At times it seems that America is blanketed with a blinding fog of combative rhetoric and polarization. Yet many lights still shine through as beacons of bipartisanship. Many of those who lead us on our path to greater bipartisanship are the politically active youth of America.
In some ways, the views of younger Americans highlight a path toward more agreement in the future. The youngest Republicans (Millennials and Gen Z) tend to have more liberal views than older Republicans, and they are more aligned with Democrats as a whole. For instance, more young Republicans believe that climate change should be addressed, and black Americans are treated less fairly than white Americans.
One young leader who is finding ways to bridge divides is Benji Backer, a conservative college student at the University of Washington, who founded the American Conservation Coalition, an organization to advocate for action on climate change. He founded it several years ago because he wanted to address climate change from a conservative, market-based perspective. He believes that protecting the environment should be viewed as an opportunity for cooperation rather than as a divisive issue. Benji has testified about climate change in front of Congress. His belief in the importance of environmental activism has transcended political parties, demonstrating that bipartisanship is possible on an issue often associated more with liberal views.
Another politically active member of Gen Z who is leading America towards greater bipartisanship is Clara Nevins, a self-proclaimed Democrat from California. She founded Bridge the Divide along with Joseph Touma, a self-proclaimed Republican from West Virginia. After meeting at a summer camp and realizing that respectful discourse could occur between those who hold differing political viewpoints, they decided that they wanted to help others “bridge the divide” between partisan politics. Their organization attempts to facilitate discourse and cooperation through online discussions, an editorial page that offers a voice to youths across the political spectrum, and other events that encourage respectful conversations between conservatives and liberals.
Benji Backer, Clara Nevins, and Joseph Touma are not alone in their search for better and more frequent bipartisanship. Many other politically active young Americans share their desire for a country that values cooperation and civil discourse. Numerous examples of these young leaders can be seen across America, including Adam Hoffman, who initiated an annual “Day of Unity” event with students from his community in Texas. Additionally, the Young Republicans and Young Democrats organizations from Palm Beach, Florida hosted a bipartisan beach cleanup. These examples should give hope that our next generation will have strong leaders advocating for cooperation and bipartisanship.
Jackson Lanzer is a high school senior and a young professional member of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. He has contributed to contestedpolitics.com and is now writing depolarizing articles. Additionally, he was awarded a regional Scholastic Writing Award for critical essay writing in 2020. Jackson has a Center bias.
This piece was edited by AllSides.com Managing Editor Henry A. Brechter (Center bias), and was reviewed by James Coan (Center) of Braver Angels.