At a divisive moment in our nation’s history, you may be wondering how average citizens can help bring about friendlier politics.
Experts suggest that it starts with finding common ground among those whose opinions differ from you. Ira Shapiro, a former ambassador who has held senior positions in the U.S. Senate, recently authored “Broken: Can the Senate Save Itself and the Country?” in order to explore the state of U.S. politics and its future.
Of the U.S. Senate, his area of expertise, he says, “America is deeply divided. But the men and women of the Senate should not mirror — or worse, inflame — the nation’s divisions. Their job is to overcome them, finding common ground to take collective action in the national interest.”
Citizens can apply this principle in a number of ways:
• Get involved. Attend city council meetings and town hall meetings. Join the PTA. But don’t just show up — make your voice heard. Make friends on all sides of the issue. Be a coalition builder. Discover where your beliefs overlap with others before debating about the issues on which you disagree.
• Get in touch. From petitions to postcards to calls and texts, there are numerous ways to get in touch with your elected officials at every level of government. Encourage your representatives to work constructively with their colleagues in an effort to de-polarize politics and ultimately be more effective at their jobs.
• Speak out. Organize or attend a rally. Raise money for a political cause that mattes to you. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Take advantage of the channels available to you.
“The best remedy of all, on both the national and local levels, is to support candidates who are problem solvers and consensus builders, not partisan warriors. Look for the candidates who put the country, or the community, first — above party allegiance or personal aggrandizement,” stresses Shapiro, who also serves as a trade law and global policy consultant. More thoughts from Shapiro are available on his consultancy’s website at www.shapiroglobal.com.
Shapiro believes that the Senate is in trouble, but it can be saved. Likewise, everyone, including average citizens, can be a champion for a climate of healthier politics, whether it’s around the dinner table, on a social media thread or at a city council meeting.