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By Lyle Muller, IowaWatch
Deep, passionate political disagreement is keeping many voters unwilling or, in some instances, incapable of having a sustained, civil conversation about topics that provoke that disagreement. The Pew Research Center reports that the disagreement now is deeper than at any other time during the last two decades.
“It’s human nature to point the finger and blame and judge and not accept change,” Stephanie Waddell, an Iowa City, Iowa, Democrat, said when interviewed in summer 2018 for an IowaWatch story, “Civil Discourse Deferred When It Comes To Politics In Caucus State Iowa.”
But a small group of Eastern Iowans interested in politics are trying to have civil conversations about the issues dividing them. They’ve joined a nationwide movement called Better Angels, a bipartisan citizens’ effort to bring Republicans and Democrats together to talk to one another in a civil manner to influence the nation’s direction.
A little more than a dozen residents in Jefferson County, Iowa — county seat, Fairfield — have been meeting in workshops to find ways to advance the conversation about hot-button topics like abortion and tax reform. They are Republicans and Democrats, alike, and led by Julia and Joe Mandarino, both of Fairfield.
Julia Mandarino has a doctorate in psychology and was a psychology professor at Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, specializing in marriage and family relations, before retiring in 2008. Joe Mandarino is a retired business and statistics professor from Maharishi University of Management. He has a doctorate in probability and statistics.
IowaWatch sat down with the Mandarinos and two Fairfield residents with diverse political views for an IowaWatch Connection radio report/podcast — Democrat Marg Dwyer and Republican Jeff Shipley — and also the IowaWatch reporter whose story was the catalyst for this radio report/podcast, Matthew McDermott.
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