By Eliza Newlin Carney
Is the nation falling apart, or coming together? Perhaps a bit of both, but the forces of unity are stronger than they might look on the surface.
By one measure, the number of Americans who describe the country as unified has jumped fourfold since 2018, as I write in The Fulcrum this month, and 90 percent say “we’re all in it together,” up from just 63 percent two years ago.
The coronavirus has exposed political divisions and inequities, but it is also the kind of systemic disruption that could open the way for new political alignments, as happened in Japan following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. And the administration’s chaotic response “has created a leadership vacuum that all sorts of smaller players have stepped in to fill — state and local leaders, nonprofits, foundations, CEOs, small businesses, neighbors helping neighbors.”
The public health crisis has also stirred up new energy in the movement to revive democracy, including organizers working to bridge the ideological divide at the individual and community level, and advocates of structural reform and of voting rights, particularly vote by mail. Read the whole story here.
BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER: There’s surprising unity in the fight to end police brutality, too, for all the violence that has accompanied protests all over the country in recent weeks. The protests themselves have started to calm down, in part because this administration has eased off its excessive use of force. And most Americans, regardless of race, support the protests. That’s in part because record numbers of Americans now agree, for the first time in the history of modern polling, that racism and discrimination are “a big problem” in the U.S., according to The New York Times. Read the whole story here.
NO EASY WALK TO FREEDOM: Some look at the nation’s long and painful history with racism, of course, and conclude that nothing will ever change. Stacey Abrams understands that sentiment, especially when it comes to voting. “Voting feels inadequate in our darkest moments,” acknowledges Abrams in a recent Times op-ed adapted from her new book, “Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America.” Abrams narrowly lost Georgia’s gubernatorial contest two years ago, and went on to found the voter turnout group Fair Fight Action. Though she lost in Georgia, Abrams writes, she turned out record numbers of Democrats, and learned that “winning doesn’t always mean you get the prize. Sometimes you get progress, and that counts,” especially when it comes to voting in America. Read the whole op-ed here.
House Democrat Antonio Delgado, the first person of color to represent his upstate New York district in Congress, sounded a similar note recently. “Anger is natural and expected,” wrote Delgado in The Washington Post, adding that “the road I traveled to get here was not easy.” But he adds that his “experience is proof that voting can bring about change that once might have seemed out of reach — in fact, it’s crucial to changing the laws and policies that have caused so much agony.” Read his whole commentary here.
UNEVEN RECOVERY: The virus of racism has been compared more than once recently to the deadly pandemic that continues to sweep the globe, and the analogy holds for the illness as well as the cure. As anyone who has gotten over a virus can attest — whether it’s the common cold or Covid-19 — recovery from illness is not linear. There are good days and bad. Recovery can give way to relapse. Political progress is like that, too.
Reflecting on his own mother’s struggle with cancer, Citizen University’s Eric Liu wrote in The Washington Post that George Floyd’s killing may have broken the nation’s neck, but that “we are not paralyzed” yet: “To watch peaceful protests sweep across the land even amidst a plague, to watch citizens go out the next day with brooms to clean up what the agitators and criminals hiding among the protesters wrought: To see these things is to see not a body politic in pre-death collapse but an immune system responding to disease.” Read the whole story here.
LISTEN: Of the seven “steps to democracy” at the heart of The Civic Circle’s program, the very first is: Listen! As the opening song in our show states: “You and I may disagree, but I’ll respect you, if you respect me.” The seven educational videos that we are creating for each of the “steps” in our program — including voting (Choose!), advocacy (Speak!) and organizing (Act!) — teach kids essential civic skills that youth need now more than ever to have a say in our nation’s future. The Civic Circle has raised about half the funds necessary to continue bringing our program to students remotely during the pandemic. We are extremely grateful to the many generous supporters who have made this work possible so far. To learn more about our programs, and how to join us, please visit www.theciviccircle.org.
Eliza Newlin Carney is a journalist and founder of The Civic Circle.
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