Blue or red? Chances are, by this point in the election cycle, you align yourself with one of these two.
Red vs. blue, Republicans vs. Democrats, conservatives vs. liberals – these labels, these colors are dividing families and silencing friendships.
Post-election, no matter the victor, how do we find a way to turn red and blue into purple?
Back in the 1980s, as a White House reporter in Washington, D.C., I spent most of my days roaming the halls of Congress, running down senate and house members to talk about key White House initiatives. Back then, Ronald Reagan was president and while
Republicans and Democrats often held sharply different views they would, by and large, “legislate by day and dine by night.” Not today. Back then, they compromised, then socialized.
I recall interviewing Republican Sen. Robert Stafford, then chairman of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, who talked about how he and fellow Sen. Edmund Muskie, a Democrat, worked hand-in-glove (“fire and ice”) to address the environmental challenges of the day.
Today the deep political polarization extends far beyond Washington, penetrating both our neighborhoods and our living rooms.
How did we get here? No shortage of possibilities, but three come to mind: social media, negative advertising and, perhaps more importantly, our political duopoly. The United States is one of a few countries to be dominated by just two political parties, and when
they attack one another their coffers rise. How better to raise money than by attacking the opposition?
But how? Social psychologists and organizations like the More in Common Foundation list more than a dozen pathways. I’ve selected three: 1. Make social media kinder; 2. Highlight the median; and 3. Initiate Citizen Assemblies.
Make social media kinder
Explain authors Rachel Kleinfeld and Aaron Sobel: “You may not be able to alter someone’s deeper beliefs, but there are three ways regular people on social media can get others to remove hateful messages, reduce the spread of hateful memes, and curb prejudiced or polarizing speech.
“First, reminding users that online speech has real-world, off-line consequences . . . can lead users to recant a post. Second, making a personal or empathetic connection with the speaker can have the same effect. Finally, humorous words or images that make fun of the original idea can also defuse the spread of hateful speech.”
Highlight the median
Here again are Kleinfeld and Sobel: “Americans are more polarized emotionally than ideologically — we actually disagree on policy far less than people think. Stunningly, a majority of Americans agree on the broad strokes of abortion, immigration and gun legislation. Because partisans tend to have distorted views of who composes the other party and how many people believe stereotypical views attributed to that party, providing real information that overturns these beliefs can reduce polarization.”
Initiate citizen assemblies
“One promising civic model for enabling more meaningful contact between groups in conflict involves ‘Citizens Assemblies’ where representative citizens are brought together to deliberate over challenging social or political issues,” according to Lee De-Wit (author of “What’s Your Bias?: The Surprising Science of Why We Vote the Way We Do”), and social psychologists Sander Van Der Linden and Cameron Brick.
Purple states. That’s what I’ll be dreaming about tonight.