New Local Group Seeks to Defuse Political Squabbles

Braver Angels Works Towards Bringing the Red and Blue Together

Trevor Phipps

In the past, national and local politics were regarded as topics that many folks often avoided during family gatherings and other social events.

But in the last several years, this scenario has drastically changed with political divisiveness causing rifts between friends, family, neighbors, and even spouses, and throughout the community.


The division that is visible at local and national levels has been so bad in fact that many families fear big get-togethers.  However, one local group, Braver Angels, is taking a lead role in combating this divisiveness head-on.

In 2016, when the major divide was just starting to sink its teeth in the nation, Braver Angels Co-Founder Bill Doherty decided to use his background in family therapy in attempts to help ease the growing political divide in the country.


The organization’s mission states that Americans on opposite sides politically have grown to dislike one another besides just disagreeing on political issues. Braver Angels was started to address the challenge of “growing partisan animosity.”


A local group headed by Billie Donegan and Holly Sample will hold an introductory Braver Angels Alliance meeting at the Woodland Park Library on August 29 from  6 to 7 p.m. The short initial meeting will describe what the organization is all about and discuss other opportunities to be involved in free workshops and events in the future.


County Commissioner Dan Williams will give the opening speech for the initial meeting to show support for the idea of “bridging the political divide.” According to the group’s founders, Woodland Park Mayor Hilary LaBarre was also interested in some of the Braver Angels workshops.


“It’s a great organization and all three commissioners have been trying really hard to get rid of the divisiveness,” Williams said. “It’s a good organization that’s trying to get people back to civility, talking about issues instead of attacking each other. So, I’m really excited about helping out with it.”


“Our real interest is to make a difference locally,” Sample said. “Now that people are meeting again and we are back to in-person things we would like to launch in-person workshops and events that will give people the chance to come together and learn how to talk to people who they disagree with. We learn skills, we practice them and then we go out into the world.”


The group’s first workshop is scheduled for September 23 and is called “Skills for Bridging the Divide.” This seminar is focused on helping people through difficult political conversations with others in their lives.


Partnering With the Local Library in Hosting Workshops

In the near future, the group then plans to partner with the local library to put on a workshop specifically aimed at communications on social media. The local Braver Angels Alliance also plans on working with elected officials in the region to put on a series of “Braver Politics” workshops that aim at helping government representatives work with constituents and colleagues on opposite sides of the political aisle.


The workshops provide framework to have conversations where opinions from both sides get heard. People attending the workshops are encouraged to practice and apply what they have learned in everyday situations.


The organization also has a slew of other educational workshops. Some of these deal with learning how to talk about politics with family members while others focus on “depolarizing conversations about race and public policy.”


The Braver Angels’ “Depolarizing Within” workshop focuses on developing strategies for engaging in discussions about politics without demonizing others. It also teach attendees “how to constructively intervene in social conversations with like-minded peers.”


In addition, the group offers workshops aimed at assisting people on opposing sides of the political aisle, especially in learning how to disagree.  They have two seminars entitled “Being Red in a Blue Environment” and “Being Blue in a Red Environment.”


Donegan, one of the group’s founders, said that learning how to combat the political divide is crucial for future generations to succeed. “I think about my children and great grandchildren and the world they are stepping into,” Donegan said. “One stat I found interesting showed that about 15 years ago a survey asked people if they would care if their spouses were Republican or Democrat and hardly anybody cared. Now, it’s a huge thing.”


The mission of Braver Angels has become so crucial lately that even the National Governors’ Association has jumped on board to support it. Democratic Colorado Governor Jared Polis and Republican Utah Governor Spencer Cox recently joined together for a short video urging others to “disagree better.”


“Maybe you’re the one with the strong opinions,” Governor Polis said in the video. “You know you’re right and the other side is a bunch of misguided weirdos. But, there’s a healthy way to deal with conflicting opinions. Actually, it’s ok to disagree. A little respect and curiosity keeps resentment off the dinner table. Our nation was founded by people who profoundly disagreed.”


“Healthy disagreement means not assuming that the other side is deluded, misinformed or actively trying to overthrow America,” Governor Cox added. “Conflict isn’t bad; it’s the way we disagree that matters. Please join us in showing America the right kind of conflict.”