When two sides collide; Better Angels Iowa


Photo by Taylor Williams

by Taylor Williams, News Editor

Talking about politics can be a stressful occasion for many people. When discussing politics, people find themselves trapped between wanting to voice their opinions and keeping their opinions to themselves to avoid discourse. Better Angels Iowa spoke at Simpson College about the benefits of coming together for civil discussion. 

Better Angels strive to make these difficult conversations less about going on the defense and more about learning to accept our differences and coexist peacefully. The program strives for people to view political parties in a different lens than what is portrayed in the media.

“There’s ‘Iowa nice’ but we don’t see much of that in the way the media talks about each party,” said Anthony Ginger, alongside his Better Angels coworker Christian Sarabia. 

The program was hosted by the Simpson College Democrats, Simpson College Republicans and the Culver Public Policy Center Feb. 26 in McNeill.

Director of the Culver Public Policy Center Seth Anderson explained how the movement is making efforts to reduce political polarization in the United States by bringing liberals and conservatives together to understand each other beyond stereotypes, forming red and blue community alliances, teaching practical skills for communicating across political differences and making a strong public argument for depolarization. 

Sarabia and Ginger discussed how they came to be part of the national citizen’s movement which began after the 2016 election. Sarabia was raised in a conservative household and while Ginger, who also grew up in a conservative household, is liberal. The two met as roommates and were presidents of clubs supporting the opposing parties. Now they travel around telling others about Better Angels.

“Our goal is to do 99 counties,” Sarabia said. “So far we’ve done 16.” 

During the event Sarabia and Ginger had audience members watch a short film about how Better Angels helped a community in Ohio. 

In the film, members of the Republican and Democratic parties came together to discuss their concerns with the country, their opposing party and their own party.             

What stood out to students was when each party pointed out their parties’ most common stereotypes. The Republican Party listed, “redneck, anti-women, homophobic, racist and intolerant to immigrants.” The Democratic Party listed, “godless, baby killers, takers and  unpatriotic” 

Both sides came together to discuss further questions to discuss with members of the other party. Though they may not have agreed on bigger issues they could find enough small commonalities to remind them that no matter what side of the political spectrum they feel they’re all human.

One participant loved it so much she suggested Congress give it a try. 

Sophomore Tatum Clayburn said while she believes in the mission of Better Angels she has some reservations about what it could do for Simpson’s campus. 

 “I feel like many students at Simpson are already politically active and engaged. However, I feel as though not everyone is willing to be active. I feel like a program like Better Angels could help eliminate some of the polarization on campus,” Clayburn said. “Though, it will be noted that this would only be beneficial to those who attend the sessions, which in, my guess, would only be those who are already pretty active in politics.”

After proposing bringing Better Angels to Simpson, Sarabia and Ginger mentioned the organization’s difficulty with retaining younger members, minorities and members of the Republican party. There is also an increasing number of Independent Party members. 

“I think it’s super important to get through to younger people because you really don’t have any choice but to live together,” Ginger said. “We don’t have to agree with each other, we don’t have to compromise our own beliefs in order to get along. We have no choice but to live together and to make progress together.” 

In the beginning, Sarabia and Ginger shared a quote that encapsulated Better Angels by Abraham Lincoln stating, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break out bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” 

Both Simpson College Democrats and Simpson College Republicans will be considering Better Angels’ offer. 

For more information on how to get involved with Better Angels Iowa, go to better-angelsiowa.org or follow the Better Angels Iowa Facebook page.