Episode 16, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and YouTube


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“There's a kind of a heart-sickness out there, among a lot of people. They just don't quite have a sense (that) they can do something about (social polarization)...so we give them a chance to do something about it.”

David Blankenhorn is the co-founder and president of Braver Angels. During our conversation, David talks about why Braver Angels exists, tribalism and division in the United States, Braver Angels' goal of depolarizing American society, the workshops it runs with "red" and "blue" Americans, and its workshop's success at discovering shared values and greater understanding among politically-opposed citizens.

About David Blankenhorn (quote from Wikipedia):

“David Blankenhorn is the founder and president of the Institute for American Values and its initiative Braver Angels. He is also co-director of The Marriage Opportunity Council and the author of Fatherless America and The Future of Marriage. A noted figure in the campaign against same-sex marriage in the United States, his position changed and he voiced support of legalizing same-sex marriage in June 2012.”

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Time Stamps:

(01:02) About David Blankenhorn
(02:58) David shares the circumstances that led him to found Braver Angels
(06:43) David talks about the various elements needed to bring people together for a better society
(07:44) David shares why he feels we’re in the third big era of polarization
(09:53) Can we create a society where people who vehemently disagree with each other can still get along?
(15:33) David explains why and how he changed his mind on topics once very important to him
(20:22) David talks about disapproving gay marriages and coming to accept it
(35:17) Why does society not allow its citizens to change their minds without major repercussions?
(45:08) Social virtues and collective beliefs and how they have kept political stridency at bay for a period of American history
(51:16) About Robert Putnam’s book, The Upswing
(57:10) What is the role of smartphones and social media platforms in polarization?
(01:04:39) The mission and goals of Braver Angels
(01:31:02) David explains why “We're a lot less divided” than people commonly believe
(01:43:54) What does David mean by braver politics?
(01:48:27) What is the best way for people to help Braver Angels?


“I think the most polarized era in American history was in the 1850s...(L)eading up to the Civil War, had a half a million people die(d), because we couldn't get along together.”

“What makes today's polarization different than earlier periods where polarization was high is because it's not just around one or two issues. Today, we seem to be polarized on everything. I mean, everything: clothes, whether to wear a mask, I mean, everything. There's nothing that doesn't kind of get run through this grid of tribal.”

“There's a kind of a heart-sickness out there, among a lot of people. They just don't quite have a sense (that) they can do something about (social polarization)...so we give them a chance to do something about it.”

“Most interesting things happen because people feel the need to do something, regardless of how it turns out.”

“Nobody ever changes their mind on the basis of just being pounded and yelled at and berated and denigrated and humiliated.”

“Most media that we consume today, they're just not fact-checked...(T)here (had been) a notion of journalistic balance: the idea that you're supposed to, in good faith, have opposing views represented in your presentation. No one does (that) anymore.”

“We want to bring people together across the partisan divide: to build relationships with one another, not to change each other's minds and not to form positions on issues, but to rebuild the kind of civic friendship, to try to strengthen the bases of our American government, which are at risk because of these trends.”

“The person that you are afraid of, you don't have to be, and...you can actually have a good relationship with (them), notwithstanding the fact that you disagree about a lot of things.”

Relevant Links:

Resources Mentioned (quotes from Wikipedia):

  • Institute for American Values - “The Institute for American Values is a New York City think tank focusing on family and social issues. The Institute’s mission is to study and strengthen civil society.”
  • Braver Angels - “Braver Angels (formerly Better Angels) is a New York-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit affiliated with the Institute for American Values. The organization runs workshops, debates, and other events where "red" (conservative) and "blue" (liberal) participants attempt to better understand one another's positions and discover their shared values."

Books mentioned:

People mentioned (quotes from various websites)

  • William "Bill" N. Eskridge Jr - “William Eskridge is the John A. Garver Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale Law School. He is one of the most-cited law professors in America, ranking fourth overall for the period 2016–2020. He writes primarily on constitutional law, legislation and statutory interpretation, religion, marriage equality, and LGBT rights.”
  • Evan Wolfson - “Evan Wolfson is an attorney and gay rights, advocate. He is the founder of Freedom to Marry, a group favoring same-sex marriage in the United States, serving as president until its 2015 victory and subsequent wind-down.”
  • Karen Peterson Porter - “Karen Peterson (Democratic Party) is a member of the Louisiana State Senate, representing District 5. She assumed office in 2010. Her current term ends on January 8, 2024.”
  • David Boies - “David Boies is a legendary litigator, having been involved in many of the leading civil cases in the United States.”
  • Monica Lewinsky - “Monica Samille Lewinsky is an American activist, television personality, fashion designer, and former White House intern.”
  • Barry Goldwater - “Barry Morris Goldwater was an American politician, statesman, businessman, United States Air Force officer, and author who was a five-term senator from Arizona (1953–1965, 1969–1987) and the Republican Party nominee for president of the United States in 1964. Goldwater is the politician most often credited with having sparked the resurgence of the American conservative political movement in the 1960s.”
  • Richard Nixon - “Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th president of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. A member of the Republican Party, Nixon previously served as the 36th vice president from 1953 to 1961, having risen to national prominence as a representative and senator from California.”
  • Bill Clinton - “William Jefferson Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd president of the United States from 1993 to 2001.”
  • Donald Trump - “Donald John Trump is an American politician, media personality, and businessman who served as the 45th president of the United States from 2017 to 2021.”
  • Alexis de Tocqueville - “Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, comte de Tocqueville, colloquially known as Tocqueville, was a French aristocrat, diplomat, political scientist, political philosopher and historian.”
  • William J. Doherty - “William J. Doherty is professor and director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Center at the University of Minnesota and co-founder of Family Life 1st.”
  • Dean Phillips - “Dean Benson Phillips is an American businessman and politician from Minnesota.”

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