U.S. Supreme Court Justices Join Governors to Discuss Overcoming Political Division

Washington DC – During the annual Winter Meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA), NGA Chair Utah Governor Spencer Cox and NGA Vice Chair Colorado Governor Jared Polis welcomed U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Amy Coney Barrett, who participated in a discussion on Governor Cox’s “Disagree Better” initiative.

“There’s an exhausted majority of Americans who are fed up with divisive rhetoric and feel their voices are drowned out by louder extremes,” said Governor Cox. “It’s on all of us – voters and elected officials alike – to speak up for civility and healthy debate. The best feature of American democracy is a constitutional system that helps us not merely tolerate people with differing views but to engage with them and debate them respectfully. Through Disagree Better, Governors are working to remind Republicans and Democrats alike that it’s ok to stop catering to fringes who demand extreme rhetoric and reckless behavior. We can still disagree, but let’s disagree constructively.”

“In Colorado and across our nation, people are looking to their leaders to solve problems, not engage in political name calling,” said Governor Polis. “Our political discussions must be a place where people come together to find common ground. Today’s discussion emphasized the importance of coming together to move the country forward through lively and respectful conversation.”

In a conversation led by Judge Thomas Griffith, U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Amy Coney Barrett shared insights on how to disagree agreeably and reflected on their experiences forging constructive working relationships with Supreme Court colleagues.

“We’re present with each other,”commented Justice Sotomayor. “We are actually listening to each other at arguments. We’re present with each other at conference; we’re listening to what each other is saying. We may disagree with it, but we are listening. If you’re not listening, you’re not going to be able to think about what other people are saying.”

“We may have red states and blue states, but above all, we’re the United States,” stated Justice Barrett. “It is a pluralistic society – that’s what the First Amendment protects, our First Amendment freedoms. And if we can’t survive by tolerating differences, and learning to compromise, and learning to allow one another to express other views, we’re going to sink. We won’t be able to get anything done as a country.”

Launched in July, Disagree Better is a yearlong initiative to help Americans learn the skills of healthy conflict. The effort 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.

Learn more about the Disagree Better initiative, and other Winter Meeting sessions, on the NGA website.