At a time when partisan tensions and divisions are on the rise in the United States, there’s little reward for meeting in the middle, rather than jumping to extremes.
As part of the PBS NewsHour’s America at a Crossroads series looking into the divisions fracturing the U.S., Judy Woodruff asked Robb Willer, director of the Polarization and Social Change Lab at Stanford University, what people can do on an individual level to bridge the divide.
His No. 1 piece of advice: “try to run towards the fire, rather than away from it.” In other words, engage, through respectful conversation.
“Whoever that person is in your family or your neighborhood, like, engage with them respectfully, and try to give them that interaction that they’re not getting now, where they see that you can disagree with somebody, and it could still be a respectful conversation,” he said.
Research has found that when political candidates voice support for honoring election results, there are promising effects when it comes to alleviating tensions and promoting democracy. The fact that many candidates who falsely denied the 2020 election results lost their races in the 2022 midterms was also encouraging to experts like Willer. But we’re not out of the woods yet, he warns. We’ve yet to reach a point where high-level leaders and donors on the right and left have fully recognized the value of working together to combat the harms of political division, he told Woodruff.
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