In this moment of rising inflation and global conflict, an emerging story offers reason for hope: the movement to heal political polarization in America is gaining fresh momentum.
And, signs show, it comes just in time.
Recent polling by Fox News showed that 78% of all respondents said they were “extremely” or “very” concerned about political divisions within the country, ranking the issue among their top three concerns. Other outlets, too, are hearing alarm from citizens across the political spectrum about polarization’s threat to democracy. And with trust in government near an all-time low, this polarization threatens America’s strength both domestically and overseas.
In response, a growing movement of community groups across the country are working to bridge the divides. As a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that is a prominent part of this movement, Common Ground Committee has been honored to highlight the work of elected officials who also recognize this troubling discord, and are undertaking the work of crafting bipartisan solutions.
In a series of podcast and video interviews, we have explored approaches for breaking gridlock with legislators who are part of the Problem Solvers Caucus. This independent member-driven group in Congress is comprised of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans who are committed to finding common ground on key issues facing the nation.
Two weeks ago, members of the Problem Solvers Caucus joined other legislators who support bipartisan solutions to put forward the Building Civic Bridges Act. Introduced by nine Republicans and nine Democrats, the bill aims to establish the federal government as a key partner in the deliberate effort to bridge divides and strengthen American democracy.
The legislation would empower communities to tackle sources of division through a new non-partisan pilot program, led by an Office of Civic Bridgebuilding within AmeriCorps, that would allocate competitive grants to civic and community organizations working to build relationships across lines of difference.
From interfaith groups working to build community understanding after attacks on religious institutions to local YMCAs partnering with conflict resolution experts and sponsoring community events, these community organizations are doing the on-the-ground work of building understanding across differences.
Backing their work is an entirely new way for Congress to look at improving bipartisanship and collaboration to help overcome deep ideological division across the country.
And, with the bill introduced just before President Biden’s first State of the Union address at which he introduced a Unity Agenda for the Nation with policy goals that enjoy broad bipartisan support, it’s a concept for which the time may have arrived at last.
“While it often appears that we never agree, that isn’t true,” Biden reminded the public, noting that he signed 80 bipartisan bills into law last year.
From sending emails or letters of gratitude to co-signers of the bill to asking your representatives to support these bipartisan efforts, we all have a chance to be part of the “healing polarization” wave that is building across the nation. We encourage Americans of all political persuasions to join in supporting this work.
Stay tuned for the next episode of our “Let’s Find Common Ground” podcast featuring Rep. Derek Kilmer (D) and Rep. William Timmons (R). As Chair and Vice-Chair of the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, they are the author and co-sponsor respectively of the Building Civic Bridges Act. If you haven’t already, subscribe now to be notified of upcoming episodes.