the process


Our elections are so polarizing that — whoever wins — the next president, House and Senate are nearly certain to deadlock over how to resolve our country’s chronic problems.

Furthermore, each law now on the books was enacted to satisfy some voters, some interest groups and some politicians. The laws thereby contradict one another, which has let our critical problems grow worse.

Understandably, most Americans are deeply worried or very angry about their future, so that various media, politicians and institutions can easily stoke voters’ hostility toward one another. The result: 33 percent now believe that violence is justified to advance their political views.

To reverse this cycle of dysfunctional government, festering socioeconomic problems and rising public rage, the Center for Collaborative Democracy (CCD) has launched the Grand Bargain Project. It is designed to unite most citizens around a shared vision of our country’s future, consisting of practical ways to advance six objectives that 90+ percent of voters see as critical to their families:
- Boosting economic mobility, productivity, and growth
- Reforming education so students can reach their potential
- Making healthcare more effective and less costly
- Stabilizing the climate
- Curbing the national debt
- Making the tax code fairer and simpler

To show that progress in all six areas is within reach, we enlisted a diverse team of 13 former policymakers and think tank leaders (
see our Policy Team) to work out common-sense reforms in each area. Nearly all who have seen the experts’ plan have agreed that the combined reforms would improve almost every American’s prospects. Even so, we are constantly updating the original plan with input from:
1. Members of various grassroots organizations
2. The general public through social and digital media
3. Civic leaders across the country
4. Leaders of the organizations most politically active on the six issues

We are also developing tools to show Americans from all walks of life how that evolving grand bargain would enable their families to thrive, and how to join a movement supporting it.

Our recent meetings with leaders and members of several grassroots organizations indicate that public support could grow fast enough for the next president and Congress to endorse the grand bargain rather than endure the escalating public discontent likely to follow the 2024 election.

To make maximum progress this year, the Grand Bargain Project is unfolding in three phases:

The Process

Proof of Concept

Phase 1

To gauge how much of the public might support the six-issue grand bargain described on the previous page, we led a session at the Braver Angels national convention in late June.

The 31 attendees’ political priorities ranged from very liberal to very conservative. None expected to see progress on any of the six issues.

Yet when we presented a summary of the evolving grand bargain, 30 of 31 preferred it over the country’s current direction. They then deliberated enthusiastically over potential ways to improve the original plan.

By the session’s end, 14 said they wanted their local chapters to hold a similar event in order to help start a national movement.

Building a Grassroots Movement

Phase 2

Our experience at Braver Angels has inspired a growing number of leaders in the Pro-Democracy and Bridging Divides communities to help us make the following case to other organizations in these spaces:

Most Americans know these issues are critical to their future. If the problems continue to fester, the majority will just grow angrier and angrier until our democracy implodes.
Aside from this project, we have not seen any other way to make major progress in these areas.
Local meetings about the grand bargain would thereby be a unique form of participatory democracy that could help steer the entire country in the constructive direction that most Americans long for.

We have begun to make the same case to Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, YMCAs and similar organizations. To help us, APCO Worldwide and Mercury LLC are recruiting top influencers from government, media, arts, business, faith community, youth and popular culture to publicly support the project.

Our plan is to train 1,000 local facilitators to conduct meetings in their respective regions.

To create a mass movement that can generate unprecedented progress in all six areas, we will use social-digital media to reach “the exhausted majority” — the 60+ percent of voters who reject hyper-polarization, focus on economic or environmental issues, and feel powerless. Our message to them:

Each of us is one of 100+ million voters who hunger for progress on these issues that really matter. But without a coherent plan, we lack any power. Imagine if just 20 percent of us now unite around a common-sense grand bargain. We would become a movement for positive change that is larger and more impactful than any to date.

Mobilizing the Public to Act

Phase 3

As the grassroots and media activity gains traction, our affiliated 501(c)4 Grand Bargain Action Network will start to mobilize voters with messages such as:

Your input has been distilled into a grand bargain that will enable your family to thrive. For it to make a big difference, you need to tell candidates and policymakers how strongly you support it.

The organizations spreading that message will likely include others promoting economic mobility, quality education and healthcare, environmental sustainability, strong democracy and fiscal responsibility.

If the grand bargain’s supporters start to outnumber each party’s “base,” politicians and candidates will see it in their self-interest to use the pact as their roadmap for governing.

Expected Outcomes and Impact


• A critical mass of stakeholders, influencers and the public will agree on solutions for the six issues

• The exhausted majority will increasingly participate in civic life and unite around a shared vision of our country’s future

• When the next Congress convenes, likely facing record discontent and unrest, lawmakers who want wider support will heed the newly aroused majority — and use the grand bargain as a governing agenda.

• That agenda — the fiscal, economic and environmental reforms that the American people need to thrive — will then have far greater odds of being enacted than by any other strategy to date.