Polarization Series: Bridging Divides at Braver Angels. Erica Manuel and Manu Meel

Affective polarization in America – the gap between voters' positive feelings about their own political party or "side" and negative feelings toward the opposing party – has sharply increased during the past two decades.

We speak with two leaders in local government and a nationwide students group about effective ways to bridge divides. 

Erica Manuel is CEO and Executive Director at the Institute for Local Government in Roseville, California. She has over 20 years of experience helping public, private and nonprofit organizations implement innovative policies to provide strong leadership, advance climate resilience, support economic development, engage communities, and drive positive change.

Manu Meel is CEO of BridgeUSA, a student-led nonprofit organization that creates spaces at colleges and high schools for open discussion among students about political issues. BridgeUSA began in 2016 at the universities of Notre Dame, CU-Boulder and UC Berkeley in response to growing polarization on campus.  

Erica and Manu were interviewed by our co-host Richard Davies at the 2023 Braver Angels Convention in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Both of them played leading roles at the cross-partisan gathering of Democrats, Republicans and independent citizens. Braver Angels is part of the growing movement of bridging organizations, who are finding new ways to push back against rigid and dehumanizing political divides. 

Many young people on college campuses are "just scared to say what's on their minds, and walking on eggshells," Manu tells us. He blames "the loudest voices" for silencing open discussion. "This is not a problem of the majority," he says. "It is a problem of the loudest voices imposing their closed-mindedness on an exhausted majority."

Both Erica and Manu insist they're hopeful that the crisis of polarization can be successfully overcome. "I'm hopeful because not a single person I've talked to has said why on earth would you do that? Why on earth would you talk to someone on the other side? Why on earth would you want to treat someone like a human being with dignity?" Erica tells Richard.

Recommendation: Jim recommends Commentary Magazine, a monthly publication of conservative "non-Trumpy" opinion. He writes its tech commentary and is a frequent guest on Commentary's daily podcast

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