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Repairing Crumbling Bridges in a Politically Polarized America

With the intense polarization in politics today, it seems that every conversation has turned into a list of things that are wrong with the country.

Social media has become a dumping ground for negativity.

We see an ever growing discontent and hopelessness in many of our communities.

In the midst of all of the pessimism, we’re realizing that we as conservatives often fall into the trap of playing defense — or simply getting angry and fed up. And it’s understandable. There is much to be disheartened about both from the left and the overall political climate. It’s all too easy to focus on what the other side is doing or get sidetracked fighting people within our own team. I began noticing this unfortunate trend and my own propensity to fall into it and resolved to be part of the solution.

But how?

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It’s key to remind ourselves that conservative ideas are inherently good for people. That may seem obvious, but we can get lost in our love of the principles of conservatism and forget about the day-to-day positive effects conservatism has on people.

For example, we tend to discuss free enterprise and economic issues in a vacuum with too much focus on budget numbers and principles that are not relatable to the average American. In reality, free enterprise offers people the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty and gain dignity through meaningful work. In turn, they can put food on the table, send their kids to college and help someone in need in their community.

At the root level, conservatism is not just about fighting progressivism. We’re actively engaged in building something good — a society where life is valued, people share in equal opportunity, and we’re free speak and act according to our beliefs.

Persuasion is key to spreading conservative ideas, so it’s key to know how our ideas are doing at persuading and take a hard look at how we talk about those ideas.

For those of us testing ideas in the political context, it means conducting surveys and assembling focus groups. But if you’re an everyday Americans looking to spread conservative ideas to friends and family, it might mean knowing the concerns and struggles those you love are facing and thinking through how your conservative ideas can be a solution. It also means choosing words that most accurately represent the beauty and benefit of conservative ideas.

But should conservatism just be a feel-good message aimed at not ruffling feathers? Not at all. Focusing on positive vision doesn’t mean weakening our positions or removing ourselves from the conversation. Ideas that are accomplishing something will naturally meet resistance from the opposing idea. Resistance is often a sign that our message is working.

We need to consistently lean into the cultural battles of today on issues that affect the strength of our families and communities. To quote a theme from the work of Dr. Arthur Brooks, we need to disagree better — not less.

As conservatives, we can have a multitude of opportunities to highlight what conservatism is truly about, creating opportunities and uplifting people.

I’ve started actively looking for opportunities to engage in robust conversation with people from all walks of life with the intention of building bridges and being a “brand ambassador” for conservative ideas. Being a brand ambassador for conservatism could be as simple as reaching out to someone you disagree with and building a relationship.

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Building bridges with humble but direct conversations on issues that matter is what will reshape our political discourse and ultimately, culture and policy.

George Khalaf is the co-founder of The Resolute Group and the president of Data Orbital. He has a background in grassroots politics, survey research, and political data. For more information, please visit https://www.theresolute.group

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