The De-Polarization of America: Major D&D-Related Efforts That Are Bridging the Partisan Divide

These pages describe in detail five programs that are using dialogue, deliberation, and D&D principles to tackle the intense polarization that is currently dividing America. NCDD is involved in each of these efforts to various degrees.

Know of an additional project we should add here? Use our Ideas & Suggestions Form to let us know.


?The 2004 campaign season threatens to become the most polarized in recent memory. Candidates and parties are locked in a brutal blame game that only further alienates a public that has already largely seceded from politics out of disgust with the lack of progress on a host of urgent problems. Politicians across the spectrum bemoan the lack of civility and mutual respect but appear powerless to reverse the downward trend. All agree that this polarization is paralyzing our ability to effectively address the unprecedented convergence of crises we face both nationally and globally.

Yet at the same time, there is increasing evidence that beneath this poisonous partisanship and outside the Beltway blame game we as a people share far more than we realize. Day after day, moment after moment, we cooperate with one another in innumerable ways despite our apparently irreconcilable differences. Politicians and the media both profit in the near term by accentuating these differences, but most ordinary Americans are less interested in prosecuting the argument than in finding answers.?

- from Calling the Question materials

The Projects

Click on these links for detailed descriptions of these groundbreaking projects. Brief summaries of each project are included below for your convenience.

Overview of Each Project

The September Project

On Saturday, September 11, 2004, people across the country will come together at public places like local libraries to discuss ideas that matter. Through dialogues, discussions, roundtables, and performances, people will share ideas about democracy, citizenship, and patriotism. Libraries are perfect places for such events: they are free, they are open to the public, and they are distributed nationally. There are over 16,000 public libraries in the U.S. and this does not include university, research, K-12, and places of worship libraries.

The September Project is a collection of people, groups, and organizations devoted to making this happen annually and internationally. As of July 2, nearly 100 libraries have signed up to participate in this exciting project. NCDD is supporting this project in a number of ways, and NCDD?s Convenor, Sandy Heierbacher, is serving on the September Project?s Advisory Board. Read More

Let?s Talk America

Let?s Talk America (LTA) is a national dialogue initiative that is bringing Americans from all points on the political spectrum together in cafes, bookstores, churches and living rooms for lively, open-hearted dialogue to consider questions essential to the future of our democracy. LTA is reconnecting people with the ?town hall? meeting spirit that is the lifeblood of our democracy. LTA is where everyone can talk about America?s promise, about what freedom, democracy, unity and equality mean to us -- to "we the people."

NCDD is partnering with the Utne Institute and Conversation Caf? on this initiative in an effort to change the tone of political discourse in this country from the polarized, divisive, either/or rhetoric we hear from the politicians and pundits, to an inclusive dialogue that welcomes all voices to the table and recognizes that we all hold a piece of the truth. Read More

PBS Deliberation Day

On October 16, up to 3000 Americans will have the opportunity to meet in communities around the nation for simultaneous Citizen Deliberations where they will reflect, discuss and deliberate on key issues facing the nation. This democratic dialogue will focus on what, not who, is at stake. A national PBS broadcast will complement the distinctly local Citizen Deliberations that will be linked together under the banner ?PBS Deliberation Day.?

The concept of Deliberation Day, a proposed national holiday that would take place two weeks before election day, is being spearheaded by Jim Fishkin and Bruce Ackerman, who recently published a book on the subject. Jim Fishkin, creator of the Deliberative Poll, is collaborating with McNeil/Lehrer Productions? By the People project, which has been fostering deliberative dialogue on America?s Role in the World for the past year or so. NCDD is helping Deliberation Day's convenors find trained facilitators in their area. Read More

Calling the Question

Calling the Question is a joint initiative of the Mainstream Media Project and the Harvard Global Negotiation Project. The Calling the Question initiative is a multi-year initiative to shift the national conversation from partisanship to problem-solving by engaging a broad spectrum of the public in calling in to talk radio, querying candidates in media and live appearances, and reframing policy debates by asking open, breakthrough, ?third side? questions that blame no one but encourage us to think in practical terms about what we can do together to resolve the challenges that confront us all. The aim of this initiative is to reach across the divide between thoughtful progressives and thoughtful conservatives to catalyze ?convergence conversations? that could contribute to a broader de-polarization of an increasingly divided electorate and society.

NCDD members will be contributing to the development of Calling the Question's telephone training, and some will be actively involved as callers. Read More

The ?We the People? National Convention

We need to talk?only through conversation can we overcome division. When we overcome division and speak with one voice we become ?We the People.? The Convention is set to take place September 26-29, 2004 in Springfield, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln once said ?a house divided against itself cannot stand.? It will bring together people from all 50 states to "ignite the unified voice of 'We the People'" through dialogue and deliberation.

NCDD's Convenor, Sandy Heierbacher, has been asked to be part of the Design Team for the Convention. The Design Team will meet in late July. Read More


Return to either the Introduction to Current Issues or the top of this page...