How to Avoid Election Armageddon

Five steps for business leaders to reduce political warfare after November 3

We’re days away now from what is possibly the most divisive election in American history. We know that on the day after that election, on November 4th, at least 50 million people will be very disappointed, disillusioned, depressed, angry- some of them bordering on destruction. In fact, Dr. Nils Gilman, a researcher at the Berggruen Institute, ran a series of analyses that suggest that there are four likely scenarios to come of the 2020 election. Of those four scenarios, three are likely to end in violence. On November 4th, and the days, weeks, months, and possibly four more years that follow, we can reasonably expect the division we face now to deeply intensify. The polarization will be intensified by social media and big data capabilities that allow social media to focus in on our fears — the driving force for getting our attention and putting ads in front of us. Right now, we are living comfortably in our own echo chambers. Chambers that tell us that our candidate will win, and if they don’t it’s because they cheated- and democracy is over. Social media controls that narrative and sells it to us in droves.

As business leaders, we have the opportunity to shift our dollars from the messages that are intended to divide us to those that are determined to unite us. For philanthropists and leaders of businesses and organizations, there are five simple steps to start the shift from fear to hope, and begin the healing for our country.

Reach out to three audiences.

These audiences are employees and associates, citizens and customers, and the media. Let’s use our platforms and networks to tell those retailers and advertisers who are profiting off fear that we’re no longer footing the bill.

Work with established groups that are all about civil discourse and bringing the sides together.

Organizations like Bridge Alliance are home to over 100 organizations dedicated to bridging the gap. Link up with organizations like In This Together, Living Room Conversations, and RepresentUS to find out how we can work together to come up with actionable solutions.

Pledge not to advertise on the fear driving media and programs.

We can change the conversation by withholding our ad dollars from advertisers that are set on dividing us. Visit sites like Allsides.com, who are committed to reporting unbiased and factual news.

Create a capitalism that people can be proud of.

Capitalism has gotten a bad rap, and maybe deservedly so. But free enterprise is an institution that creates enormous wealth and well-being. It can also lead to division, when it’s captured and turned into crony capitalism or socialism. We need to step up and develop a better capitalism that shares the wealth that it generates. When we have a capitalist system that socializes costs like pollution and injustice, it doesn’t pay the costs. It’s time for a new framework.

Combine our communities and resources to grow the size of 5 million problem solvers.

We need 5 million people who are ready to reach across the aisle to work together for solutions. 5 million people is 5% of the voting population, which is enough to sway the election toward a solutions-based candidate who privileges country over party. It’s how we’re fighting to end the polarization in the United States. Nearly two million problem solvers are already behind us, join in the fight for America by signing our Declaration of Interdependence today.

Bill Shireman is a social entrepreneur and environmental policy innovator. He is the co-author of In This Together.