Local News

Here are links to a few media events related to our activity in Arkansas:

Our Red-Blue workshop was featured on a local TV program (KTHV’s “The Vine”). For a video of the appearance by state coordinators April Chatham-Carpenter and Glen White, click here. 

This story about our local Alliance of Braver Angels appeared in an issue of the Arkansas Catholic.

Check out this 2020 column by Philip Martin about Braver Angels in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

State Coordinator Glen White was interviewed by John Coffin on KABF-FM 88.3 community radio in Little Rock about Braver Angels.  Here is a link to the 25-minute recording, which includes an overview of Braver Angels and political polarization.

Extreme political polarization has many negative effects, but one of the most dangerous is its potential to endanger our democratic form of government. Local Braver Angels moderator Jerry Henderson provides an excellent overview of the research and thinking currently informing the discussion about what polarization in the US may do to degrade our government and society. Recommended reading. 

April Chatham-Carpenter of UA-Little Rock and Glen White presented on political polarization research and Braver Angels on Friday, April 24, 2020. It was our second online project, one of many we undertook during the COVID pandemic when we were not doing in-person events. Check it out here.

Our earliest published oped piece locally was this editorial from the July 12, 2018 edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper in which we describe the mission of Braver Angels and the problems related to political polarization that we seek to solve. 

Another early guest column as the Braver Angels Arkansas alliance (Reaching Across the Political Divide  ) was written by our first state coordinator Cindy Kyser and was published in Arkansas Business on Monday, July 29, 2019.

This guest editorial, titled Bridge the divide: Polarization imperils democracy, was written by Jerry Henderson and Glen White and published as a Special to the Democrat-Gazette on December 7, 2019.  The article reviews key research on how polarization threatens our democratic system and society.

Another guest oped by our state co-coordinators was this Guest Editorial in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Saturday, August 13, 2022, in which we note both alarming and encouraging signs seen in our society related to polarization. Recommendations for how to reduce conflict and extreme polarization are offered.  

Here's another guest editorial from leaders in our Braver Angels Arkansas alliance, published in the Thursday, February 16, 2023 edition of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. In it we discuss the critical value of civil, respectful regard for our fellow citizens in order for our democratic government to function.

This editorial by Rex Nelson appeared in the 10-25-23 Editorial section of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:  



OPINION | REX NELSON: Our better angels

by Rex Nelson | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 10-25-23

 

Braver Angels of Arkansas isn't a large organization, but it might be the most important in a state where a new governor has imported the angry, divisive politics of Washington.

For the longest time, Arkansas avoided the kind of politics that paralyzed Washington thanks to a string of moderate, pragmatic governors (both Democrats and Republicans) who worked with the Legislature to get things done. Now, our state Capitol is fully infected.

 

I'm having breakfast at Community Bakery in downtown Little Rock with Braver Angels members. I'm here at the invitation of Ray Hanley, who was the state's Medicaid director during the years I worked in the governor's office. Hanley is one of the smartest people I know. He retired last year as president and CEO of the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care. If he says Braver Angels might have answers for a disease that threatens to overwhelm state government, I'm willing to listen.

 

"We must find ways to build bridges again and try not to be antagonistic toward those who disagree," Hanley says. "Politics has become so polarized that it's hard to get anything positive done. I'm drawn to the idea of finding more common ground and room for dialogue in such a polarized country."

 

Here's how Braver Angels describes itself: "Our goal is to establish a vibrant and active organization in Arkansas as we seek to reach across the political divide and develop greater respectful communications and, where feasible, collaborations to help solve problems facing our state and nation. Braver Angels is a citizens' organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America.

 

"We try to understand the other side's point of view, even if we don't agree with it. We engage those we disagree with, looking for common ground and ways to work together. We support principles that bring us together rather than divide us."

Braver Angels is a national movement that was launched in 2016 to bring liberals, conservatives and those in the middle together. Through workshops, debates, campus engagement and more, the organization tries to help people understand each other beyond the stereotypes, form community alliances and reduce the vitriol that's rapidly poisoning the nation's civic culture.

 

Glen White, the Arkansas co-coordinator, says he's looking for civic clubs, churches and other organizations willing to hear presentations.

 

"If they remain interested after they hear from us, perhaps they might provide a built-in audience for a workshop," he says. "We would hope that will also generate additional volunteers. While laws, rules and moral standards can help us combat the instinctive tendency to disrespect and act badly toward others, this can be easily overcome when a few key leaders display behavior that's disrespectful or hostile.

 

"Social psychology has long established that this type of social modeling can strongly influence large numbers of people fairly quickly. This is an important consideration in understanding what happens in societies, including our own these days."

 

We too often try to brand people as red or blue when humans are far more complex than that. Hanley, who worked for Democratic and Republican governors, is an example of such complexity.

 

"I'm very much an independent," he says. "I'm pro-life on one hand, but I want to ban AR-15s and large-capacity ammunition clips. I believe in the need for universal health coverage, but I support parents' rights to a voucher if choosing private schools. I don't consider myself a member of either party, but I dislike the hypocrisy in both parties. The Republican Party campaigns for a balanced budget but then slashes taxes for the wealthy without regard to budget impact. Democrats will spend as much money as possible without offsetting revenue to pay for it.

 

"The GOP claims to be the pro-life party but, in several states, it refuses to expand Medicaid to low-income adults. Access to care is pro-life. Without coverage, people suffer, and some die before their time. And both parties refuse to seriously challenge the tobacco lobby."

 

Lisa McNeir, a retired psychologist who's active in Braver Angels, says she likes how careful the national organization is about the language it uses. In essence, it's fine to be active in a political party. One doesn't have to be a moderate, but civility is required. It's all about talking to each other, finding a balance, compromising and bolstering the capacity for empathy.

 

"We don't expect to change people's minds," says David Childs, one of those with whom I'm sharing breakfast.

 

A Braver Angels publications notes: "Our mission is to bridge the partisan divide and strengthen our democratic republic."

 

Fortunately, the organization is growing in Arkansas. Four students at the University of Arkansas' Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock recently qualified to become Braver Angels moderators. They will now be able to lead workshops. Summer Lollie, Arjo Mitra, Rachel Monnahan and Gabriela Wells were introduced to Braver Angels in a communications course taught by Robert Richards. In an era when we're so divided, they realized this was more than a class project and decided to become involved.

"Braver Angels is a wonderful platform for citizens to have difficult conversations while learning about each other and creating possibilities to work together," Monnahan says.

 

Mitra says: "The work of Braver Angels shows a path forward for us to look past our perceived differences and see our common humanity."


Senior Editor Rex Nelson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He's also the author of the Southern Fried blog at rexnelsonsouthernfried.com.