From Two Paths America

The restoration of civility – the way we talk to and respond to one another, then compromise our views and work with others to find commonsense solutions – is purposely listed first among these themes. Common courtesy is the key to rebuilding civility in America. Without a widespread willingness to slow down, listen to and respect – if not fully agree with – another point of view, then our attempts to forge meaningful political reform will fail. One might ask if a civil conversation is even possible today. With public discourse reaching an all-time low thanks to Twitter and other social-media combat zones, and in an atmosphere of impeachment and the 2020 election campaign, it’s easy to fear that civil discourse can never return to American politics or to society as a whole.


Two Paths America believes otherwise, pointing to local communities as models for statewide and national success (as so often the case). Across the country there are local governments, civic organizations and individual citizens showing us ways in which political conversations can take place in a calm, non-threatening and productive environment. These are the “safe spaces,” conflict-free forums where citizens feel free to speak in an atmosphere that can inspire real solutions. Take for example the New England tradition of town hall meetings, for decades respected as the ideal of direct, if spirited, citizen involvement. The New Hampshire town of Rye even takes the concept a step farther, by discussing important civic issues at “listening circles” that bring together townspeople on all sides for discussion, idea sharing and an opportunity to understand one another’s perspective.


Another example is Better Angels, a national citizens’ movement that works at the local level by setting up community discussions with citizens of various viewpoints in an effort to better understand one another and help remove common political misconceptions. Better Angels moderators help form red/blue community alliances, teach practical skills for communicating across political differences and help reduce polarization by starting at the grassroots level. Models like these – and there are plenty of others – can be copied by towns and cities nationwide to give citizens a place to voice their opinions and listen respectfully to neighbors, without fear of provoking social-media outrage. In return, citizens can gain new respect and understanding for differing political views, which will ultimately help foster a more tolerant society and government.