Reduce the Rancor

MN DFL head Ken Martin and MN GOP head David Hann sit being interviewed by Braver Angels' Bill Doherty

Would you believe that neither the head of Minnesota’s GOP nor its DFL party think of their counterparts as “enemies?” The word – and the existential threat, the need to eliminate that it implies – is one both leaders actively avoid using when referring to people with whom they disagree.

U of M Professor and Braver Angels co-founder Bill Doherty interviewed the two men at University of St. Thomas on March 11 as part of “Reduce the Rancor,” a Minnesota initiative focused on fostering civility and diminishing polarization. David Hann, chair of the GOP, re-emphasized how disagreement was necessary for a people to share governance. Ken Martin of the DFL talked about the importance of coalitions and how one asset of the two-party system is that neither party can succeed by pursuing ideological purity. Both chairs agreed that whether the conflict was between the parties or within them each, toxic polarization is bad and listening is good.

As one of Minnesota’s oldest bridge-building organizations – archival footage from the 1960s shows how we connected white rural kids with black urban youth, we have built bridges with Muslim neighbors through Taking Heart Ramadan Iftars for 19 years, and our signature MCC Respectful Conversations are now 12 years running – we were proud to stand alongside representatives from groups like the League of Women Voters, Minnesota Humanities Center, Macalester, Northwestern, St. John’s / St. Ben’s, University of St. Thomas, Rotary, Citizen’s League and others to commit to a reducing the rancor in our state.

Each group’s commitment varied. Ours was focused on MCC Respectful Conversations. With every MCC Respectful Conversation we train select volunteers from a host community in our peacemaking methodology – a process that is evaluated to move people from debate towards dialogue, from threat to curiosity, from a polarized affect to a bridge-building attitude. Sometimes our trainees, “table facilitators,” get hooked on the positive vibes of being peacemakers and want to pursue more avenues to boost their ability to manage conflict. Through partnership with Braver Angels’ Reduce the Rancor campaign we will connect our hundreds of peacebuilders throughout the region with the proven skill-building opportunities in the Braver Angels network, including their self-guided “Depolarizing Within” e-course.

We also extend our commitment to continue the work of MCC Respectful Conversations: scheduling a majority-BIPOC lead facilitator training, organizing a lead facilitator training for North Dakota, holding conversations for campuses, faith communities and municipalities up to and through the election, co-sponsoring the Better Together Film Festival, and continuing our partnership with Stanford’s Polarization and Social Change Lab and Michigan State to evaluate how MCC Respectful Conversations can best impact our democracy.

Through this work, and the work of partners thoughout our region, may we all play a role in Reducing the Rancor this election season.