By: State Rep. Lenny Mirra – Aug. 2022
Can a group of Democrats meet with a group of Republicans and decide, unanimously no less, on ways to revamp our election system and improve its integrity? Apparently, the answer is yes, and I saw this firsthand at a Common Ground Workshop put on by Braver Angels, a nationwide group formed for the purpose of addressing the terrible divisiveness and polarization gripping our nation.
This particular kind of workshop begins with an exercise called a fishbowl where those who lean “red” or Republican sit in a circle surrounded by those who lean “blue” or Democratic to discuss their personal connection to the issue at hand. The seats are then switched so that Blues get the same chance to discuss their opinions on the issue while the Reds sit quietly on the outside circle.
This was a good way to break the ice and prepare us for the second exercise where we broke up into red-blue “dyads” or pairs where we each asked the other two questions: what are a couple of solutions or policies I support in relationship to the issue, and what is a question of curiosity I have about my dyad partner’s positions.
These exercises put us in a proper mindset for the third exercise which divided the eight reds and eight blues into separate rooms where we discussed points where we and the other side can agree. This is where things got interesting as we then got back together to share these points of agreement to identify those that are unanimously accepted by all Red and Blue participants.
Blues were a little surprised to learn that Reds wanted to make sure there were an adequate number of voting locations as they were just as outraged over voters having to wait several hours in line just to cast a ballot. Both sides agreed that this is an infringement of voters’ rights as a lot of people don’t have the ability to do that on a workday. This led to a discussion of making election day a holiday, as well as election day voter registration, and voter ID. While there was not universal agreement on all of these ideas there was most certainly a respect for all opinions as every individual was allowed to speak uninterrupted. This is the Braver Angels way.
BA schedules all kinds of workshops, debates, and speaking events across the country and they tackle the most pertinent and controversial issues of our time including guns, abortion, racism, and campus speech codes. It’s an organization founded by a small group of citizens from opposite sides of the political spectrum who proved that we can not only disagree respectfully but also find common ground.
Anyone who wants to see what BA is all about can visit the group website at BraverAngels.org. And if anyone is interested in taking part in local events, we have created a Greater Boston Braver Angels group that is holding events locally.
We even have our own book club! Please visit our website at greaterboston.braverangels.org to see what we do and join our email list.
Lenny Mirra is the State Representative for the 2nd Essex District and the Red Co-Chair for Greater Boston Braver Angels.◊