Having a civil conversation about political hot topics seems all but impossible in our polarized climate. But actor Chris Evans, best known for his role as Captain America in the Avengers franchise, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) want to change that.
On Wednesday, the senator invited Evans to join him for an Instagram live to discuss the importance of dialogue and Evans’s new website, A Starting Point. Evans launched ASP two weeks ago with the goal of creating a more informed electorate by cutting through the noise and allowing Americans to hear directly from their elected officials. The site features short videos of politicians on both sides of the aisle explaining a host of topics including COVID-19, police reform, abortion, and the Electoral College without commentary, editing, or interruption. Sen. Scott was an early supporter of the effort and has contributed several videos to ASP, offering a conservative perspective on issues like school choice, workforce development, and criminal justice reform.
"The platform is designed primarily to create participation because I do think you need an electorate that is involved in the political process,” Evans said on the livestream. “But I also think people are a little exhausted with the polarized aggression that we feel. The political landscape feels a little harsh right now. And I think if we can return to a place of civil discourse, we can return to a place of subtlety within the way we see things."
Evans doesn’t hide the fact that he’s a Democrat, and he has a history of bashing President Trump and his supporters. But over the past year, he has repeatedly expressed a desire to “hear the full story” and pull information “from a variety of sources” to gain a more thorough understanding of issues, as he said Wednesday. Scott concurred, noting that one of the most toxic aspects of the current political environment is that each side demonizes not only the other’s policy positions, but the intentions behind them.
"One of the things I've appreciated about our conversations in the past is that you and I seem to agree to disagree without being disagreeable, and that is lost in the public forum,” he told Evans. “If we don't actually have the ability to have a serious conversation about the issues that we must confront as a country and hear both sides before drawing conclusions, it'll be very hard for us to move forward.”
Scott added that it’s become a "lost art" to even be willing to talk about the issues on which Democrats and Republicans don't see eye-to-eye. That’s the gap Evans seeks to bridge through his website, which is made up of three components. Starting Points features an equal number of Republican and Democratic politicians each offering a quick answer to a common question, with links to outside resources for more information. Daily Points offers an open forum for elected officials to post a 60-second video on anything they want, any time they want. Finally, Counterpoints facilitates a connected, focused discussion of a policy issue between two elected officials, one from each party, in a chain of 60-second videos.
"What I'm seeing on your side [through A Starting Point] is a chance for people to be heard in their own voice,” Scott said. “Not nuances of what they're talking about, not snippets, but a real conversation. A dialogue. And that is so, so important for a nation."
In addition to Scott, other ASP contributors have included Republicans like Sens. Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn, Reps. Dan Crenshaw and Debbie Lesko, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Democrats range from Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
"In order to make any sort of progress, you have to accept the fact that people who think differently than you, people who have ideas that you may even deem straight-up immoral, still have a voice,” Evans said. “They still have a vote, and if you think you can just yell louder than them to get things done, that just leaves everybody screaming. I really think the first step should be not to win but to change a mind."
Hollywood has a disgraceful track record of treating conservatives with any semblance of fairness or decency. But if Evans is genuine in his mission and stays true to his purported goals, more conversations like the one on Wednesday would offer a much-needed breath of fresh air and reasonableness in a time of growing hostility.