For People Who Believe in the Power of Thinking Together

Our Questions of Civic Proportions Newsletter features the questions, ideas, and good work that lend extra power to the civic-minded.

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Political Thinking for Everyday Citizens

Our First Color Salon: Recalling a Human Capacity for Goodness

Our digital lives make it so that information washes over us all day, every day. People announce when they decide to quit social media and disconnect for any period of time. We have to devise a plan not to watch all the stories develop in a never-ending scroll of updates. We need to protect time to think.

An evening of deliberate thinking proved to be more refreshing than the usual social media detox. We started the evening as skeptics. An evening of thoughtful conversation restored our faith in humanity.

Practicing a civic perspective

Since the beginning, thoughtful political observation has happened by way of big questions. What makes a question big? It’s something like the theory of relativity. From one angle, the question looks as simple as asking what time it is, but the answer requires looking at everything we thought we knew from a different perspective.

QCP: Can We Put American Democracy Back Together Again?

QCP: Can We Put American Democracy Back Together Again?

The answer is equal parts art and democracy, but we have everything we need. The trending stories on social media continue to focus on broken norms and lost time, but there’s another story to talk about in this last month of 2020.

What if the year ahead is full of possibilities?

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QCP: Have You Seen the Good Hues?

QCP: Have You Seen the Good Hues?

This is our remedy for the doom scrolling that accompanied the following of election results and court challenges. With that political moment behind us (mostly), it’s time to turn our attention to complex questions again.

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Questions of Civic Proportions: What are we learning about American democracy?

Questions of Civic Proportions: What are we learning about American democracy?

“It feels like America is at a fault line. Like this is an end of an era,” a foreign journalist reflects on our recent election. If you have spent these last couple of weeks feeling like you’re managing an emergency situation, this fault line explains that too.

With election results decided (no concession required), academics have started debating the use of the word “coup” and whether or not the U.S. survived an autocratic attempt. Political observers insist that American institutions have proven themselves and will continue to hold. The wheels of American democracy continue to roll forward.

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Questions of Civic Proportions: How Long Will We Wait?

Questions of Civic Proportions: How Long Will We Wait?

There’s a new trend on social media. Get in line to vote and start the stopwatch on your phone. Once you’ve cast your ballot, post a screenshot so we all know how long you were willing to wait.

We’re celebrating these stories as feats of persistence. The people will vote. Neither a pandemic nor shifting voting rules will turn them away.

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QCP: Can We Put American Democracy Back Together Again?

Questions of Civic Proportions: Can We Spare a Moment?

This public mind is tired. When discussing the Supreme Court nomination on a recent podcast, Dahlia Lithwick said she felt like a “boxing kangaroo.” She has to keep punching without ever knowing if her punches are making a difference. Just keep punching.

I wondered if democracy has always made punching kangaroos of its people. That was almost the theme this week.

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Questions of Civic Proportions: What is strength without purpose?

Questions of Civic Proportions: What is strength without purpose?

Suckers and losers. Again, we all had to ask the question of whether or not President Trump is fit to serve as Commander-in-Chief. We’ve been here before. We’re stuck in a loop.

Responding to Jeffrey Goldberg’s article in The Atlantic, “Trump: Americans Who Died in War are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers,” the political punditry returned to a question they have asked many times before: why don’t we ever hear from General Mattis or General Kelly?

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QCP: Have You Seen the Good Hues?

Questions of Civic Proportions: What will happen if no one plays the game?

Athletes have a playbook with moves we all have to learn to execute. The question of who will play the game and who will not transcends the court.

One of the most iconic images in sports comes from the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two members of the U.S. track team, raised their gloved fists while the national anthem played. In his autobiography, John Carlos described the moment as being in the eye of a hurricane, “There’s something awful about hearing fifty thousand people go silent.” (Quoted in The Atlantic)

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Questions of Civic Proportions: What is strength without purpose?

Questions of Civic Proportions: Can We Chase Down All the Dead Ideas that Hurt Women Who Run for Office?

I wanted to know why Katy put her picture on her yard sign. I naively thought the decision came as a result of her side hustle as a realtor. I also hated that Katy ran with her first name, “Vote for Katy.” I hadn’t seen male candidates use either of these strategies.

A more experienced campaign hand explained it to me: Katy wanted people to see how likable she was…

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We can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers, our willingness to embrace what is true rather than what feels good.

—Carl Sagan

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