Why RedBlue? Surveys consistently reveal that most Americans hold nuanced perspectives on many issues. The majority is uncomfortable with today’s online political culture, where debate over our policy differences so often ends up in polarized name-calling and demonization. In this regard, citizens are underserved and disempowered, and the integrity of the political system is undermined. While the RedBlue project begins with the familiar labels that have so often pigeonholed Americans into uncomfortable stereotypes—-“red” vs. “blue,” “conservative” vs. “liberal”—-participants in the RedBlue process will be able to connect with counterparts whose contrasting views are as subtle as their own, re-introducing a middle ground of public discourse where there is room for reasonable people to disagree. The RedBlue idea was born after the 2004 election, when both Democrats and Republicans were surprised that so many could be on the “wrong” side, and concluded that “they” must be stupid, or out of touch. In researching this phenomenon, we learned that many of us talk about issues with people who already agree with us, re-circulating the same ideas within our own communities. We often take our cues from favorite media outlets, where opposing TV sound bites pass for honest dialogue, or from partisan information sources like talk radio, email lists, and web logs that further polarize the electorate. We found that the public square for political discourse has moved online, and has been captured by extremists and doctrinaire loyalists who allow no deviation from the party line. Although the Internet is well-known for giving people a way to work together, the tools of cooperation were not being used when it came to discussing and debating policy. Yet, As Daniel Yankelovich noted in a much-discussed Christian Science Monitor article at the time, “Democracy requires space for compromise, and compromise is best won through acknowledging the legitimate concerns of the other.” We resolved to find a way to use the Internet’s ability to connect to serve this requirement of democracy. RedBlue aims to help Americans:
- Connect, at your own pace, with others who have different policy views.
- Experience those with whom you differ as deserving the same respect that you do.
- Develop awareness of the commonalities between yourself and those on the other side.
- Learn that people on the other side are as multi-dimensional as you are.
- Gain a sense of accomplishment by understanding others, while learning about yourself.
- Work together to find solutions to the challenges we all share.