NEW YORK, November 16, 2022--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Citizens Campaign today released six major takeaways from a forum it hosted on the threats facing our democracy, including the rise of extremism and the bitter divisions where we increasingly see people with whom we disagree as enemies, rather than fellow citizens. Taken together, the takeaways provide a powerful path to healing our democracy where citizens are provided with the tools they need to take personal civic responsibility for creating a solution-focused political climate.
Participating in the forum, which was held earlier this week at Trinity Wall Street, were Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University and co-author of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences report on reinventing democracy for the 21st century; Jonathan Holloway, President, Rutgers University; Peter Levine, Founder, Tufts University Center for Civic Learning and Engagement; Harry Pozycki, Founder and Chair, The Citizens Campaign; Rogers M. Smith, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania and former president of the American Political Science Association; and Reverend DeForest Soaries Jr., former New Jersey Secretary of State; former chair of the United States Election Commission.
The panelist and speakers all agreed that the dangers to our democracy were serious and no one election could solve them. They also agreed that there are pragmatic steps we can take to revitalize our democracy by getting off the sidelines, so we don’t leave the playing field to extremist agitators. "We can no longer afford to be a nation of citizen spectators," said Harry Pozycki. "It’s time for responsible citizens to get in the game."
The six major takeaways from the forum entitled, "A Path to Healing our Democracy," are outlined below. (To view the Forum in its entirety, click here: https://fb.me/e/1RD0Tdx3K)
Our democracy is under threat. Seven-in-10 midterm voters believe US democracy is threatened, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research. This threat will not be resolved by the results of one election or by elections alone. It is permeating all levels of politics and government and increasingly being seen at the local level where extremists are training people to run for local seats that control our elections, determine school curriculum and govern our cities and towns.
We must close the gap in adult civic skills training to effectively counter the threat. Countering this threat requires the rest of us to get off the sidelines and take personal civic responsibility. But this can only be accomplished if we address the void in adult civics skills training and teach adult citizens to realize that they have new power to become problem-solvers on the major challenges facing their communities and nation. "We don’t have any kind of strategy for civic education for adults," Peter Levine told the forum attendees.
Colleges and Universities can be leveraged to provide adult civics skills training through continuing education online courses that are available to members of the communities in which they are located. The Citizens Campaign through its Citizens Service are now offering this at 30 colleges around the nation, establishing leadership bases where an online course in "Leadership and No-Blame Problem Solving" is provided. The course teaches how regular citizens can develop and advance evidence-based solutions that benefit the whole community. The task ahead, as Reverend Soaries noted, is to take this approach to scale so that a critical mass of American adults will have the opportunity to receive adult civics training and to put their training to work to "leave their cities and their nation better than they found them.
Spreading a no-blame approach is a key corrective. Countering extremism with just our own version of finger-pointing, blaming and demonization continues a race to the bottom. "We need less finger-pointing," Rogers Smith remarked, "and more competent no-blame problem-solving." It is possible to bring people together on the common ground of pragmatic solutions.
We must restore a spirit of problem-solving and service. By providing people with the know how to become problem-solvers, advancing solutions that benefit the whole community, citizens replace frustration with constructive action. Service of this sort not only builds leadership and efficacy; it sets a powerful example that can drive political culture change. Bringing about this culture change will result in a stronger democracy.
A new national public service centered around solutions and dedicated to reaching common ground is "needed, now, more than ever. Taking The Citizen Service—a new national public service open to all where people can receive adult civics skills training and then put it to work in their communities—to full scale is a powerful first step to healing our democracy. "We need to engage people who do not look like us and don’t think like us," said Jonathan Holloway. "That will remind us all of our common humanity and teach us to do the hard, but necessary work of reaching common ground. That is the promise of a new public service. We need it now, more than ever."
About The Citizens Campaign
The Citizens Campaign is a community of citizen problem-solvers dedicated to adding a citizen driven dimension to our Country’s leadership capacity and to restoring service, civility and pragmatism to America’s political culture. The Citizens Campaign is building The Citizen Service, a new national public service open to all. To learn more, visit: https://thecitizenscampaign.org/
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Rob Horowitz, The Citizens Campaign, 401-829-8595