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Aspen Ideas Festival

Posted by David Nevins on July 24, 2017 at 12:53 PM

This June I attended the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival where some of the great social, business and political leaders of America shared ideas on many subjects, including what’s broken in our system of governance and what specific actions can be taken to improve the political process so as to better serve a majority of American citizens.

As always the Aspen experience was thought-provoking and inspiring.  A prevailing theme expressed by many of speakers was that our elected officials are simply not representing the interests of our country and do not have the will or the mechanisms to solve the serious problems facing us; this despite the fact that the American public is yearning for leadership that puts country before party. 

While there was a degree of pessimism in Aspen about our country’s current political situation and concern expressed about the ability of elected representatives to deal with these problems in the short term, there was an overriding optimism about the spirit of the American people that in the past has made the United States a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.  Our entrepreneurial spirit, our ability to reflect upon our mistakes, in an honest fashion and to correct these mistakes, were all sentiments expressed and a source for hope.  Numerous speakers cited the great potential our nation has  in terms of the power of an indomitable spirit that leads to change and innovation.  And while there were many discussions as to what our government can and should be doing, I was struck by the fact that many inspiring leaders are not waiting for government to solve our problems; instead, they are taking their own actions to move our country forward.

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Civic growth: Learning about politics from a young age

Posted by Jacel Egan on July 13, 2017 at 11:21 AM

By Jacel Egan, Marketing Communications Manager, icitizen

Saying the pledge of allegiance, raising the flag at school each morning … there are plenty of ways civics can be introduced and embedded into our daily routine at a young age.

First learning about politics

After the Fourth of July holiday, our team released the results of our poll on American values, which asked when people first learned about voting and elections. According to the results, over half (51%) of Americans first learned about voting and elections from someone in their household, like a parent or guardian.

For millennials, a pivotal moment in learning about politics was the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. You remember the infamous hanging chads, right? It was all my parents discussed for a month, and hanging chads were popular Halloween costumes for years.

Additionally, slightly more than a third (36%) first recall learning from a K-12 teacher – perhaps diving into government and civics in social studies or U.S. history class. Just 2% said “a friend,” and 1% said “college faculty.”

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The Political Circus

Posted by David Nevins on July 03, 2017 at 11:45 AM

By David Nevins, Bridge Alliance

In 2012 before the previous presidential election I wrote an article entitled The Political Circus

At that time I said:

“The suffocating partisanship that most Americans abhor will surely be on display for all to witness in the coming election season. The accusations and innuendos, the misinformation and vilifying of one party by the other will be the typical tactics and game plan employed by those on the left and those on the right.”

Unfortunately things have gotten much worse in five years.  The vicious ‘winning-is-all’ climate, the ‘meant-to-mislead’ rhetoric, the extreme and polarizing factions along with the sheer lack of decency are tethering our nation to a new low.

As we watch the behaviors of so many of our leaders today posturing against each other with twisted facts and vitriolic disdain, solely to WIN the sacred trust of the electorate, we ought to be asking ourselves, “Is this particular behavior having the effect of raising or lowering the level of discourse and understanding between and among us as citizens?”

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Lessons From George Washington: It’s Time We Listened!

Posted by Brian Clancy on June 29, 2017 at 12:06 PM

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By Brian Clancy, Big Tent Nation

We all want America to flourish and prosper, but disagreements on “how” keep tripping us up. How is much more than picking between policy prescriptions – at its core it involves how we treat each other, and particularly those we disagree with.

The person most essential to realizing America in the first place thought about this issue a lot. It’s time to revisit his legacy.

George Washington was incredibly wealthy, physically imposing and a war hero of epic proportions. He probably could have gotten away with being a total jerk and still been revered! The fact is, many Americans wanted to give him almost limitless power. Some even wanted to make him a king.

His response? To a degree unprecedented in history (with all due respect to Cincinnatus), he put nation ahead of personal power and glory.  Was it because he wasn’t ambitious? Was it because he never felt like knocking Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s heads together and telling them to just behave? Absolutely not. He had the same desires and frustrations we all struggle with. 

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United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Posted by Carolyn Lukensmeyer on June 26, 2017 at 1:08 PM

By Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, National Institute for Civil Discourse 

Yesterday, the country was stunned by the violent attack on members of the US House of Representatives who were practicing for this week’s charity baseball game, a tradition dating back to the early 1900’s. It brought Washington up short, and there was more discussion of unity and family then we have heard in a long time.

Speaker Paul Ryan took to the House floor to remind us that we are “one family”, and President Trump noted that “everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country.” Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) put it best when he noted that “We have an R or a D by our name, but our title is United States representative.”

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The Media’s Role in Shaping Democracy: Is It Helping or Hurting?

Posted by Jacel Egan on June 08, 2017 at 1:05 PM

By Jacel Egan, icitizen

The media has long been portrayed as two sides of the same coin – on one side a watchdog to check government powers, and on the other a vehicle for propaganda.

In an era where fake news has proliferated online and the lines are blurred between social media rumor and breaking news, clarifying the news media’s role in shaping democracy can be tricky. To get perspective on the topic, icitizen conducted a poll of 2,505 U.S. adults on their feedback.

Do they think the media is helping or hurting democracy? 

After all – civility in American politics has been an increasingly large concern. As pundits and politicians often set the tone for civic discourse, it can be hard to tell whether they provide a service or disservice in the eyes of the public.

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Ads Pitch Unity

Posted by Jelmarie Maldonado on June 05, 2017 at 3:12 PM

“Open your mind. Open your world.” That was the ending line of the now famous Heineken commercial. In it, people from opposite ends of a variety of issues, had come together, built a bar and, at the end of it, had to decide if they wanted to sit down, have a beer and talk to each other. The twist? They didn’t know the person they were working with was “their enemy.” Yes, enemy is a strong word. However, nowadays, more so in the past couple of years, differences of opinions has converted friends, family, co-workers into ‘others.' That’s why Heineken's commercial hit a nerve.

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New Ways of Working -- Summit Follow Up

Posted by Katie Page on May 23, 2017 at 11:31 AM

By Katie Page, Bridge Alliance

Last month, Bridge Alliance held a Bridge Summit adjunct to Earth Day Texas in Dallas. The Summit was to be a physical unifying of our member organizations and a weekend to find new ways of working together aligned with our mission of revitalizing democratic practice and discourse in this nation.

The Summit was held in an exquisitely remodeled hospital with such an expansive Early American art collection I think even the Smithsonian might blush. In my final walk through of the venue and it’s grounds with eyes wide I felt a new sense of connection to our complex roots. Surrounded by these settings I understood that what Bridge Alliance and its member organizations are working towards is something that will have a weight on American history. This was felt by our attendees of the Summit and elevated our conversations.

The weekend was spent networking with organizations that we may have never met otherwise in person. The deep appreciation and curiosity in one another’s work was a spark in relationships that could take any form. Each of Bridge Alliance’s areas of focus were represented in organization attendance and workshops: civic engagement, governance and policy making, and campaign and finance reform.

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Nonpartisan Hygiene: 6 Tips to Stay Squeaky Clean

Posted by Jessie Conover on May 12, 2017 at 11:27 AM

By Jessie Conover, Program Director at Healthy Democracy

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We find ourselves in a political moment where significant sectors of the country warn of existential threats to our democracy. This began before the 2016 election, but it has since reached a fever pitch. Signals such as the Economist Intelligence Unit’s recent “downgrade” of the US from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” have added fuel to the fire. At Healthy Democracy, we do not take a position about whether these threats are real or not, though we spend a great deal of time trying to improve our democracy.

Nonpartisan “Positions”

As a nonpartisan organization, we cannot take a position that would turn off members of any political or demographic group. This is because we rely on our reputation as unbiased process experts when working with citizens from across the political spectrum. Additionally, we don’t take positions on issues that might come before a Citizens Initiative Review panel, including the proposals of our peers in the elections reform space.

In some ways, this makes it easy for us to choose the issues on which we take a public position (pretty much nothing), but when “threats to our democracy” come up, and considering our name is Healthy Democracy, what do we do? Do we retweet a statement praising a free press? Or is publicly expressing support for a free press now viewed as a partisan act? We can make these decisions ad hoc, but we risk inconsistency, or worse: letting our personal perspectives and biases sway our decisions. We realized that Healthy Democracy needed to do some thinking. Some nonpartisan hygiene, if you will, to get our internal activities and the external communication of our work squarely in our nonpartisan ethos.

As a result of our analysis, we humbly share some “nonpartisan hygiene” tips that may come in handy to other organizations in this space, including bipartisan political organizations, nonpartisan think tanks, newsrooms, and professional organizations. Government scientists and policy thinkers may find this helpful, as well. This is written with nonpartisan nonprofits in mind, but please take from it anything that is helpful to your organization’s needs.

Read this blog in full here


Don't Know Much About Civics: 93% of U.S. Adults Believe Civics Education Should be Bolstered in Public Schools

Posted by Jacel Egan on April 20, 2017 at 4:18 PM

By Jacel Egan, Marketing Communications Manager, icitizen

According to a new icitizen survey released by Sen. Chuck Riley (OR-15), more than nine in 10 Americans believe that more emphasis should be placed on civics education in public schools.

“We’re living in a time now where it’s hard to tell the difference between fake news and real news, and alternative facts are being presented as truth,” said Oregon Sen. Chuck Riley. “It’s clear constituents want to address this issue head on, and as an elected official, I’m obligated to do what I can to help future generations be prepared and informed citizens.”

The poll of 1,245 U.S. adults showed fully 84% of respondents support requiring high school students to pass a proficiency test in civics in order to earn their diploma (10% oppose, 6% unsure). This crosses age, gender, and party lines, and actually increases with age: support is at 74% among millennials and reaching upwards of 95% support among seniors ages 65 and older.

Taking the requirement further, almost a three-fourths (74%) of Americans support requiring high school students to take and pass the U.S. citizenship test to demonstrate civic proficiency (21% oppose, 5% unsure). The strongest opponent of this requirement are racial minorities; about a third expressed their disapproval (34%).

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