I don’t really see an end in sight to “polarization” or “incivility.” If anything, all of these things are going to continue to expand as class divisions widen, and as society becomes more diverse and fractious.
Washington, D.C. isn’t exactly known for its civility. But today, in a large hotel meeting room in the nation’s capital packed with mayors, policymakers, and other influential urbanites, Eric Liu has a plan to bring the country together.
“There’s not going to be a different president that changes the culture for us. There’s not going to be a different speaker of the House from whom all this is going to trickle down. That change, that rejuvenation of the body politic, is going to happen from localities outward and upward,” he tells the crowd.
Liu, the executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Citizenship & American Identity Program and a former Clinton administration official, has been making this case since 2016. Just days before the presidential election, he published a piece in The Atlantic with an unconventional claim: Americans don’t need to argue less; they need to argue better. “This is reconciliation for grown-ups,” he wrote. “It doesn’t pretend that all will be peaceful—or that it should be. It acknowledges the never-endingness of our fights. But it acknowledges too that to be a citizen means fighting to make our fights more useful.”