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Reuniting the United States of America

Politicians in the United States (both left and right) seem more interested in supporting their own divisive agendas instead of working toward what is good for our Nation as a whole. Clearly, hyper-polarization in American politics has worsened, but there is hope for reuniting the United States of America.
There cannot be only one (either a liberal or a conservative) way to love our Country. How to we build that bridge with our words to encourage cooperation and respect again? From Mark Gerzon’s* blog, here are four fundamental shifts necessary to fix our politics:
  1. From Confirming to Learning.  Anyone who thinks that political leadership means thinking that whatever we believe is automatically right — and anyone who disagrees with us is wrong — is not part of the solution. We must be willing to get out of our “bias bubbles,” learn new skills and deeply listen to others. (Check out Public Conversations Project, Everyday Democracy or Citizen University as examples of this shift.)
  2. From Control to Relationship. Making relationships across the divide strong and healthy is today the key to accomplishing anything that endures. (Learn more from Living Room Conversations or the 2000-member National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation).
  3. From Position-Taking to Problem-Solving. America has a surplus of leaders with rigid positions and a deficit of leaders who solve problems. It’s time to reverse that imbalance. Across the country, a host of problem-solving organizations are gaining ground. (Examples include No Labels in Washington, D.C. to Future 500 in San Francisco, from the Village Square in Tallahassee to the American Public Square in Kansas City.
  4. From Endless Campaigning to Effective Governance. The line between campaigning and governing used to be clear. Campaigns were brief preludes before Election Day, not never-ending tit-for-tat attacks that became a permanent part of civic life. But today campaigning is benefiting from unprecedented levels of investment, and governing is being paralyzed.
It may not seem like it from the daily media assault, but in the offices of city mayors, in state-level initiatives and even on the edges of Capitol Hill there are red-blue coalitions finding common ground on a wide range of policy issues ranging from criminal justice reform to education to defense spending. (The National Institute of Civil Discourse’s “Next Generation” project, for example, has convened across-the-aisle collaboration in scores of state legislatures.)

*Mark Gerzon is President of Mediators Foundation and author of the 2016 book The Reunited States of America where he shares best practices for dealing with divisive issues and partisan politics. In 2006, in collaboration with Harvard Business Review Press, he published Leading Through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences Into Opportunities.

The Bridge Alliance is a network of diverse, powerful organizations and individuals (Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Libertarians) working together to create a “third narrative” in American political culture – Americans Working Together.

If you are interested in more, please listen to Philip Hellmich interview Mark Gerzon as they explore cutting-edge strategies for enabling sustainable change that transcends partisan boxes and builds common ground. You might also want to watch this 11 minute YouTube video of Mark Gerzon at his TEDxVail talk.