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common ground 2020

In a Year Like No Other, Delivering Discourse That Heals

By Erik Olsen & Bruce Bond, CGC Co-Founders

The year 2020 was eventful in ways most people never anticipated. For Common Ground Committee (CGC), the arrival of the pandemic meant we had to rapidly pivot from our brand-defining in-person events to come up with a whole new plan for pursuing our mission to bring healing to the incivility and polarization that plagues our nation. We are grateful to report that CGC rose to the occasion.

We Kicked Off With a Great Forum Event in February

The year got off to a good start in February with an exciting forum event at the Columbia Journalism School that we had planned for over a year, Finding Common Ground on Facts, Fake News & The Media. In an explosive era for modern journalism, our panelists Maggie Haberman of the New York Times and Chris Wallace of Fox News found much common ground. The event was covered by The Hollywood Reporter, The Hill, and the Washington Examiner, which provided a link to the entire event. It was the most significant press coverage CGC received to date, and was a great success.

Even In the Midst of a Global Pandemic, We Never Lost Sight of Our Mission

It soon became apparent that plans for future live forum events would be put on hold as the pandemic put an abrupt halt on public gatherings, throwing many organizations in the non-profit sector into turmoil and uncertainty. As the public response to the pandemic rapidly became a very partisan issue, we responded with an op-ed in USA Today on March 20 entitled, “To Stop Coronavirus, We Must Set Aside Partisanship. Here’s How We Can Do It.

We went on to produce three other op-ed pieces in 2020. In USA Today, we described the need for expanding vote-by-mail in the current pandemic environment. Another USA Today op-ed we wrote called out the need to support candidates willing to work across the aisle. Finally, we published a piece in The Hill calling for healing after the election and asking newly elected officials to embrace the country’s need for its leaders to find common ground.

In May, The Common Ground Podcast Was Born

In 2020, CGC also accelerated plans to launch a podcast series, “Let’s Find Common Ground. The series debuted on May 7 with three simultaneous podcast episode releases, all addressing issues arising from the pandemic and the need for leadership and common ground.

Late in May our podcast committee was alerted to the story of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man in rural Georgia killed by three white men who were trying to conduct a “citizen’s arrest.” What was notable was that the men had filmed the incident, thinking that it would give evidence of their innocence. It was a tragic event of mindless brutality. We responded with a healing message by putting together a podcast episode with noted common grounder Daryl Davis, a Black musician who, solely through conversation and building relationships, caused members of the Ku Klux Klan to hang up their robes and give up their racism.

Shortly before the expected release of the podcast the video of George Floyd’s death while in custody was released, sparking widespread unrest in cities across the country. We quickly asked Daryl to do an update on the podcast to include his thoughts about this latest issue. He did so, and that yielded a very timely, effective podcast addressing the problems of racism and the corresponding actions of members of law enforcement. Exceptionally inspiring, it has become one of our most popular podcast episodes.

As race continued to dominate the headlines we produced a series of podcast episodes covering racial equity and law enforcement reform that included interviews with Art Acevedo, the Hispanic Chief of Police for Houston and Errol Toulon, the Black Sheriff of Suffolk County, NY. Sheriff Toulon was joined by his wife,Tina, who is white. The Toulons candidly shared their experiences as a mixed race couple and the perspective it has given them.

In June, We Launched Our YouTube Channel

In June CGC launched a YouTube channel containing over 100 videos of CGC work starting in 2010 and organized in various categories. These include audience reaction, identifying where common ground was found, full forum events, press coverage of CGC activities (including NBC coverage and interviews from the TODAY show and MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin), and partnership activities with other organizations from the Democracy Reform Movement.

We Created the Common Ground Scorecard Just In Time for the Presidential Election

As the summer unfolded and the media focus shifted to the Presidential campaigns, CGC unveiled its latest product, the Common Ground Scorecard. This web-based program is something we had thought about for years and in 2020 finally brought to life. The Scorecard yields an objective score that identifies the degree to which officials and candidates for office are likely to reach across the aisle to find common ground rather than stick to ideology or hold the party line. Essentially it measures the degree to which elected officials are “common grounders.” The tool includes candidates for the presidency, vice-president, members of the U.S. Senate and House and state governors. The Scorecard also includes an option for candidates to pledge to engage in common ground activity while in office.

Over the next several weeks over 15 candidates agreed to take our pledge and local news organizations from Hawaii to Boston picked up the story of how candidates ranked in our Scorecard. In September, Marist College’s highly respected political research organization, the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, evaluated the Scorecard and was impressed. They found it to be “a rigorous assessment, using a number of quantitative factors, to score public officeholders on how much of a ‘common grounder’ they are…. It’s not about issue position but rather focuses on how much an office holder reaches out to those on the ‘other’ side.”

We closed out our 2020 programming with a fascinating webinar featuring members of the cast of Stars and Strife, a documentary about polarization in America and what can be done individually and collectively to address it. NYT columnist David Brooks moderated an in-depth, candid and substantive discussion with former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, BLM of Greater New York’s Hawk Newsome, business leader Katherine Gehl and the film’s writer and director, David Smick.

Looking Ahead to 2021

As we have successfully made a significant shift in how we pursue our mission, we look forward with great anticipation to 2021. We are planning more webinars with notable panelists, continued delivery of our podcast series, enhancement of our Scorecard and new programming elements and tools.

In addition, we anticipate working with like-minded organizations in what is called the “Democracy Reform” movement that we are a part of. We believe strong partnerships are key to the successful pursuit of our mission moving forward.

We also believe every one of us has an important role in bringing light, not heat, to our country’s civil discourse. In this year of unprecedented crisis and division, we are thankful to be part of a community that continues seeking common ground.

Check back with Common Ground Committee and stay up to date on all of our latest events, podcast releases and more! 

Eric Olsen - Common Ground

New York NOW Interview: Erik Olsen on Lawmakers Finding Common Ground

With voters more divided than ever, is there an appetite for candidates who work across the aisle?

Our co-founder Erik Olsen talks to New York NOW host Dan Clark about the conclusions that can be drawn from the 2020 election, what our Common Ground Scorecard reveals about New York legislators – and how the dynamic of Washington could change in the coming term.

Curious to see how your elected officials rank? Find them here.

race wars

Divided citizenry and government — a call to action for common ground

In this piece written for THE HILL, Common Ground Committee co-founders Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen argue that politicians and the media are taking the wrong lessons from a divided electorate.


During a time when millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet, leadership should be driving their members to find solutions not to stubbornly stand their ground.

This election voters turned out in record numbers. Mail-in ballots alone exceeded the number of Americans who voted in 2016. Polling seemed to indicate that we would see a strong repudiation of President Trump and the Republican party. But while former Vice President Joe Biden did take the White House, voters sent another message with their ballots: They are as far apart on the direction of the country as ever.

As the heads of an organization, Common Ground Committee (CGC), that seeks to heal our political divides, you might think we are discouraged by an election that confirmed our divisions. It’s true that in our everyday life we see politics tearing friends and families apart. But we also think that the political class and media take away the wrong lessons from divided elections.

We are most certainly a country divided by politics, but the response to that shouldn’t be to dig-in further on the party line.

Partisans will always hope for that red or blue wave, but history shows it to be a rare occurrence.

When Republicans had control of the White House and Congress after the 2016 elections, it was only the fifth time since 1980. Control of the Senate has flipped six times since 1987, while the House has flipped four times since 1995. It’s time for our leaders to listen to the electorate. They didn’t want President Trump’s abrasive style, but they were also not comfortable with the Democratic party’s perceived leftward shift — as evidenced by unexpected losses in the House and (pending two run-offs in Georgia) a Senate still under Republican control.

This election was a clarion call for the collaborative government our Founding Fathers intended.

Unfortunately, leadership in Washington typically practices a “winner-takes-all” approach to legislation. President-elect Biden has encouragingly stated he wants to be a leader for all Americans, but he also indicated he would sign executive orders on Day 1 to eliminate many of Trump’s policies, when 8 million more voters supported him than in 2016. Republicans, meanwhile, have boasted that their continued control of the Senate gives them a mandate to continue to pursue partisan agendas despite the Biden-Harris ticket getting the most votes in history.

During a time when millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet, leadership should be driving their members to find solutions not to stubbornly stand their ground.

While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continue to spar over the size and scope of a second COVID-19 stimulus bill, some Democrats and Republicans have already agreed on a compromise. The bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus put forward a $1.5 trillion proposal in September. These 50 Democrats and Republicans found a middle ground between their two different ideologies — because they listened to each other’s concerns and ideas instead of dismissing them outright as wrong. Meanwhile, leadership never gave the proposal serious consideration and entered election day with no deal.

To paraphrase Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), two members of the House Problem Solvers Caucus who recently spoke on our “Let’s Find Common Ground” podcast, government can’t function when leadership on both sides dislikes each other. Democrats and Republicans need to make a decision: Would they rather go to their constituents saying they supported a bill they knew would never pass or one that didn’t have everything they wanted but solved some of the problems hurting American families?

We must make it crystal clear to leadership that a divided election does not mean we want the status quo of gridlock.

There are many officials already working to make progress. Prior to the election nine elected officials and challengers made a pledge to uphold the spirit of what we call “common grounders” through the Common Ground Scorecard, a tool designed to provide an objective measure of a candidate’s willingness to work across the aisle. Seven of them won reelection, including Reps. Fitzpatrick and Spanberger. We urge Americans to publicly praise and reward those officials who are committed to common ground — and call on their representatives at all levels of government to work together.

The complete election results prove that the absence of President Trump will not immediately put an end to polarization. But President-elect Biden and Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress have a chance to shift the narrative. If they commit to seriously collaborating to achieve solutions for the American people, we can begin the process of restoring competent governance. They ignore this opportunity at their own risk. A repeat of the last four years will promise an endless cycle of shifts in party control where the only winners are those who seek to exploit our differences.

– This article was originally published in THE HILL on November 21, 2020.

What The Voters Told Us: Christa Case Bryant and Story Hinckley

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Voters sent mixed messages in the 2020 election. What can we learn about how divided the country is – or isn’t?

A highlight of the 2020 election was the remarkable turnout from both sides of the political divide. Voters in cities, suburbs and rural parts of the country went to the polls in record numbers.

In the next episode of the “Let’s Find Common Ground” podcast, we examine the mood of the electorate, discuss the reasons why President-elect Joe Biden won nearly five million more votes than Donald Trump and speculate on some reasons why the pollsters got the election so wrong. Voters sent mixed messages in Congressional and local elections by splitting the ticket which caused Republicans to fare much better than expected in many races.

Our guests are Christa Case Bryant, a national political reporter for The Christian Science Monitor, and Story Hinckley, a National Political Correspondent in Washington on the newspaper’s national news desk in Washington. Both traveled extensively during the 2020 campaign, listening to voters and politicians in many states and gaining insights about how divided our country is – or isn’t. They share their rich experiences on the frontlines of the campaign and what they learned from the many people they met along the way.

Read the Episode Transcript

Ep. 17- What the Voters Told Us

Christa Case Bryant

A 2015-16 Nieman fellow at Harvard, she previously served as the Monitor’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Middle East editor, and Europe editor. She has reported from Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Germany, Estonia, and South Korea.

Ms. Bryant holds an M.A. in international relations from The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University, and a B.A. from Principia College, where she focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a major in global perspectives and a minor in religion. She also attended the Middlebury School of Hebrew and studied spoken Arabic in Jerusalem.

Read more by Christa Case Bryant: Can friendship be bipartisan? Ask the Janets.

Story Hinckley

Story Hinckley is currently a National Political Correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor in Washington. She served as the Monitor’s Paul S. Deland Fellow in 2016 before coming on staff. She holds a B.A. from the University of Virginia where she double majored in Political Science and Environmental Thought and Practice, and a M.A. in journalism from Northeastern University.
Twitter: @StoryHinckley
Instagram: @storiesbystory

Read more by Story Hinckley: One upside of a hard-fought election – bumper crop of new voters.

Election Briefing: “Why I’m Voting For….”

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With an election just around the corner, can a Trump supporter and Biden backer reach common ground?

With just days to go before the 2020 election, we invited a Trump supporter and a Biden backer to join us in the same (virtual) room, and share the personal reasons behind their vote. We have a lively, spontaneous and friendly discussion about the President’s controversial personality, the final debate, and the big policy and leadership differences between the two candidates.

John Pudner is voting for Donald Trump. He is Executive Director of Take Back Our Republic, a non-profit group and a member of Bridge Alliance. John spent three decades managing Republican political campaigns, and was the eldest of 9 children growing up in a 3 bedroom house in inner city Richmond, VA where he attended a conservative, Catholic high school whose alumni included Steve Bannon. Now John is the father of 9 children.

Philippa P.B. Hughes is voting for Joe Biden. She produces and creates art projects, and is CEO, Chief Creative Strategist and Social Sculptor at CuriosityConnects.us, a non-profit organization that designs pop-up galleries and physical spaces that bring people together who might not normally engage in dialogue and thoughtful interaction. Philippa is the daughter of a conservative Vietnamese mother and a white father who was a lifelong union member. She also grew up in Richmond, but until our podcast conversation had never met John.

Read the Episode Transcript

Ep.16- Election Briefing-Why I’m Voting For….

John Pudner

John Pudner has a history of fighting for the underdog. Known for his testimony resulting in a unanimous Federal Elections Commission decision that voters have a right to know who is paying for digital political advertising on the nation’s premier social media platform, Facebook, to building broad coalitions in support of conservative principles, Pudner’s rich history in politics has been recognized among his peers as revolutionary.

In 2014, National Review announced that Dave Brat hired Pudner to advise the first congressional campaign to ever unseat an incumbent House majority leader. Despite being outspent 40:1, Brat defeated Eric Cantor in one of the most unprecedented upsets in political history. For more than three decades, Pudner managed and consulted political candidates and policy campaigns where he developed a renowned strategy in outsmarting, rather than outspending, the opposition. What began as a statistical hobby of extrapolating sports data translated into unprecedented victories for his clients.

With a lifetime of achievement on the campaign trail, Pudner witnessed firsthand the influence of money on politics. Dark money, campaign finance loopholes and a system of manipulation stifles transparency and favors the political elite and union bosses—placing our democracy and liberty at risk.

Combining his experience elevating the grassroots voice with his strong national network of influencers, Pudner leads a team of policy experts, grassroots activists, creative minds and innovative strategists. Founded in 2014, TAKE BACK OUR REPUBLIC focuses on harnessing the power of everyday Americans to change the way we conduct elections and discuss policy.

Pudner serves on the board of directors for Voters’ Right to Know.

A graduate of Marquette University and proud father, Pudner and his wife reside in Auburn, Alabama.

Philippa P.B. Hughes

Philippa P.B. Hughes is a Social Sculptor and Creative Strategist who produces art-fueled projects to spark humanizing and authentic conversations between people who might not normally meet. She has designed and produced hundreds of creative activations since 2007 for curious folks to engage with art and with one another in unconventional and meaningful ways. She leads CuriosityConnects.us, a partner in Looking For America a national series inviting politically diverse guests to break bread and talk to each other face-to-face using art as a starting point for relationship-building conversations.

Seeking Common Ground in Congress

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With a bitterly contested election underway, is it possible for Congress to work across partisan divides?

With just days to go before a bitterly contested election, we speak with two Members of Congress, one Republican and one Democrat, who are reaching across rigid partisan divides to seek out compromise and constructive change.

Democrat Abigail Spanberger is the U.S. Representative for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, who is serving her first term. In 2018, she defeated a Republican incumbent to win the district, which includes most of the northern suburbs of Richmond.

Brian Fitzpatrick is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional district. His district includes all of Bucks County, a mostly suburban area north of Philadelphia.

Reps. Spanberger and Fitzgerald both score highly on the new Common Ground Scorecard rankings.

Read the Episode Transcript

Ep. 15 – Seeking Common Ground in Congress

Brian Fitzpatrick

After dedicating his professional life to service and protecting others, Brian Fitzpatrick was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2016 to represent the people of Pennsylvania’s Eighth Congressional District. Following redistricting in 2018, Congressman Fitzpatrick was elected to represent the people of Pennsylvania’s First District which includes all of Bucks County and a portion of northwestern Montgomery County. His top priorities in Congress are increasing economic opportunity and keeping our nation safe.

A Levittown native and graduate of Bishop Egan High School, Brian is a graduate of LaSalle University, Penn State University and the Dickinson School of Law. He is a licensed Certified Public Accountant, Emergency Medical Technician as well as an attorney – having previously served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney focused on drug crimes.

For 14 years prior to running for Congress, Brian served our country as an FBI Supervisory Special Agent fighting political corruption and supporting global counterterrorism efforts – including being embedded with U.S. Special Forces as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Working to promote freedom and democracy, Brian also served as National Director for the FBI’s Campaign Finance and Election Crimes Enforcement Program and as a national supervisor for the FBI’s Political Corruption Unit where he is recognized as an expert in restoring integrity to governmental institutions. For his work, Brian was an inaugural recipient of the FBI Director’s Leadership Award in 2015 and was named “Investigator of the Year by the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation.

In the 116th Congress, Brian is a member of the Foreign Affairs and Transportation and Infrastructure committees. Brian is the founding member of the Congressional Citizen Legislature Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers committed to fighting for term limits and Congressional reforms, and a member of the No Labels ‘Problem Solver Caucus.’

Abigail Spanberger

U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger is proud to represent Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, which is comprised of ten counties throughout Central Virginia.

Representative Spanberger began her career in public service, first serving as a federal agent with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigating money laundering and narcotics cases, and then serving as a case officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). As a CIA officer, she worked at home and abroad to collect vital intelligence, keep our country safe, and work in furtherance of our national security priorities. In the private sector, Representative Spanberger worked with colleges and universities to help them diversify their student bodies and increase graduation rates.

Representative Spanberger serves on the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture and the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs. On the House Agriculture Committee, she serves as Chair of the Conservation &  Forestry Subcommittee and as a member of the Commodity Exchanges, Energy, & Credit Subcommittee. And on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Spanberger serves as Vice-Chair of the Europe, Eurasia, Energy, & the Environment Subcommittee and as a member of the Asia, the Pacific, & Nonproliferation Subcommittee.

Representative Spanberger grew up in Henrico County. She earned her B.A. at the University of Virginia and her MBA at a dual degree program between Purdue University’s Krannert School and the GISMA Business School in Hanover, Germany. Representative Spanberger resides in Glen Allen, Henrico County, Virginia with her husband, Adam, and their three children.

2020 Election Briefing: U.S. Foreign Policy

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The “America First” policy has reshaped many global institutions. What is the future of America’s role in the world?

President Trump’s “America First” policy has led to a U.S. withdrawal from many global institutions. For decades after World War II, American leadership in the world was taken for granted. Today, the future of American hegemony is deeply uncertain.

In this episode, we explore the future of foreign policy with two highly experienced journalists, Peter Ford and Howard LaFranchi. Based in Paris, Peter is global affairs correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor. Prior to his current job, he spent a decade as Beijing Bureau Chief. Howard has been The Monitor’s diplomacy correspondent in Washington D.C. since 2001.

We discuss the U.S. pullback from the World Health Organization during the COVID-19 pandemic, America’s exit from the Paris climate accord, deteriorating relations with China, and the differences between Joe Biden and Donald Trump on America’s role in the world.

Read the Episode Transcript

Ep. 14- Election Briefing Foreign Policy

Peter Ford

Peter Ford is The Christian Science Monitor’s global affairs correspondent, based in Paris. Prior to his current posting, Peter served for a decade as the Monitor’s Beijing bureau chief, covering news and features throughout China and also makes reporting trips to Japan and the Korean peninsula. Before that, he spent six years as the Monitor’s Chief European Correspondent. Based in Paris, he covered news and features from the continent and also followed global trends in justice, religion and security, among other issues. Earlier, Peter served for four years as the Monitor’s Moscow bureau chief, reporting throughout Russia and the former Soviet republics.

Peter also worked as the Monitor’s Middle East correspondent, based in Jerusalem, arriving in the region in December 1990 just in time to cover the Gulf War from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. From his home base, he traveled widely and regularly throughout the Middle East, focusing on the developing peace process and the interplay of religion and politics in Muslim countries. As a special correspondent based in Buenos Aires in 1989 and 1990, Ford covered Argentina and neighboring countries for The Independent of London and The Christian Science Monitor. Ford lived and worked in Central America from 1985-1989, writing for the Monitor, the Financial Times, and The Economist during the civil wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Prior to this, Ford was an editor with Inter Press Service, a news agency specializing in the affairs of developing countries. Ford is the author of “Around the Edge,” a book about a journey he made on foot and by small boat along the Caribbean coast of Central America published by Viking Penguin in 1991.

A native Englishman, Ford was educated in England and graduated from Durham University with an honors degree in politics and sociology. He is married to French journalist-author Edith Coron and is the father of two sons.

Read more by Peter Ford: “Power shift: How America’s retreat is reshaping global affairs.”

Howard LaFranchi

Howard LaFranchi has been the Christian Science Monitor’s diplomacy correspondent in DC since 2001. Previously, he spent 12 years as a reporter in the field; serving five years as the Monitor’s Paris bureau chief from 1989 to 1994, and as a Latin America correspondent in Mexico City from 1994 to 2001. LaFranchi has continued to travel as diplomacy correspondent and covered the Iraq War from the Monitor’s Baghdad bureau on numerous occasions. Prior to joining the Monitor, LaFranchi worked as the City Hall reporter for the Holyoke Transcript-Telegram. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley Journalism School and has a Masters Degree in Journalism from Boston University.

Read more by Howard LaFranchi: “The United Nations: Indispensable or irrelevant?”

Why America needs you to vote for candidates who cooperate, not partisans who fight

In this Opinion Editorial piece for USA Today, Common Ground Committee Co-Founders Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen make a case for why it’s so important for voters to identify and support candidates in the 2020 election who seek common ground on political issues. 


Voters need a new mindset that makes willingness to find common ground a “must have” quality for any candidate.

The “new normal” that defined 2020 has made its presence known this election season. The upcoming presidential debates will not have in-person audiences. Door-to-door campaigning has mostly vanished. One thing that hasn’t changed in this climate is the rabid partisanship that has been synonymous with our politics for more than a decade.

Elections are known for partisan bickering, and that has been on full display. But the issue goes much deeper. Negotiations over a second stimulus remain stalled and action now seems unlikely until after the election. After the killing of George Floyd, Republican Sen. Tim Scott’s police reform bill couldn’t get past even a procedural vote to begin debate. And most disturbing of all, partisan rhetoric has devolved into violence in cities like Portland, Ore., and Kenosha, Wisc.

To be sure, there are hints of cooperation on the federal level. Congressional leaders are attempting to revive negotiations following the shooting of Jacob Blake, as the nation cries out for action. A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the 2020 Health Statistics Act, which would improve our government’s efforts to fight the pandemic.

But when our disagreements turn into violence and critical legislation is stalled, we can’t afford piecemeal progress. Voters need a new mindset that makes willingness to find common ground a “must have” quality for any candidate.

Politics has always had some degree of hostility, but it has not always been such a lightning rod. In 1960, just 4% of Democrats and 4% of Republicans said they would be disappointed if their child married someone from the opposite party, according to the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. By 2018, that number jumped to 45% and 35%, respectively per Public Religion Research Institute.

Voters’ attitudes have shifted

This thinking has also seeped into our voting habits. After the 2018 midterms, Pew Research found that voters from both parties cited opposition to the other party as a reason for their vote, more so than support of that particular candidate. Just 10 years earlier, Pew found that votes for Barack Obama and John McCain were made primarily in support of those candidates.

It would be easy to solely blame our leaders for this shift. After all, the behavior we witness on a near daily basis on our screens or in our papers feeds into the idea that the other side is an enemy to be defeated rather than a potential partner. But politicians reflect the behavior they think voters want to see. It’s become clear that many see demonization as a required step along the path to victory.

To paraphrase Rep. Barney Frank, who spoke last year at an event hosted by our organization, Common Ground Committee, we are not calling for Americans to vote for candidates they don’t believe in. But we’ve reached a point where we need to strongly consider those who have demonstrated a commitment to working across the aisle — because what we’re doing now is not working.

Politicians who are not interested in hearing what the other side has to say are not interested in making progress, they are simply interested in getting their way.

If we had told you this time last year that most of our workforce was remote, or that the majority of Americans have rallied behind significant police reforms, you may not have believed us. A shift in thinking is never easy, but if there was ever a time, it’s this moment.

Consider actions, not just words

When you go to the polls in November or send in your mail-in ballot, don’t immediately flock to the candidate you think will best dominate the other side. Consider the individual who best represents your ideals but also knows that collaboration is essential in getting things done. Consider their concrete actions rather than just their words.

Find open-minded politicians with the Common Ground Scorecard

This new mindset will require a new set of tools to cut through the noise. That’s why we introduced the Common Ground Scorecard, a tool that measures the degree to which officeholders and candidates for elected office embody the spirit and practice of what we call Common Grounders — people who seek solutions through listening and productive conversation.

The same way voters would research where a candidate for public office stands on issues like climate change, the Scorecard provides a venue to see where they stand on common ground.

Along with the Scorecard, we urge voters to use other voting tools available to help them make informed decisions. Examples include Vote Smart, the Bipartisan Index from the Lugar Center and Ballotpedia.

The historic challenges our nation faces won’t be solved by partisan shots in the coming weeks and months. And they won’t be solved by treating this election like any other.

It is long past time to head to the polls with a new mindset that prioritizes solutions and ideas over demonization and tribalism. With new tools and thinking, we can begin to move the incentive needle away from demonizing the opposition and toward working together to make progress on the tough issues our nation faces.

Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen are co-founders of Common Ground Committee, a citizen-led initiative focused on demonstrating productive public discourse.

– This article was published in USA Today on September 17th, 2020.

2020 Election Briefing: Can We Hold A Fair Election?

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States are scrambling to manage voting in a pandemic. Is it possible to hold a free and fair election?

With only weeks to go before the 2020 election, many challenges remain to holding a free and fair voting process in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. From an expected surge in mail-in and absentee ballots, to accessible polling places for millions of voters, to the urgent need for accuracy, we discuss some of the most important and complex questions on the next episode of our podcast, “Let’s Find Common Ground.”

David Hawkings, editor in chief and Tristiaña Hinton, audience development editor, of The Fulcrum explain America’s many different statewide systems of voting, and why it could take days or weeks for winners to be declared. We look at the disputes between Republicans and Democrats, including the possibility of a disputed result, and explore why many local election officials from both parties share common ground on the need for fair and accurate results.

The Fulcrum is a non-profit, non-partisan digital news organization focused exclusively on efforts to reverse the dysfunctions plaguing American democracy. The Fulcrum and Common Ground Committee are members of Bridge Alliance, which acts as a connectivity hub for over 90 civic action organizations.

Read the Episode Transcript

Ep. 12 – 2020 Election Briefing: Can We Hold A Fair Election?

Tristiaña Hinton

Tristiaña Hinton is an audience development editor at The Fulcrum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan digital news outlet that covers democracy reform. She is also an associate producer on MLB Network Radio at SiriusXM. She started her career at WTOP Radio in Washington, DC. In her free time, she likes hanging out with her pets and pretending to play the guitar.

David Hawkings

David Hawkings is the founding editor in chief of The Fulcrum, a nonprofit and nonpartisan digital news organization focused exclusively on efforts to reverse the dysfunctions plaguing American democracy. Before starting The Fulcrum in 2018 he was the senior editor of CQ Roll Call, writing columns for each publication and hosting the “Roll Call Decoder” series of videos and podcasts. He spent six years as managing editor of CQ Weekly, when the magazine won two Dirksen Awards for coverage of Congress, and before that supervised all legislative coverage and was managing editor for daily news.

2020 Election Briefing: Climate Change

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Climate change is increasingly important to voters. But can we find a common path forward?

Climate change is a much more important issue for many voters in the November election than it was in 2016. According to a recent poll by Pew Research Center, a record-high 60% of Americans say it is a major threat to the well-being of the United States.

To gain a deeper understanding, we focus on controversial questions about climate, from the role played by government and the private sector to questions about fracking, renewable energy and nuclear power.

Our guests are journalists Eoin O’Carroll & Eva Botkin-Kowacki of The Christian Science Monitor. Eva and Eoin are staff reporters on the newspaper’s science, technology and environment team.

Read the Episode Transcript

Ep. 11 – 2020 Election Briefing: Climate Change

Eva Botkin-Kowacki

Eva Botkin-Kowacki is a staff reporter on The Christian Science Monitor’s science, environment, and technology team. Previously, she was the Robert Cowen Science Journalism Fellow at the Monitor. She first joined the Monitor as an intern in June 2014.

Eva has also reported for The Reading Eagle in Reading, Penn., The Tennessean in Nashville, Tenn. and The Recorder in Greenfield, Mass. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Vanderbilt University.

At the Monitor, Eva covers everything under the sun and beyond. She is particularly interested in space, anthropology, human impacts on the Earth, and the relationship between non-scientists and science.

During her stint at The Reading Eagle, Eva was part of a reporting team that dug into the story behind the trash piling up in the county. The resulting piece, “Landfill capital of Pennsylvania,” won first place in the Special Project category at the Pennsylvania Keystone Press Awards.

Twitter: @EBotkinKowacki

Facebook: @eva.botkinkowacki

Eoin O’Carroll

Eoin O’Carroll is a staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor’s science, technology, and environment desk. He began working at the Monitor in 2005 as an HTML producer. Since then, he has worked as an environment blogger, web producer, SEO coach, and science editor.

Before joining the science desk as a writer, Eoin was an editor for the Monitor’s Rapid Response Team, where he trained early-career journalists in writing and web production.

Eoin holds a Master’s degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication and a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Wesleyan University.

Twitter: @eoinocarroll

Website: http://www.eoinocarroll.com/