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New report: Opportunities to move America forward together despite widespread political polarization
BOSTON -- In the throes of a pandemic and simmering civil unrest, at the end of a contentious presidency and in the wake of years of unrelenting partisan gridlock in Congress, Americans of differing political views can struggle just to have civil conversations. But a new report from U.S. PIRG, Environment America and Frontier Group, Moving Forward Together, finds more common ground among the American public than the partisan nature of modern politics suggests, and highlights the urgent need to bring Americans together to solve problems.
“Polarization is the bedrock problem that is preventing us from addressing America's other problems,” said Susan Rakov, Director of Frontier Group. “The good news is that despite the heat of our current political debate, Americans actually agree on a lot of core issues.”
Moving Forward Together lists a surprising number of public policies on which Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters share common ground. The report lays out 12 areas of policy that bridge the partisan divide and offer potential for real reform. Some of those include cutting wasteful spending, improving gun safety, offering clean energy tax credits, increasing government transparency and giving Americans the right to repair the things that we own.
“Americans disagree about a lot of things, but they agree on a lot too,” said Faye Park, President of U.S. PIRG. “By daring to venture across the political divide and find compromise on areas of public concern, leaders can get important work done for the American people, and that work itself will forge a pathway out of the nation’s dangerous, counterproductive and toxic polarization.”
Among the areas where both sides agree, the report notes that 70 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats support increased funding for national service -- akin to the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps -- to help young Americans facing unemployment contribute to our national recovery. Likewise, 87 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats are supportive of vocational education and training schools. Even on often highly contentious issues, such as gun safety, there are areas of common ground. Nearly 90 percent of both Republicans and Democrats believe that we should prevent people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns. And more than 90 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of Republicans favor background checks at private gun sales and gun shows.
Cooperation and compromise across party lines are not just traditions in American politics; they also have long been crucial to solving our most intractable problems. Bipartisan agreement broke the logjam on civil rights legislation in the 1960s; laid the foundation for America’s major environmental laws in the 1970s; forged tax reform in the 1980s; enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act in the 1990s; and led to the passage of campaign finance reform legislation in the 2000s. Democrats and Republicans have come together at key moments in history to address the nation’s biggest challenges.
“Since Revolutionary War times, we’ve known that ‘united we stand, divided we fall.’ By identifying areas of potential common ground and then working to enact solutions, we can stare down these challenges and restore Americans’ faith in each other and our government,” said Wendy Wendlandt, Acting President of Environment America.
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