Featured Essays

Building a House United: The Political Understanding of Better Angels

If you are an American with any reason to follow local news, chances are you’ve heard of us—Better Angels has been covered by scores of local and regional newspapers, not to mention occasional features in national titans like The Federalist, USAToday, and the New York Times. The stories almost always read the same way: America …

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Political Violence and Bullying on the Left: We’re Better Than This

In The Coddling of the American Mind, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff argue that we’ve been fostering a sense of fragility within an entire generation of Americans. I think they make a cogent argument that progressives often go too far in their assertion that speech can be equated with violence, at the risk of shutting …

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AOC was Right about Amazon

Better Angels doesn’t try to change peoples’ strong views or move them toward the center. It’s an organization very comfortable with the red/blue divide, as long we speak in productive ways that include empathy and careful listening. Still, there can be powerful moments when the red/blue divide breaks down, and when two people connect on …

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Against Confederate Monuments

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and are not indicative of any official positions of Better Angels or The Conversation. This Piece is part of a symposium. The other two parts can be found at the links below. Understanding Confederate Monuments Waffling Over Confederate Monuments   Growing up in New …

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Some Benefits of the Large Democratic Primary Field

I’ve been moderating Better Angels workshops for around two years, and there are several experiences that have been consistent for me from one workshop to the next. Among these is listening to the conclusions that participants draw from their time with us. Without fail, at least one participant will mention how much closer the two …

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Thoughts on Gun Violence

From the “This is why we can’t have nice things” file: last month a new internet “challenge” broke, with copycat videos being posted of people licking ice cream and putting it back in the store fridge, inspired by a viral Twitter video of a girl doing the same. With fears naturally high that this would …

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Outsiders and Communities: Comparing Immigration and Gentrification

Image: Joseph Vorves (CC by/nc/sa) Change is a constant in the United States, including changes in population demographics. Whether it is immigrants arriving on our shores, or Americans moving from one part of the country to another, our history is full of people who are unsatisfied with their conditions, and who decide to settle somewhere …

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Getting Beyond Capitalism and Socialism

Since the 2008 financial crisis, there’s been a renewed interest in talking about the inherent problems and weaknesses of capitalism. There has even been renewed interest in socialism, or at least the “Democratic Socialism” which Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez espouse. This conversation is long-overdue. Economics is at the very heart of our national life, …

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Thoughts on the Return of Aziz Ansari

As we’re making progress with ourselves, we should also extend a “generosity of spirit” towards those who don’t have the same ethical framework as us, who haven’t “evolved” the way we insist is necessary. As we’re asking others to exercise their empathy, to perhaps finally address the harm their behavior or inaction has caused, we can offer the same empathy to them, and realize that we cannot fully know what’s in their hearts.

The Tweets of Wrath

President Trump wields Twitter like a battle-axe. On this, his supporters and detractors agree. He uses it to chop down his political opponents, circumvent the mainstream media, and rally his supporters. He is far from alone in this practice. But no Twitter user in America has proven themselves so able—and so willing—to explode the national …

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Make Nationhood a Thing Again: A Dispatch from Conservative World

While I was covering the National Conservatism conference in Washington D.C., a high-profile gathering of detached conservative intellectuals discussing lofty visions of the world, the American news cycle was parading around two very concrete controversies with relevance to the conference’s themes. Nike’s withdrawal of a new product designed around the old Betsy Ross Flag—ostensibly responding …

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The Democratic Debates: A Blue Take

It would be wonderful for the frontrunners to incorporate some of the passion of the underdogs, so the ultimate Democratic nominee might speak more effectively not just to the left, but to Americans from all over the political spectrum.

Better Angels 2019 Platform

Better Angels was born in response to the crisis of polarization—a growing crisis that hampers government, destroys trust, degrades public discussion, fosters isolation, and harms personal relationships.

A Braver Sort of Politics

We need to reward, not punish, politicians who take risks, who hold unpopular positions, and who build consensus across the aisle, even if it means losing an election.

For Women, and for Choice

That both parties continue to ask these questions—of where personhood begins and where autonomy ends—without pausing to adequately respond to the other side, is why the abortion debate has come to a standstill in the United States.

For Women, and for Life

It is important to distinguish between pushing an agenda for greater women’s rights, and pushing an agenda for a woman’s right that affects the life of another being.