Disagree Better

Meetings and Events

Americans are deeply concerned and exhausted by the hyperpartisanship and polarization in our country, and rightly so. We’ve forgotten how to persuade without hating each other. But our nation’s history shows there’s a better way, and we all need to re-learn how to Disagree Better.

Since launching the Disagree Better initiative last July, National Governors Association Chair Utah Governor Spencer Cox has been traveling around the country to raise awareness — hosting NGA events in New Hampshire, Colorado, Washington DC and Nashville designed to show that Americans can work through our differences to find solutions to the most difficult problems facing our states and our country.  

Disagreeing Better In Nashville

On May 14, 2024, NGA Chair Utah Governor Spencer Cox and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee collaborated for the latest Disagree Better Event.

Centered on the theme of building dialogue skills and fostering positive contact, the Nashville event featured panel discussions with bipartisan experts, and keynote addresses from Moral Courage College Founder and CEO Irshad Manji, and Citizen University Co-Founder and CEO Eric Liu, along with the release of Disagree Better: A Parenting Toolkit.

Speakers and attendees also worked together on a service project in coordination with Comfort Cases, an organization that assembles and distributes care packages for children entering the foster care system.

Readouts and session videos:

“I started Disagree Better because I’m deeply concerned at the division and hatred consuming the country. We’ll never make progress on important issues when each side thinks the other is the enemy. Politicians need to do better, but there is a role for everyone. There are practical steps, like service, we can all take to heal the divide. I hope this campaign inspires more Americans to discover the transformative power of volunteer service in their communities.”  

Governor Spencer Cox

“We can disagree and stand firm for our beliefs and principles, but we should never forget the dignity of the other human being. I’m proud to join Governors across the nation in demonstrating that civility is not a weakness – it’s the Tennessee Way and the American Way.”

Governor Bill Lee

Disagree Better aims to change the political behavior of both voters and elected officials, showing that the right kind of conflict often leads to better policy, can be more successful politically than negative campaigning, and is the pathway to restoring trust in our political institutions. Through public debates, service projects, public service announcements and more, Disagree Better models a more positive and optimistic way of working through our problems.

Disagreeing Better In DC

The nation’s Governors gathered in Washington, DC, on February 22-24, for the 2024 National Governors Association Winter Meeting. Through the Disagree Better Initiative, Governors are joining forces to reduce partisan animosity and foster healthy debate by modeling a more positive and optimistic way of working through policy problems.

Prior to the meeting NGA Chair Utah Governor Spencer Cox led several public forums in DC to speak with thought leaders representing academia, philanthropy, business and government about the good work already happening and the need for more Americans to engage with the initiative to help address toxic polarization in America.

Governor Cox opened the public meeting, on February 23, 2024, with an overview of the Initiative and the importance of reducing toxic polarization.

Judge Thomas Griffith then moderated a plenary session with U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Amy Coney Barrett, who shared their perspectives on “How to Disagree Agreeably.” Retired Justice Stephen Breyer, reflecting on the session, posted a guest essay on the New York Times: “The Supreme Court I Served On Was Made Up of Friends.”

On Saturday, February 24, Dr. Frank Luntz met with Governors for a discussion on public opinion trends and offers his perspectives on the Disagree Better initiative.

Disagreeing Better In Colorado

NGA Chair Utah Governor Spencer Cox and NGA Vice Chair Colorado Governor Jared Polis hosted the second in a series of bipartisan events in support of Governor Cox’s Disagree Better Initiative in Denver, Colorado on November 14, 2023.

Centered on the theme of teaching youth about healthy conflict and fostering open debate and free expression in higher education, the event featured panel discussions with bipartisan experts; a practical application of those topics through a service project; and a debate facilitated by Braver Angels, a nonprofit dedicated to political depolarization.

Session Readouts & Videos

Disagreeing Better in New Hampshire

On September 12, 2023, National Governors Association Chair Utah Governor Spencer Cox and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu welcomed Governors, national experts and students to Manchester, New Hampshire for the first in a series of bipartisan events to help address toxic polarization in America – the aim of Governor Cox’s 2023-24 NGA Chair’s Initiative: Disagree Better. The bipartisan event was also attended by Maine Governor Janet Mills, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee and Vermont Governor Phil Scott.

Centered on the theme of Correcting Misperceptions and Highlighting Commonalities, the event featured panel discussions with bipartisan experts leading nationwide efforts to reduce partisan animosity and foster healthy conflict; a debate facilitated by Braver Angels, a nonprofit dedicated to political depolarization; and a service project, “Show Up for Teachers.” Learn more about the Disagree Better initiative below.

Session Readouts

bridging the partisan divide

In a panel discussion held during the NGA Annual Meeting, Governor Cox invited leaders engaged in bridging the partisan divide to share their thoughts.

Moderator Mónica Guzmán, Senior Fellow for Public Practice at Braver Angels, kicked off the discussion by asking panelists to define the problem.

Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics International and the founder of Unite, identified the issue as “the erosion of trust” and “the rise of contempt as the problem-solving tool of choice.”

“We are kidding ourselves if we treat our opponent with contempt and claim to be about the people’s business,” Shriver continued. “We are no longer about the people’s business; we are no longer about solving problems. We are now about making points that aggrandize and feed our own addiction to safety and security but do nothing to solve the problems of the country.”

Yuval Levin, Director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, commented: “The problem is not that we’ve forgotten how to agree; the problem is we’ve forgotten how to disagree. The forgetfulness is created by a political culture that encourages us to see the various institutions that we’re all a part of … not as [forums] to get things done together but as platforms for ourselves as individuals.”

See a readout from the session, or watch the discussion below.