Blog | For Democracy’s Sake, We Must Unite

Tom Crick

Tom Crick is a project advisor for the Carter Center's Conflict Resolution Program.

I met Gary Mason right after the violent 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville that shocked the country: "Tom, this looks terribly familiar, so it does," he said in his Belfast accent. "What can we do?"

During almost 30 years with The Carter Center, helping to build peace and democracy around the world, I never imagined that I would end up doing that work at home. But my new friend was right. The Rev. Dr. Gary Mason had lived through — and helped end — decades of bloody civil war in his native Northern Ireland. He saw in Charlottesville how identity-based politics were putting a dangerous strain on America’s democracy and was concerned about our country’s direction.

So what can we do? Despite our divisions and policy differences, common ground in America remains extremely wide. Fair, safe, and secure elections are something that we all want to see. The challenge, therefore, is to restore faith in our electoral systems and our democratic norms.

  • PEople stand shoulder to shoulder on a stage.

    Senior faith leaders and other community members in Georgia came together on Feb. 8 for "A Service of Prayer for Our Nation" at The Carter Center to pray for unity, peace, and healing in this election year. (Photo: The Carter Center)

As citizens, we have the power to reject negative narratives and require that our leaders adhere to democratic norms. Our surveys have found that supporting these types of principles is not just the "right thing to do" — it can also help candidates win votes.

This is something we all can do in every aspect of our lives. We can disagree civilly, listen before we judge, and refuse to dehumanize those with whom we disagree. We can recognize our own clickbait-fueled emotional responses, question those who profit from dividing us, and unite in support of our democratic system. This we must do for the sake of our families, communities, and future generations.

Since Charlottesville, we’ve been working with Mason and a rapidly growing network of faith leaders who are united by their common values and concerns about our divisions. We are supporting alliances of cross-partisan influencers in six key states – Georgia, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Michigan. These respected community leaders are promoting positive, shared norms within their networks of trust. Together, the goal is to turn places of worship into sites of civic healing and transformation.

As our co-founder Jimmy Carter said in his Nobel Peace Prize message:

"The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices. God gives us the capacity for choice. We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes — and we must."

Related Resources

Democracy Program

Conflict Resolution Program

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