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Extremists Views Are Holding America Hostage. Here’s How We Break Free

4 minute read
Kinzinger served as a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois from 2011 to 2023. He is now a Senior Political Commentator at CNN and leads his organization “Country First,” a movement to break free from the division being spread in our politics and seek proven solutions to the challenges not being addressed by our leaders

Today, too many Americans feel like the system is being stacked against them. Folks in rural towns and inner cities, who face many of the same challenges, are being pitted against each other and manipulated so those in power can stay in power.

Are you tired of too many politicians being more focused on saying what will get them donations and win re-election than searching for common ground? Are you tired of feeling trapped in a system that fails us cycle after cycle? I am, too.

After more than a decade in Congress, I know that no one is coming to save us. The media and political parties aren’t going to change a system that benefits them unless we, the people, come together now. It’s up to you and me to break fee of the mindset that things cannot be better. It’s time to imagine an American Renewal—an American Dream that unites us, instead of divides us.

Read more: The U.S. is Heading Toward a Second Civil War. Here Is How We Avoid It

Sadly, too many people have broken relationships with their neighbors, colleagues, friends, and even family members over our toxic political system. Our conversations have turned into accusations, name-calling, and defensiveness rather than active listening, learning from one another’s perspectives, and coming together to strengthen American democracy. At our core, we must remember that we are all Americans. We need to turn down the temperature in our conversations, build common ground, and focus on the hopes and dreams we all have in common for us and most importantly our children.

Unfortunately, America has an information crisis, with large numbers of people living in alternate realities fueled by daily distortions, superficial attacks, and downright lying. Many of our current leaders would rather exacerbate division— instead of mend it—in order to appease their base. Important debates about how we should address the challenges our nation faces have been replaced by arguments over what’s fact and fiction—leaving our problems unsolved and us further divided.

And yet, I came away from the 2022 midterm elections looking at the political landscape with optimism because Democracy won! In an effort to combat the extremism plaguing our politics, my organization Country First endorsed Republican, Democrat, and Independent candidates who showed up to defend democracy and build cross-partisan coalitions to make our country stronger. We poured resources, volunteer power, money, texting, advertising, you name it into these key races in battleground states and had great results with the majority of our endorsees defeating Election Deniers. American voters sent a resounding message: They want sanity and civility to return to politics.

Even in a recent survey by Harvard’s Making Caring Common Project, uniting the country remains a top priority for Americans on both sides of the aisle. The reasonable majority can be the antidote to our toxic political system—but only if we awaken and activate more good people to believe that we not only deserve something better but that it’s achievable.

Real opportunity for all is possible in America if we embrace proven solutions. That means having an agile economy and opportunity for dignified, rewarding work. It means building a society around shared values and service and fighting against social media-driven misinformation. It means kids have fair access to a good education, food in their stomachs, and a stable home life. There are the problems both parties must tackle, and we won’t solve them by sticking with the same party playbooks that got us here.

While my time in Congress has ended, I remain faithful to the promise I made a dozen years ago to leave this country a far better place than the one I inherited, not only for my son, Christian, but also for all of our kids and grandkids. Country First will continue to work overtime to help our nation break free from the apathy and hopelessness that our future is written in stone. Real opportunity for all is possible, and solutions to our country’s problems are there, if only we drown out the extremes with sanity in the primaries and 2024 elections.

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