We are eight citizens living in or near Nashville. Four of us lean Republican and generally support the Trump administration, while four of us lean Democrat and generally oppose the Trump administration.
In the summer, we met for seven hours at Lipscomb University as part of a workshop organized by Better Angels, a bipartisan nonprofit that seeks to bring Americans together and depolarize the nation. Our goals were to clarify disagreements, transcend stereotypes and learn a way of communicating that might prove helpful to us and others in Tennessee and around the country.
We didn’t solve the world’s problems. We didn’t even solve many of our problems with each other. What we did do, however, was talk about our issues in a frank, yet respectful manner. We can say that we actually practiced civil discourse.
Reflecting on our experience, our group agrees we don’t want to be enemies. We want to understand and respect each other better than we do. After all, we’re neighbors and Americans. We share physical spaces and social communities. We hope that through more dialogues and workshops like this, we can learn to live better with each other.
We’d like to share several moments from our time together:
- In many discussions, policy disputes became unproductively tied to moral values. For example, if “Reds” didn’t support a particular safety net program, it was because they “don’t care about helping the poor.” Or if “Blues” did support it, it was because they “don’t believe in a work ethic.” Neither of these personal judgments moved us closer to fixing poverty. We resolved to be more careful about inferring and attacking our opponent’s core values based on policy positions.
- Both the Reds and Blues felt unjustly stereotyped by the other. For example, the Reds felt wrongly accused of being racists, while the Blues felt unfairly dismissed as crybabies. But both sides also admitted to understanding the background behind the accusations. In today’s highly polarized environment — when even admitting weakness can be seen as a weakness itself — we admire this humility and resolve to emulate it.
- All of us agreed that cross-partisan, face-to-face conversation can help us see our opponents as people. By first recognizing our shared humanity, we can better discuss the specific issues that divide us.
- While we disagree on some issues related to President Trump and his Administration, most viewed much of his conduct — especially in his tweets — as unbecoming and unhelpful.
We also brainstormed actions we could take—as individuals, as members of our own political party and as a community and nation — to reduce polarization. In summary, we resolved to improve efforts in:
Political Involvement: Identify, elect, and communicate with representatives who prioritize common ground and depolarizing political conflicts.
Media Consumption: Seek diverse, moderate, and quality information sources representing both sides.
Community Building: Organize social events in inclusive spaces (e.g., going to a show, potlucking in a park) that bring politically-opposed citizens into substantive, constructive discussions. Seek understanding without condemnation. Offer solutions. Meet, listen, discuss, repeat.
Toward the achievement of these goals, we — the Nashville Better Angels — pledge our best efforts and best selves.