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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

Campaign to ease political tensions kicks off

Braver Angels’ “Reduce the Rancor, Minnesota” campaign aims to reduce political polarization by providing ways to help people have hard conversations.
By+encouraging+political+discussions+between+parties%2C+Braver+Angels+hopes+people+will+listen+to+and+be+heard+by+the+other+side.
Image by Noah Liebl
By encouraging political discussions between parties, Braver Angels hopes people will listen to and be heard by the other side.

Leading up to the 2024 presidential election, a different kind of campaign is kicking off — only this one is meant to reduce political tensions. 

Braver Angel’s “Reduce the Rancor, Minnesota” is the pioneer of a campaign aimed at depolarizing politics by helping people have hard discussions. Braver Angels is the largest non-profit movement dedicated to bridging the partisan divide. 

Bill Doherty, co-founder of Braver Angels and a University of Minnesota professor, said recruiting different political leaders and organizations to Reduce the Rancor is key to being proactive during the 2024 election year. 

“The idea was to try to recruit prominent political leaders of the different parties who could be co-sponsors, and then recruit a whole bunch of other organizations including colleges and religious groups and civic groups who would all commit in their own worlds to trying to lower the temperature of the hostility this year,” Doherty said. 

Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Chair Ken Martin and Republican Chair David Hann co-sponsored the kickoff event at the University of St. Thomas on March 12, where they agreed the other side is not an enemy, only a political opponent. 

Braver Angels co-chair Jeff Thiemann said he wants the 2024 election year to run smoothly with more willingness to listen. 

“Polarization is a problem that keeps us from solving other problems,” Thiemann said. “We want to go through an election, we want it to be peaceful, we want voices to be heard and listened to, but in all of that, we would like the polarization to not keep us from being able to solve other problems that really need to be solved.” 

Braver Angels teamed up with Minnesota Public Radio to create a new platform called “Talking Sense” to help facilitate events around the state. 

“‘Talking Sense’ has similar goals to help people learn how to disagree better with family members and friends,” Doherty said. 

Braver Angels started in 2016 after the national election, Doherty said. What started as one 13-hour meeting over a weekend has turned into multiple hours-long workshops with plans to expand to other states, Doherty added. 

“We have like nine or 10 different kinds of workshops now, and just about all of them were incubated here in Minnesota,” Doherty said. 

Braver Angels State Coordinator Morgan Holle said having political conversations with others requires bravery. 

“There’s a reason why they added the ‘Braver’ to the Braver Angels,” Holle said. “It does take some courage or some hard work to do that kind of conversation.” 

Holle said Braver Angels challenges people to hear the whole story of the other side, even if they disagree. 

“I think a big part of Braver Angels is just kind of challenging people just to sit down and listen to other people, even if it’s difficult,” Holle said. “You don’t agree with everything they have to say, because you’ll respect where they’re coming from if you hear the full story.” 

Doherty said in an email to The Minnesota Daily that the slogan “Reduce the Rancor, Minnesota” was designed to intentionally focus on “reducing a negative rather than increasing a positive” to emphasize what everyone agrees on. 

“Braver Angels teach people how to listen in ways that the other person feels heard and understood and that grows our own understanding,” Thiemann said. “We train people to be able to speak their point of view so that they’re more likely to be heard by the other side.” 

Correction: An original version of this article misstated Jeff Thiemann’s title. He is the co-chair of Reduce the Rancor.

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