Given the nature of our country and its system of government, good citizenship in the United States calls for additional virtues that rest on forbearance and reciprocity. We need to get better at talking with or at least tolerating Americans whose views we find disagreeable and not have our feathers so easily ruffled by them. We need to respect their rights as free and equal citizens to hold opinions contrary to ours and participate and express their viewpoints in our public life. We need to collectively defend institutions like elections and legislatures that, however messy and cacophonous, are the very means through which we resolve our differences. We need to figure out how to work productively with others to realize goals we have in common, even when we disagree with them on many other things. Finally, we must strive to exemplify, insofar as we can, what Judge Learned Hand called the spirit of liberty, i.e., “the spirit that is not too sure it is right.”
We won’t be left entirely on our own when it comes to building up this more robust and resilient set of civic virtues. Civil society groups and networks are dedicating themselves to depolarizing the country and reinvigorating pluralism. For example, many field-building leaders and organizations affiliated with the Civic Health Project, the Listen First Coalition, and the New Pluralists Collaborative are undertaking stellar work toward these ends.