Crossing Party Lines (CPL) began in 2016, founded as two identically named organizations by Lisa Swallow and Kareem Abelsadek. The two were on opposite sides of the country – with Swallow in Portland, OR and Abelsadek in both Washington DC and NY City. Which is the first testament to the clear communication abilities possessed by the founders of this organization, as they were able to merge their organizations trans-nationally. Although Swallow and Abelsadek had different professional backgrounds, they shared a passion for creating “a national… American conversation with people of varying political perspectives and from all walks of life.” Going on four years down the line, CPL now has a thriving team as well as a 2,000 + meetup members across the United States.
Crossing Party Lines’ mission statement is to “create open dialogue between Americans with dissimilar ideologies to increase tolerance, build communities and encourage civic engagement” with an overarching vision of creating “a country that cultivates the power in diversity of thought for public betterment.” CPL believes that proper etiquette is needed for useful discussion, the most important thing is that one should listen while others talk so they will listen to you. The organization pushes for finding common ground, or “shared values,” as Americans rather than further isolating and separating topics that have many overlapping elements.
CPL’s main action is creating spaces for people from varied political ideologies to meet and discuss modern politics. Bi-monthly meetups are held in New York, NY, and Portland, OR with less frequent meetups in Chicago, IL; and Washington, DC. The events are hosted by moderators and participants are asked to read the pre-read material in order to set the groundwork for discussion. Topics of discussion are selected through newsletter polls to CPL members. CPL meetups are organized through the online platform Meetup (not associated with CPL), a website that helps facilitate in-person events for online groups and organizations. For those who are not able to meet face-to-face, viral meetups are conducted every few months. Each meetup is centered around a new discussion point, mostly political topics such as fake news, private prisons, identity politics, the Electoral College, impeachment, etc. While these have highly political bases, these conversations simultaneously dip into economics, law, and moral philosophies.
Although there are few publications about Crossing Party Lines specifically, this article writes of some alternative organizations that have similar goals, primarily Better Angles. Operating similarly to CPL, Better Angels focuses on civil engagement between Democrats and Republicans via moderators. Relevant from this article is the focus on wordage when engaging in conversations between these two political parties. For example, Better Angles shares the difficulty in explaining what they do, finding that “dialogue” is often a more liberal word in comparison to the more straightforward language of “debate” that conservative people employ. This notion of finding a common language, something that has been increasingly difficult as political parties are further separated, is applied in this text and is also key to our involvement with CPL. Even the simplistic element of finding more party-neutral language could be an essential part to effective engagement that does not imediately allianate people from the beginning.
Chalif, Rebecca. 2011. “Political Media Fragmentation: Echo Chambers in Cable News,” Electronic Media & Politics, 1 (3): 46-65.
This paper explores another side to the echo-chamber reality which the United States population is currently facing. Similar to how social media impacts voters varying degrees of polarization, the growing outlets for news consumption are also having a sizable impact on how the American public thinks - or doesn't. This sea of information available at the click of a couple buttons is increasingly resulting in citizens “self-selecting” which news sources are worth reading and which ones are simply ignored. This factor is creating a fragmented media sphere where democrats and republicans respectively choose specific news sources to read, watch, and listen to which generally strengthen their political leanings.
This source is one of the pre-read materials for a CPL event hosted on the topic of the Electoral College and whether it should be kept or discarded in the United States. It is significant to CPL because many of their sources included in the pre-event material for CPL meetups are from sources geared towards the general public and are things that are easily understood by all. This Time article shows an interactive progression of how Americans voted from 1824 all the way up until 2016. For participants with polar views and little knowledge about how the republican vs democrat support has shifted over the centuries, this may ease individuals into an open discussion about politics, which is ultimately CPL’s point with the pre-event reading.
This text’s thesis is about “How increasing ideological uniformity and partisan antipathy affect politics, compromise and everyday life.” Being that, Crossing Party Lines’ main mission is to mend the polarized views among fellow Americans, this article is very crucial to understanding where those polarized views come from - in the first place - and what effect they are having on the US political realm. So, this text found that both Democrats and Republicans are more divided in their political thoughts than they have been over the last 20 years. The data which is being interpreted presently shows that this manifests itself in everyday life in many ways. The text also talks about “ideological silos/ideological echo chambers” which is something that we - Burgin and I - are very interested in exploring within the limits of CPL as an organization. A lot of our questions were based along the lines of whether CPL was just another place for liberals or conservatives to justify their opinion through conversation.
Schaffner, Brian F., Matthew Macwilliams, and Tatishe Nteta. 2018. "Understanding White Polarization in the 2016 Vote for President: The Sobering Role of Racism and Sexism." Political Science Quarterly 133, no. 1: 9-34.
This text focuses primarily on the education gap between white voters in the 2016 election, specifically within the context of race and gender. The text claims two primary explanations to the extremities within voters of different education levels (in 2016), the first being that under the Obama administration working-class white Americans felt economically neglected and the second being a combination between Donald Trump’s openly racist and sexist remarks, the current African-American president, and a front-running female presidential candidate. The authors compare these two explanations to determine what was influential in further polarizing white liberals and conservatives in the 2016 election. Using a series of data on American’s self-proclaimed ideas around race and gender, the authors found that economic difficulties were a smaller factor in the polarization than topics of race and gender. This text is relevant to CPL in that it gives context to some of the more recent divergence between parties on more racialized grounds than seen in previous years. Especially in Portland, a city with a high percentage of white people, looking at this data is useful in determining differences within people of different education levels that could attend CPL events.
Suhay, Elizabeth, Emily Bello-Pardo, and Brianna Maurer. 2018. “The Polarizing Effects of Online Partisan Criticism: Evidence from Two Experiments.” The International Journal of Press/Politics 23 (1): 95–115. https://doi.org/10.1177/1940161217740697.
This paper is about different ways in which current political divides are occurring, and how some of this polarization can be attributed to the increase in the number of online political disagreements between candidates for elections. During the past few elections, there have been many cases where opposing sides - Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election for example - have openly “gone to war” on social media platforms like twitter, forever changing the course of the mentioned election. There are two studies carried out in this paper and they focus on how these derogatory online battles affect public polarization. This article is very related to CPL because the issue of public polarization is seemingly one of the catalysts which drove Lisa Swallow and Kareem Abelsadek to start CPL in the first place.