Alliance Building in a Hyper-partisan Environment

Friday, February 25, 2022

Alliance Building in a Hyper-partisan Environment
By: Andrew Geraghty, Program Officer, Carnegie Corporation of New York

Today, more than ever, we are a deeply polarized country. It’s difficult to imagine our elected officials agreeing on anything. Although it’s not a silver bullet, we believe that an alliance-building strategy across partisan divides is one tool that grantmakers can employ more. Regardless of the policy issue, if legislation is bipartisan, it will be stronger and hold up better over time.

Because of our nonpartisan status, private foundations—and the nonprofit advocates we fund—are in a unique position to work across the ideological spectrum together and model the cooperative spirit we want politicians to follow. By doing so, we create the appropriate atmosphere for members of Congress to do the same. We can identify the most fitting message—from the right messenger to meet the pertinent audience—to encourage bipartisan agreement. 

Carnegie Corporation of New York has funded and encouraged a cooperative spirit across many of its areas, including campaign finance, nuclear security, immigration, and K-12 education. For example, the Corporation has supported work that led to the Nunn-Luger Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, and the Head Start Program. The Corporation’s Strengthening U.S. Democracy Program’s Alliance Building portfolio includes a collection of grantees specifically focused on building common ground for immigration reform. The Corporation recently releases a report exploring the impact of the Alliance Building portfolio which you can download here

Within the Alliance Building portfolio, specifically, as it relates to immigration, the Corporation funds the Bipartisan Policy Center, Cato Institute, the Police Executive Research Forum, the Truman Center for National Policy, and the American Business Immigration Coalition, among others. All of these groups work alongside more progressive advocates for immigration reform, demonstrating how pro-immigrant policy is not a uniquely progressive or conservative issue. 

There are many arguments that can be made in support of immigration reform: police chiefs can attest to how bringing the undocumented out of the shadows leads to better community policing and safety for all. Evangelical pastors can use the bible to frame the immigration debate, pointing to how Christians are called to welcome the stranger. Business leaders can provide facts and figures showing how much their industries rely on immigrant labor. We have learned that it’s all about having the right messenger for the right audience. 

The Corporation is not overselling the alliance-building strategy. On March 3rd, come hear from funders and advocates across the immigration, climate, and criminal justice fields who have incorporated alliance-building into their work. Our presenters will discuss work at both the state and federal levels and will help funders consider how this strategy can be applied to other policy areas.  

Growing political polarization has made a bipartisan compromise on a range of policy issues more challenging. Yet, to achieve lasting solutions that can hold up, regardless of which party holds a majority, it is essential that elected officials work across the aisle and reach an agreement. Funders and advocates can play an important role in encouraging policymakers to seek common ground.

Pursuing Meaningful Change in a Hyper-partisan Environment, hosted by Philanthropy New York, will take place on March 3rd from 3:30 – 5 pm. Register today to learn more!

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