Newsletter # 37— December 16, 2020
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The November 2020 election is now over, and U.S. polarization remains extreme. We continue our discussion about what to do about it.
So Where Do We Go Now?!
In our last newsletter, we observed that American politics had become increasingly polarized since June 2019, when we started the Constructive Conflict Initiative. While some of us may have hoped that polarization would somehow end with the November Presidential election, it certainly has not. Rather, American politics and the U.S. democratic system might be in more peril than it has ever been, as not only President Trump, but also an astonishing number of other leading Republicans are not only refusing to acknowledge his defeat, but are going to all lengths to try to reverse the results of the election. (I just learned as I was editing this, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally congratulated Biden on his win today, a day after the Electoral College formally declared Biden the winner and is urging all Republicans to do the same, or at least stop contesting the election outcome.) Hopefully, the 126 Republican Congress people who supported the Texas election lawsuit will soon accept Biden's victory as well. Even so, over 70 million people voted for Trump in that election, and according to Forbes (as well as many other sources,) 88% of Trump supporters appear to believe that Biden did not legitimately win the election!
That belief is going to make effective governing, de-escalation, de-polarization, and reconciliation much more difficult than it might have been. So how do conflict resolvers move forward in light of this situation?
To answer that, we should first reflect on the good news. The American electoral system appears to have held. (I hope I'm not tempting fate here!) The courts have repeatedly shown that they are above politics, and even "Trump's Supreme Court" wouldn't hear the case brought before it by the State of Texas to try to overturn the election results in four other states. In addition, state and local election officials appear to have done their jobs exceedingly well, despite intense pressure to do otherwise (including death threats to some). That shows our system has great resilience. That gives conflict resolvers and peacebuilders something to grasp onto as we plot a course forward.
Other good news is that even more people and organizations are engaging in peacebuilding efforts here in the U.S. than we reported on in our last newsletter. In the last two weeks we attended (virtually, of course), two conferences: the Tenth Annual Graduate Education Symposium in Peace and Conflict Resolution and the Alliance for Peacebuidling's PEACECON2020. A full half of the Graduate Education Symposium focused on the U.S. political conflict, and how educators can help prepare students to engage in conflict resolution in that context. And PeaceCON had many sessions focused on that topic.
One of the best PeaceCon sessions was one entitled Making Peace in a Polarized Nation, which featured, among other people, Ebrahim Rasool, a colleague of Nelson Mandela's and the former South African Ambassador to the United States. Rasool gave a particularly powerful and insightful talk that was discussed in many of the following sessions. After reviewing briefly the history of racial repression and reconciliation in South Africa, Rasool laid out seven "tools" that American peacebuilders (and American citizens more generally) could adapt from the South African playbook to lessen hyper-polarization in the United States. A summary of and reflection on his talk is our latest CCI Blog Post.
On the related topic of reconciliation, Chip Hauss and I (Heidi Burgess) have been having a running (written) discussion since 2003, when Chip wrote the original essay on the topic for BI. That essay lay untouched until 2017, when I wrote an update to it (along with updates to many of the other BI essays). I recently realized that my update was too insular, as I was focused only on US conflict when I observed that there was little interest in reconciliation in 2017. I recently updated my response to his essay again, correcting that notion, but still including his 2018 response to me. I then added my current thoughts on the U.S. situation in a new blog post and the updated update. Chip now is also writing a completely new essay on reconciliation which will replace the 2003 original, but it is not yet done as of this writing. So we'll include that in our next newsletter, but it will be available on the CCI Blog before then.
We also reposted a blog post by Glenda Eoyang entitled So What? This was written before the election, as she was reflecting on all the physical, mental, political, social, and economic destruction she was witnessing in the U.S. "Even as I give up hope for democratic institutions in the USA" [she was far more pessimistic than we were--hopefully now she is taking some faith in the fact that the electoral system held in spite of extreme pressures]--"I am challenged to see, understand, and influence patterns today to create a tomorrow in which we—all of us—may thrive. She explains her organization's six "simple rules" that provide a nice complement to Rasool's "seven tools."
Other Recent Posts include:
From the CCI Blog:
- Catching up with Chip Hauss and Imperative 21 -- In the wake of the still disputed US election, we have a massive amount of work to do to respond effectively to our many crises. Here's how to start. -- Nov 10
From the Conflict Frontiers Seminar:
- Massively Parallel Peacebuilding (MPP) -- Massively Parallel Peacebuilding enlists everyone engaged in or affected by conflict to help change its destructive course. -- Dec 10
- Why MPP Isn't Such a Crazy Idea -- The civil rights movement, and the environmental movement are both successful applications of a "massively parallel" strategy.-- Dec 13
- Massively Parallel Peacebuilding: "Things You Can Do" Actions -- Here's a start of a list of things you can do to be a part of a Massively Parallel Peacebuilding effort. -- Dec 14
- The Peacebuilding / Constructive Confrontation Synthesis -- Good conflict resolution skills are not just for peacebuilders--they are crucial for disputants as well. -- Dec 09
- The Peace and Democracy-Building Continuum -- In 1988, it looked as if democracy and peace were advancing globally. Now they are both retreating. Can we reverse that trend? -- Dec 08
- The Risk of Large-Scale Civil Unrest and Violence in the United States -- Are we on the brink of catastrophe...and if so, can we step back...or will we fall (or jump)? -- Dec 07
From the Colleague Activities Blog:
- Building Trust -- A handbook for religious leaders strengthening relations between police and communities -- Dec 15
- My Political Autobiography: A Reflective Exercise -- From Essential Partners, a guide to help us understand where our political beliefs come from, and why things matter so much to us. -- Dec 10
- The Millennial Action Project -- The MAP's mission is to activate young leaders to bridge the partisan divide and transform American politics with empathy, and innovation. -- Dec 07
From the Beyond Intractability in Context Blog
- How to Reconnect Rural and Urban America -- Serious thoughts on how to bridge what is probably the most important political divide in the US---the one between the cities and the countryside. -- Dec 14
- Republicans and Democrats Need to Work Together. Earmarks Can Help. -- For those who thought that "earmarks" were a form of corruption, an argument that they can do much to make mutually-beneficial compromises possible.-- Dec 13
- How to Defeat Disinformation -- An Agenda for the Biden Administration -- Welcome news that we are starting to see serious thinking on how to effectively meet the threat posed by disinformation. -- Dec 13
- Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations -- Suggestions for those who would like to start having more conversations that realistically grapple with tough issues for which there are no easy answers.-- Dec 06
- What if Instead of Calling People Out, We Called Them In? -- Yet another instance in which persuasion works better than coercion. -- Dec 02
- Covid-19 policies have left out the vulnerable — except in Vermont -- Welcome and vitally important evidence that approaching crises (like the pandemic) with mutual caring and compassion protects everyone.-- Dec 01
About the MBI Newsletters
Every few weeks, we will compile BI/MBI/CCI news, along with selected the new posts from our various seminars and blogs into a Newsletter that will be posted here and sent out by email to subscribers. You can sign up to receive your copy on our Newsletter Sign Up Page and find the latest newsletter here on our Newsletter page. Past newsletters can be found in the Newsletter Archive.
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