One Idea for Ameliorating Polarization: Reviving Conversations About an American Spirit
27 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2017 Last revised: 2 Dec 2017
Date Written: October 20, 2017
Could Americans identify a current American spirit that would ameliorate the effects of the nation’s bitter divisions? A number of commentators answer “yes.” This article reviews dispute resolution theory and uses historical and comparative illustrations to provide a checklist for those optimists willing to give it a try. First, the article discusses the potential benefits of a deeply and broadly embraced American spirit. An American spirit could spark more frequent: collaborative approaches, consideration of other viewpoints, prioritization in advocacy, and resistance to divisive rhetoric. Second, the article draws on the work of other scholars to suggest considerations for identifying an American spirit that might achieve those benefits. An American spirit will be more likely to ameliorate polarization if it: points toward bridging current divisions, is especially – better yet, uniquely – American, seems natural and authentic, attracts support across the major divisions in this nation, and encourages optimism and a sense of belonging as an American. Third, the article outlines a process for coming up with potential elements of an American spirit and for trying them out on expanding circles of Americans. Fourth, it points out that identifying a current American spirit would not preclude parallel efforts to achieve change through advocacy for political candidates and changes in the law. While the success of an American spirit project remains uncertain, little would be lost in trying, and an American spirit project might help Americans work together to solve the nation’s problems.
Keywords: mediation, negotiation, dispute system design, polarization
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation