Did someone say impeachment? What to do in the face of increased partisanship and political instability

By Leah Persky • Family Life Education Manager

It is becoming increasingly hard to tune out the political news of the day, which over the past few weeks, has reached an intensity that is hard to ignore. Between the presidential visit and accompanying protests in Minneapolis earlier this month and ongoing impeachment news, many of us feel overwhelmed and a bit anxious about what will come next. It is no surprise that impeachment debates are highly partisan and finding common ground – or even just agreeing upon what is constitutional – is a challenge. Many are left wanting to connect with others and find some stability in our tumultuous times.

Leah Persky

Over the past year, JFCS has partnered with Better Angels to present opportunities for dialogue and discourse on political issues of the day with a focus on listening for understanding, communicating with people who have different political views than our own, and breaking down stereotypes of the other political party. These sessions were well-attended and met a unique community need.

Many people are feeling increasingly disconnected from their community members, loved ones, and friends. Trained Better Angels facilitators are helping to bridge that divide here in Minnesota and across the nation. This work is increasingly needed, as many scholars, news sources and think tanks continue to report that political partisanship continues to grow and people of differing views and ideological perspectives speak different languages.

Recent research from the Pew Research Center highlights that feelings of partisanship and antipathy toward the opposing political party have only grown since 2016. In 2016, Pew research uncovered that political partisanship was at an all-time high since the Civil War Era. According to Pew, in 2019:

“55% of Republicans say Democrats are ‘more immoral’ when compared with other Americans; 47% of Democrats say the same about Republicans.”

This is quite striking if we stop to think about it a minute and what it means for our families and communities. This is problematic because if we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, most people ascribe to the political ideology and views they do because they believe it is best for their communities and/or the country as whole. Most people are simply doing the best they can with the life experiences and information at their disposal. This is something I have come to firmly believe after years of teaching political science classes across the country. If we use this as a starting point, then maybe it is possible to find some common ground?

So how do we find some common ground with others who have different views or ascribe to a different ideology?

  • Take a step back and take stock of your media diet: We are all increasingly living in our own bubbles, including cultivating a media diet that may only bolster our own political views. Many of us are simultaneously becoming more out of touch with other people who think differently about the world and more entrenched in our own worldview. This can be a dangerous thing, as a high-quality and stable democracy thrives on robust political discussions, debate and trust of our fellow citizens. What’s on your news feed? Train yourself to be a savvy consumer of online information of all types. If you are interested to see just how different a Blue and Red news feed is, check out the following Wall Street Journal piece.

Or, sign up for The Flip Side, which will send you a big picture news update from the right and the left each day.

For a helpful overview on where to find non-partisan news, how to fact check information, and other relevant political news, check out the following website from the University of Kentucky Libraries.

  • Work on listening: This might seem overly simplistic or not that useful. But one of the best things we can do to find common ground is to simply listen for understanding and not listen in order to respond from your perspective. Listening to understand different views can be a really eye-opening experience, as we are often so hardwired to respond and critique. What might happen if you just listen because you are curious?

This perspective shift has changed my behavior when I am talking to others with different views than my own. My own children have been a great inspiration here, they often do things simply for the joy of doing them and because they are curious, so maybe adults can try to do the same.

  • Find opportunities to discuss issues you care about with diverse groups of people: There are increasingly few opportunities to have meaningful civil discussion about political and social issues. Make sure to mark your calendars for Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 6 p.m. for the Better Angels Debate co-sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women and Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis. In this safe space, trained Better Angels non-partisan facilitators will run a focused and civil debate. There are not winners and losers. Rather, all attendees walk away having learned something about an issue they care about.

Bring your friends and family member of diverse political views – this will make for an interesting discussion. In order to attend, please RSVP and fill out this survey to help select the debate topic. Registration is required and the event will be capped at 30 people.

For more information about the event, click here.

About Better Angels

Launched in 2016, Better Angels is a bipartisan citizens’ movement to unify our divided nation. By bringing red and blue Americans together into a working alliance, we’re building new ways to talk to one another, participate together in public life, and influence the direction of the nation. Visit www.better-angels.org for more information.