Across the Aisle Recap Week of 2/15-2/19

By Kanika Tiwari

The Young Americans Coalition for Unity is excited to announce our new weekly column, where we will highlight both the good and bad of unity, bipartisanship, and working across the aisle in American politics by looking at articles, podcasts, and videos shared by our members through our Discord server.

This week, we look to an episode of the Solvable podcast, a CBS Evening News segment, and a report on faith in American democracy from Bright Line Watch.

First up is an episode of the Solvable podcast, “Political Polarization is Solvable.” Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, writer for The Atlantic, and co-host of Solvable talks with co-host Jacob Weiberg about why she believes there are solutions to political polarization. Applebaum raises the issue of what to call those who were at the Capitol on January 6th and their supporters. She lands on calling the group “an anti-institutional, anti-systemic group” and compares them to people who didn’t accept the government of Northern Ireland (The Year of the Troubles), and the 50-year insurgency in Columbia. Applebaum shies away from using the term “fascist,” preferring to call the Capitol group “seditionists,” or “people who don’t accept the legitimacy of the state, the government, the institutions.” According to a YouGov survey from January of this year, 21% of voters supported the Capitol insurrection. In discussing possible ways to prevent future violence and lessen political polarization, Applebaum raises the idea that shunning these Capitol protestors may not work, because support for them will grow. Outside of institutional solutions, what can individuals do? This “depends on who you are, and what your role is,” says Applebaum. For example, a journalist has the power to choose not to talk to or not give a platform to those who believe “there is an alternate reality happening.” But how can individuals handle their relatives who follow the Qanon conspiracy? Individuals can change the subject when these topics come up, or they can help people by trying to “help people see the contrast between the reality around them and the false reality they’re seeing online.” Try and present them with alternatives, and “see that there is a future for them in American run by Joe Biden and a Democratic Congress.”

Next, we examine a CBS Evening News segment, a part of the series “Unifying America.” Mark Strassman reports on a group of Kentucky conservatives and Massachusetts liberals working to find common ground. Paula Green organized “Hands Across the Hill,” an initiative that brought the communities together to discuss their differences and find solutions. They found that there were more topics where they agreed than where they disagreed.

Our final piece is a report on faith in American democracy by Bright Line Watch. In a series of surveys from January 28th to February 8th, 2021, Bright Line Watch sought “to measure the state of American democracy in the first days of the Biden administration.” These surveys found that among the public, there is a split between Democrats and Republicans on whether former President Trump should be disqualified from holding office, whether he should face criminal prosecution, and trust in the election results. Additionally, there is “cross-party consensus on government spending for COVID relief but stark polarization over certification of the presidential election and impeachment.” As for the experts, they “overwhelmingly favor a set of reform proposals to expand voting participation, tighten campaign finance regulation, and modify how electoral districts are configured and how votes are cast.” Another fascinating statistic shows that “29% of respondents supported the dissolution of the country into like-minded regions.” Support for such a proposal split among political leanings, with 35% of Republicans, 37% of independents, and 21% of Democrats favoring the idea. Overall, the number of those in favor of some type of secession is low, but still significant.

This week’s content shows that political polarization remains a major issue, but what can be done? If you find yourself asking that question there are a few options:

  1. Engage in political conversation among those you may disagree with, and attempt to find common ground.
  2. Contact your elected officials and encourage them to work across the aisle.
  3. Try to avoid online echo-chambers by following people with different political views.
  4. Be careful about the information you consume and ensure that it is factual.

Links to this week's pieces:

Solvable: Political Polarization (Podcast)

CBS Evening News: Liberals and conservatives in conversation

Report on faith in American democracy and elections from BrightLineWatch