It was late in 2016, and an idea for a workshop became the genesis of a movement. The idea: everyday Americans of politically and economically diverse backgrounds come face-to-face for meaningful and curious conversations. The factory worker sat next to the doctor, the professional political operative next to the gunsmith. That was how Braver Angels began in the small Ohio working-class town of South Lebanon — but it still goes against the current of our political culture in 2023.
Today, you are far more likely to find a lawyer in Congress than a laborer. While more than half of U.S. senators have a net worth exceeding a million dollars, less than 9% percent of the American public will ever reach that mark.
Politics is seen as the realm of lawyers and experts, not truckers and nurses. This has become so embedded in our thinking that an electrician friend of David’s was recently shocked when David told him that you didn’t need a college degree in order to be President of the United States; he had always assumed it was a requirement and that the position wasn’t meant for people like him.
When we gather in Gettysburg July 5-8 for the Braver Angels National Convention, it will mark 160 years since a president who himself had only a handful of years of formal schooling called for America to renew herself as a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
At the We The People’s Project of Braver Angels, we are taking up that call. It’s time those who are often spoken of but seldom spoken with get their turn to speak.
“Our project’s tagline is ‘where everyday Americans get time at the podium.'”
Our project’s tagline is “where everyday Americans get time at the podium.” This is why our core leadership team is made up of people whose bios include electrician, arborist, pipe welder, factory worker, and tool and die maker — people who see themselves as working-class, everyday Americans.
That’s why our expanding We The People’s Council — which comprises Braver Angels members who identify themselves as working class, convenes four times a year to serve as our extended leadership team. Its purpose is to provide advice to the Braver Angels community on how we can effectively accomplish our mission. We are now reaching out to our balanced group of Red and Blue members, asking them, “What are the issues where we can discover common ground and collaborate towards meaningful action?'”
When we organize our monthly We The People’s Forum events, we seek to find those everyday Americans whose voices are seldom heard even though they have knowledge and experience on the issue at hand.
It’s why one of our initiatives, “The Truth and Trust Project,” is co-led by a “deplorable” who voted for Trump and whose day job has nothing to do with public health (that’s Wilk) and an “elitist” who ran the National Institutes of Health and is a recognized public health expert (that’s Dr. Francis Collins). (Be sure to check out their conversation at the Convention in the session “An Elitist and a Deplorable Walk Into a Bar…”)
We find time and again that cooler heads prevail as individuals approach discussions with curiosity, open minds, and a willingness to listen to differing perspectives; a culture where agitators find limited space to disrupt the discourse as people engage respectfully to find common ground. The prevailing goal is to seek unity, bridge divides, and reduce polarization.So, if you’re reading this and you see yourself as a working-class, everyday American, join us. Sign up for ourWe The People’s Council. If you’re a part of or know of an organization that works with working-class Americans, reach out to them and invite them to join the Braver Network.
For all of us: let’s build a political culture that truly honors and reflects “We the People.”