About 50 people gathered at the Lynnwood Library on Tuesday for Building Bridges, an event designed to combat political polarization.
City, county, and state officials with voters of all parties joined Snohomish County Council President Jared Mead (Democrat) and Vice President Nate Nehring (Republican) at the library in a conversation about political polarization. The hope is to calm down partisanship and find common ground locally.
“How can we work together if we’re trying to kill each other?” Mead said.
The political odd couple is not as strange as some may think, even though they received backlash from fellow party members.
Mead and Nehring told the crowd that they often agreed on local policy. Also, they are both parents of young children about the same age and want them to have a safe and secure future.
“We found we were able to work together really well,” Nehring said of Mead. “Even though we disagree on some political issues, we can set those things aside and work together and find common ground on other issues.”
The attendees broke out into groups of five to six people. They discussed topic questions, such as how they identify politically, what they think the Republican and Democrat parties stand for, what causes polarization and how to counteract it. After the discussion, a group member would tell the audience their conclusion.
The groups’ common answer regarding what the parties stood for was that Democrats want a large government and have a more communal mentality. In contrast, Republicans want a small government and have a more individualistic mindset. Also noted were their differences on gun control.
However, responses to the root of our political discord are varied. Among the answers given were racial and economic divides, social media, bias confirmation, lack of media literacy and the exploitation of fear.
Mead and Nehring provided non-partisan news site suggestions to the guests: Ground News, All Sides, and The Flip Side. The platforms compare news sources and measure the political bias of their reporting.
Although the efforts of Building Bridges won’t cure our political woes overnight, Nehring and Mead said they have received tremendous support from the community and have seen some changes in their colleagues.
“Societies grow great when the elders plant trees the shade of which they know they will never sit in,” Mead said.
— Story and photos by Rick Sinnett