Polarization

The 2020 election will soon be over – and good riddance. We have survived yet another divisive political process that has further polarized our nation. Many things have contributed to this and there are, no doubt, many things we can do to overcome it.

One view is that political polarization is rooted in tribalism and embedded in our “DNA”. It’s a belief that the “other tribe” wants to harm our “tribe”, so we must fight and win in a binary, zero-sum outcome. According to this view, the other side is not the loyal opposition – they are the enemy.

The result is not win-win, but lose-lose. Polarization looks at the world as two-dimensional with everyone pulling in opposite directions, but no one getting anywhere. This is clearly bad for democracy.

How can we overcome polarization?

The Greenwood Village City Council starts each new Council term by reviewing and passing a resolution affirming how individual Councilmembers agree to treat each other. The Council takes a pledge to be nice, with the intent of minimizing polarization and promoting collaboration. The resolution is a Creed to “Shed Light, Not Heat”.

The Council supports a spirited debate provided it is done in a respectful way and focuses on the issue at hand, not the person. Some people might recognize this as a corollary of the Golden Rule. We are still faithful to our principles but we do so in a way that promotes finding common ground. This creed forms the foundation of what allows us to be an effective City Council, which benefits all of us.

In January, many elected bodies will begin a new term. My hope is that elected representatives, at all levels, will make a similar pledge. We, as citizens, would be better off.