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Unity and Bipartisanship at The Atlantic Festival: A Reflection on Global Democracy and the Ukrainian Crisis

Published on October 31, 2023

Earlier this year, I was proud to represent Center Forward at The Atlantic Festival.

In a time when divisiveness often dominates headlines, The Atlantic Festival served as a refreshing reminder of the potential for unity and bipartisanship. Attendees heard from today’s boldest thinkers who emphasized the importance of collaboration in finding solutions to the world’s most significant issues, from climate change to technological advancements and beyond. It was encouraging to see leaders from different backgrounds and ideologies come together to exchange ideas, challenge assumptions, and seek common ground.

In one of the first panels of the festival, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi said that a strong Republican Party is good for the country, and the sentiment behind her statement is incredibly important in this age of partisanship—having two strong parties that can debate and challenge each other but ultimately work for the American people is essential for our democracy at home and around the world. The other panels I attended covered a variety of topics, but many had an underlying theme focused on what American democracy stands for in the global order. More specifically, speakers discussed the war in Ukraine, the Ukrainians’ fight for democracy, and American funding for their efforts.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine about a year and a half ago, funding for the Ukrainian war effort, and therefore efforts to protect its democracy, has become a partisan issue. Senators from both parties have generally come to a consensus, but some House Republicans continue to raise concerns about sending money to another country when the U.S. does not directly have a stake in the result.

The speakers at The Atlantic Festival, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, remind us the world follows the lead of the U.S. when responding to threats to democracy, but our foreign policy is strongest when it represents the will of both political parties. Many of our landmark foreign policy measures have passed with bipartisan support. The treaty to create NATO, an organization that now plays a large role in containing the war in Ukraine, was ratified by a vote of 83 to 13 in a Senate that housed 54 Democrats and 42 Republicans.

A bipartisan solution will likely be the only way forward, as it has so often in the history of American foreign policy.

Congress will have to consider what this funding, or lack of it, means for their constituents and weigh that against its effect on the global order at large. Center Forward will continue to provide a space for the most pragmatic Members of Congress to tackle these urgent questions.

Ciara Nolan is the Project Manager for Center Forward, which brings together members of Congress, not-for-profits, academic experts, trade associations, corporations and unions to find common ground and give voice to the center of the American electorate.