracy is in crisis. For college students it can be frightening to consider the prospects for a better tomorrow. But addressing the problems in our political system will require the next generation to be more engaged and less polarized.

BridgeUSA was formed by college students to tackle the crisis head-on, with campus-based chapters at colleges around the country. This non-profit group hosts discussions and events, champions ideological diversity, teaches constructive engagement and aims to promote a solution-oriented political culture. BridgeUSA’s chief goal is to develop a new generation of political leaders who value empathy and the common good.

Our podcast guests are Manu Meel, a recent graduate of U.C. Berkeley and Chief Executive Officer of BridgeUSA, and Jessica Carpenter, a senior at Arizona State University, who runs brand management and communications at BridgeUSA.

Jessica Carpenter

Jessica Carpenter is the Marketing Director at BridgeUSA. She is a senior at Arizona State University studying journalism and political science. She is also a member of the BridgeUSA chapter where she works on social media and event planning. Growing up in a one-way political leaning household, Jessica found Bridge as an answer to understanding both sides of the political spectrum. She is passionate about finding solutions and understanding what motivates people to action.

Manu Meel

Manu Meel is passionate about empowering and elevating the impact of young people. Currently, Manu serves as the CEO of BridgeUSA, a national organization that is investing in the future of democracy. Through his work, Manu has contributed to several news outlets, advanced pro-democracy efforts nationally, and led the policy operation for a Baltimore mayoral candidate. In the past, Manu worked as an associate at the venture capital firm Amplo and at the Department of State as a political analyst in counterterrorism. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other media platforms.

 

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magnifying glass with bias text wording

Is Common Ground Committee Biased?

Magnifying glass with bias text words

We need to talk with you about something important.

We at Common Ground Committee (CGC) have taken some heat from time to time about an issue that cuts close to home. We’re coming right out and addressing it head-on because it’s something we care deeply about and strive hard to get right.

It has been suggested that CGC appears biased toward a particular political ideology based on the type of content it presents. For an organization that is wholly dedicated to bridging the divide between left and right, committed to the importance of active listening and dealing with objective facts, it is crucial to us and to our mission that we not have a political agenda, nor that we be perceived as having one. We can say without reservation that as an organization we do not have a political agenda. We lean neither right nor left, having purposely built a board whose members span the political spectrum. But sometimes people of good faith and discerning minds perceive that we are biased in some way. We have been accused of having a conservative agenda and at other times a progressive one.

Working through Biases

Let’s consider for a minute what it means to be unbiased. As a concept, and as an organization, Common Ground Committee has no bias. It was formed expressly in the service of shared communication, in hopes that shedding light on the issues that divide us—turning it in the light like one would a gem to see from all sides—so that we can better understand one another. While there is no guarantee, understanding can lead to common ground or compromise, and finally to progress on the issue. Certainly, it can lead to increased civility.

Individuals, however, have bias. Everyone, no matter how hard they work to behave with impartiality, has a way they naturally lean, a set of beliefs that influences their perspective, the decisions they make, and the votes they cast. The most impartial of journalists have the moment where they step into the voting booth and pull the lever. But it’s how aware you are of your biases, and how you work to recognize and handle them, that makes you effective at objective discourse and achieving common ground.

Sometimes the biases slip out. In a recent podcast, former Senate Secretary Kelly Johnston, a Republican and founding board member of the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, discussed a moment of his own “intemperance” – a message he regrets tweeting in 2018 that fanned the conspiracy flames about left-leaning financier George Soros helping immigrants bound for the U.S. border.

“I did campaign work, 35 campaigns in 25 states. That’s combat. So my instincts and my experience and my work was all about doing battle. Then, when I got into the private sector about two decades ago, Rob Fersh (a Democrat and Co-Founder of Convergence) actually inspired me to look at bridge-building as a much more productive activity. And I realized that I was part of the problem because I was busy tearing other people down and fighting on issues, and I was accomplishing really nothing to advance the ball,” he said. “And I realized, ‘You know what? I would like to really solve some of these problems.’ Do I fall off the wagon on occasion? Yes, guilty as charged. But I try to get back on, which is important.”

This sticks with us from that podcast, as it is a tremendously good point. We each have our biases and they can surface from time to time. We know we have differences because that’s why one person is a Democrat and another is a Republican.

Occasionally, we have found that something as simple as a slight difference in the choice of words — for example, the murder of George Floyd, rather than the death of George Floyd; or equality instead of equity — signals bias to readers of different parties. Such is not our intent, and we appreciate hearing your feedback on the nuances of language.

We also find that, every now and then, referencing buzzwords that are commonly used to frame issues to appeal to the values of a particular party — for example, voting access versus voting security, or immigration reform versus border security — can serve as a dog whistle in and of itself. But that shouldn’t make the topic itself taboo in our journey to reach common ground. It makes it all the more important.

Continuing to Find Common Ground

We hope we’ve shed enough light on this question of bias so that you’ll accept that we do strive very hard to keep Common Ground Committee on a track that leans neither right nor left. We know words matter. You might read a “trigger” word or phrase in our content, but we hope you’ll recognize that we use it in our effort to build the understanding that can bridge the particular divide we are discussing, not to take a position. And should that happen, we invite you to partner with us in this process of discussion and transparency, by giving us feedback so that we can continue to build Common Ground Committee’s brand as an unbiased, nonpartisan organization. Our emails are bruce.bond@commongroundcommittee.org and erik.olsen@commongroundcommittee.org.

Thank you for listening to us on this question that is so crucial to our work!

Depolarizing America: Finding Common Ground in Congress

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With Congress rigidly divided, what can Washington insiders teach us about bipartisanship?

By almost any measure, Congress is much more rigidly divided along partisan lines than it was 30 years ago. Politicians run nationalized campaigns, not local ones, and frequently demonize the other side.

We examine ways to find common ground among lawmakers and those who work on Capitol Hill, with two deeply experienced Washington insiders.

Betsy Wright Hawkings served as Chief of Staff for four Republican members of Congress over 25 years and helped build bipartisan coalitions on a range of vital issues. She is now Managing Partner of Article One Advisors, a consulting firm focused on giving organizations strategic advice on how Congress functions.

Tamera Luzzatto served as former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Chief of Staff in the U.S. Senate from 2001 to 2009. Before that, she was on the staff of Democratic Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV for 15 years. Today, she is Senior Vice President of Government Relations at Pew Charitable Trusts.

Read the Episode Transcript:

Ep. 25-Depolarizing-America:-Finding-Common-Ground-in-Congress

Betsy Wright Hawkings

Betsy Wright Hawkings served as Chief of Staff to four Republican House members over 25 years, including Congressman Christopher Shays, helping to develop coalitions to pass cross-partisan legislation like the Congressional Accountability Act, the 9-11 Commission, and legislation to implement its recommendations. The founding Managing Director of Democracy Fund’s Governance Program, she now heads Article One Advisors, providing support to entrepreneurial organizations seeking to foster dialogue across the ideological spectrum; promote more effective congressional systems, processes, and procedures; develop innovative programs to deepen leadership development for members of Congress and staff, and reduce incentives for hyper-partisanship and gridlock in government.

Tamera Luzzatto

Tamera Luzzatto is Senior Vice President of Government Relations at The Pew Charitable Trusts. She ensures that Pew’s wide range of nonpartisan policy work at the state, federal and international levels is effectively and accurately communicated to policymakers. She also oversees Pew’s distinguished advisors program.

Luzzatto served as former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Chief of Staff in the U.S. Senate from 2001 to 2009. Before that, Luzzatto was on the staff of Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia for 15 years, beginning as a legislative aide handling health care and other issues, then serving as legislative director and chief of staff. She was Sen. Rockefeller’s primary liaison to two major advisory panels that he chaired, the National Commission on Children, and the Pepper Commission on health care.

Luzzatto began her career working for ACTION, the umbrella agency for the Peace Corps, VISTA, and other federal service programs. With nearly three decades of experience in politics and government, she speaks regularly about Congress and public policy to academic institutions and other organizations throughout the country.

She currently chairs the board of the Washington Bach Consort, an acclaimed baroque choral group. She also serves on the Johns Hopkins Neurosurgery Advisory Committee and the personnel committee of the Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church. In addition, she is a member of the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., and the Federal City Council.

Luzzatto earned a bachelor of arts degree in government from Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude.