BRIDGING THE RED STATE/BLUE STATE DIVIDE: Fostering a national dialogue about U.S. democracy and politics

Bridging the red state/blue state divideEver since the days leading up to the United States 2004 presidential election, we’ve been hearing endlessly about the red state/blue state division—the vast gulf between states that supported Bush and those which voted for Kerry, and the great cultural war that rages between liberals and conservatives.

It’s not just states that were divided following the election. There were reports that husbands and wives took to sleeping in separate beds, friends ceased speaking to each other, neighbors stopped borrowing each other’s power tools, and ugly battles broke out over family Thanksgiving dinner tables.

Some of us handled this differently. For example, my pal Connie and I tacitly agreed not to talk politics with each other. We both understood that we have very different views politically, and there’s plenty of other stuff to talk about. I can’t understand why she voted for Bush, and she will never understand why I support gay marriage, but we’re friends, we love and respect each other, and that fact helps us disregard our political differences.

That’s definitely one way to deal with it. But there are others who have chosen to take a more influential role in healing the political and cultural divide between Americans—and to do so at a local and national, not simply a personal, level.

For example, there’s Let’s Talk America, an organization created to bring together people from across the political spectrum and across the country to engage in dialogue, town-meeting-style, about the future of American democracy. There are a number of ways to be a part of this project—as a participant in dialogue, a host, a convenor, an endorser, a volunteer, or a donor. For those who are willing to host a dialogue, there is training and support available. A teleconference for dialogue hosts will be held on Sunday, June 5, at 5:00 PST. For further information, visit the Let’s Talk America web site.

There are two other groups involved in promoting dialogue which are worth mentioning here. The National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation, whose goal is “fostering a world of conversation, participation and action”, offers links on its web site to numerous models for dialogue.

The Public Conversations Project, best known for its work in successfully fostering dialogue among leaders of pro-choice and pro-life organizations, “promotes constructive conversations and relationships among people who have differing values, world views, and perspectives about divisive public issues.” Its web site includes links for articles and resources on “Bridging US Political Divides”, as well as information on its services and current programs.

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