Pages tagged "Featured Blog"
By Eric Allen, SLLF, Curriculum Development and Research
Here’s a fun fact: almost one American in ten thinks that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. Only four in ten are pretty sure our Civil War was fought over slavery. Three-quarters (just) are confident that the earth revolves around the sun, or that the U.S. got its independence from Great Britain. But 95% of us believe that our country has a civility problem. And when asked where that problem is worst, more Americans name “government” than any other place.
Clearly, Americans save their attention for what really matters.
Legislators think that citizens are right on this topic. When asked, legislators say that civility in their chamber is essential to producing good policy outcomes, and that bipartisan collaboration (a different thing, but related) improves the effectiveness of legislative sessions. Two-thirds of them feel that civility has decreased while they’ve been in their legislature. Lots of them (we’ve all seen the interviews) have left government service because they feel legislative gridlock makes their service a waste of valued time, or so unpleasant they don’t want to do it. How lawmakers treat each other, and how they interact, has become a crisis like broken bottles on a vacation beach. Our citizen government, in many cases, has ceased working.
Someone mentioned a beach. As it happens, the State Legislative Leaders Foundation has moved into a new campus, here on the long arm of Massachusetts that challenges the sea, and it’s big enough to host intimate conferences when a topic warrants special treatment. We decided to christen our new campus with an event on this very issue. Twenty four state legislators gathered here in early August, a Republican and a Democrat from each of twelve states. We wanted pairs that could speak knowledgeably about the state of civility and cooperation in their statehouse at home, and could make a difference when they returned there.
Two other organizations partnered with us to do this. The National Foundation for Women Legislators works to support women legislators in a host of ways, and was particularly helpful in recruiting women attendees. The National Institute for Civil Discourse runs workshops all over the country, helping state legislators to appreciate civility issues. So far, they’ve worked with 500 legislators in 15 states. After our conference, that would be about 524 legislators.
Bridge Alliance recently received quarterly updates from our Bridge Action(formerly Collective Impact) Grantees. We are excited to share with you excerpts from three of ten updates.
Leading with Civility - Improving relationships within state legislatures for better policy decisions. "There is so much interest, we're looking forward to preparing future projects, and maintaining our connection and partnership with each other."
We are proud of the work that is being done through our grant program and look forward to seeing and sharing next quarters updates.
Bridge Alliance would also like to announce our two newest members - Common Good and The Center for Technology and Civic Life!
Common Good is a nonpartisan reform coalition that offers Americans a new way to look at law and government. We propose practical, bold ideas to restore common sense to all three branches of government based on the principles of individual freedom, responsibility and accountability. Learn More
We bring together expertise in research, training, data analysis, software development, and election administration to tackle some of today’s most pressing civic problems. With our powers combined, and yours, we are modernizing engagement with local government for millions. Learn More
Bridge Alliance Members In The News:
Project on Government Oversight - The Hill
The Centrist Project - Mass Live
iCivics - The Recorder
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.
There are rarely more caricatured groups than Southern Conservatives and San Francisco Liberals. Using a video conference platform, two Bridge Alliance members broke through barriers within these groups to have a series of unprecedented conversations. Living Room Conversations and the Listen First Project broadcast the first conversation over social media (with some assistance from other Alliance members) to reach over 60K people. They are part of The Listening Coalition, along with other Bridge Alliance members, to bring conversations to even more people across the nation.
"Using video conferencing, we brought three Southern Conservatives and three San Francisco Liberals together for each of several Listen First / Living Room Conversations. Facilitated by Sabrina Moyle, Jamie Gardner and me, each of these conversations exceeded our wildest expectations and proved that we can break through any barrier and find common ground when we come together not as us versus them but as me and you..."
Bridge Alliance Members In The News:
Centrist Project - Roll Call
Public Agenda - Beckers
Nation Institute for Civil Discourse - WKSU
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.”
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?”
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.
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.”
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.
“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.