Americans are strongly divided along political lines, but a national organization with an Ames presence is working to increase civility and understanding between liberals and conservatives.

The Ames Braver Angels Alliance is a small group of members that strives to bridge political differences and learn communication skills for better understanding. “Red and blue” organizers share leadership roles to keep a balance.

“I think the ability to be able to talk to people about their opinions is invaluable,” said Barb Wheelock, the Ames group’s blue organizer. “We learn the skills to do that as we practice it and as we do the workshops.”

Judy Trumpy, the red organizer of the Ames group, said Braver Angels are concerned about the decrease in national civility.

“We’re all feeling this anxiety before the election,” Trumpy said. “We’re all feeling fear, distrust and anger. It’s a perilous time, and we live in a toxic environment.”

The national Braver Angels organization, formerly known as Better Angels, started a “Hold America Together” campaign.

A letter asks citizens, civic groups and religious organizations to pledge that they will disavow violence from either side and respect those who voted differently.

In an “era of divisiveness,” signees commit themselves to “higher partisanship — for the maintenance of our Union; for the importance of our shared civic life; and for those feelings of goodwill that Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.”

The national group commissioned a recent YouGov poll that found that over half of voters expect violence around the election and may disagree on the election’s legitimacy

“We’re trying to avoid election violence or post-election violence,” Trumpy said.

The Iowa group aims to have a balanced membership of conservatives and liberals. It has female and male members and is racially diverse. Members discuss a variety of national, state and local issues as well as books and opinions.

A few months after founding the Ames group, meetings were thrown off track by the coronavirus pandemic, but organizers are looking to connect online.

“There’s always a trust-building phase when you start a group like this, and we were just getting there when COVID hit,” Wheelock said.

She suggested people who are interested in becoming involved start by looking at the national website,

“Go and join and start utilizing the resources that the web page offers,” Wheelock said. “People can do online workshops and can start to get a feel for what it’s like.”

If you think there’s no chance that a group of people with differing views can “end up anywhere on the same page,” you’ll see it can happen, she said.

“We can’t do anything in this country if we can’t come together as people who have different opinions and feelings,” Wheelock said. “That’s what a democracy is all about.”