Red & Blue Divide
While the national narrative purports that Americans are more divided than ever before, we believe we have great opportunity: We share more with one another than we think — what we need is the space to find that common ground.
That’s why Zeidler Center, Millennial Action Project (MAP), WUWM, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have partnered on Across the Red & Blue Divide: a series of conversations among diverse community members with a spectrum of political perspectives. Along with members of MAP's local State Future Caucuses, this series seeks to bridge the divide to discuss the issues most important to young people across the country.
The series also included a panel discussion which included Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Jane Carroll, Republican Rep. Rob Hutton (District 13), Democratic Rep. David Bowen (District 10), and Director of EX-Prisoners Organizing Jerome Dillard. See more information for this event on MAP's website.
During each event, Zeidler Center facilitators guided participants through structured dialogue. Participants responded to two key questions:
1. “This dialogue is an opportunity for us to set the stage for the rest of this series, specifically brainstorming how people can disagree politically without being disagreeable. With that in mind, describe an experience where you felt respected OR disrespected for your political views? What was the experience? What would have made it MORE respectful?”
2. “What motivates you and what holds you back from building relationships across political divides?”
Participants were also asked to participate in “connected conversation” if time allowed. This section encouraged participants to have an open conversation, ask question to peers, and discuss what was heard in the facilitated listening circles.
During the first round, participants relayed personal experiences feeling both respected and disrespected regarding political views. Participants noted that they felt respected and comfortable as long as interactions remained civil. Participants noted that they are intentional about interacting with those who had different views and wished for more opportunities to do so.
Participants also noted that they felt most comfortable in one-on-one and in-person situations, noting that it contributes to accountability and better behavior. Conversely, 4 participants felt most disrespected and were upset by people making assumptions and judgements based on face-value or labels.
During the connected conversation portion of the discussion, participants’ discussion took two primary tracts, geared toward a discussion of stereotyping and steps for change. In terms of problems or challenges, Participants identified stereotypes, including party-biases, and the problem of “losing the middle,” and the need for diversity. Groups discussed the problems of others’ making assumptions and tribalism in our society. Participants also talked about the need for opportunities for listening, and compromise, as well as need for diversity, avoiding labels, and a change in systems.
In their final words, participants stated overwhelming positive feelings toward both the conversation and hope for progress on political divides in general. Some participants relayed their “take-aways” including fostering creativity, understanding and compromise while avoiding tribalism.