Portrait of Dr. CarcassonProfessor Martín Carcasson essay published in National Civic Review

Professor Martín Carcasson, also the founder and director of the Center for Public Deliberation, has published the essay “The Case for Principled Impartiality in a Hyper-partisan World” in National Civic Review.

Built on Carcasson’s work with students and community members constructing communication practices that sustain democracy, this essay is designed to spark better and more productive conversations about how to think about neutrality in hyper-polarized times.


As our country continues to polarize and the hyper-partisanship of our national system filters down more and more to our local communities, practitioners in a number of fields that have some sort of inherent tie to concepts like impartiality, neutrality, objectivity, and nonpartisanship—such as journalists, librarians, city/county public managers, teachers, scholars at public institutions, community mediators, and deliberation and public engagement practitioners—are struggling as never before to navigate the natural tensions inherent to the work. Organizations such as the American Library Association have started to explicitly question the notion of neutrality as at best a naïve concept in the face of political realities to at worst a strategic façade that actively supports white supremacy and injustice.

In this essay, I lay out the case for a particular conception of impartiality I have developed over the last 15 years of running, the Colorado State University Center for Public Deliberation (CPD), an impartial organization dedicated to helping the community address difficult shared problems productively. My goal in exploring this concept of principled impartiality is to help practitioners and communities better engage the inherent tensions to democratic life in hyper-polarized political environments, particularly at the local level, where partisan interests, bad faith actors, and “conflict entrepreneurs” tend to have less power and influence than they do at the state and national levels, and thus the possibility of quality democratic engagement persists. My argument is based on the belief that hyper-polarization and our inability to engage across perspectives represent the most significant public issue currently. If we do not transform how we engage each other, we will not be able to take on any of the societal challenges we face, because the polarization has undermined the systems we rely on for democratic decision-making to function well. The good news is as we make progress in addressing that issue, we will inherently build community capacity to address all the other challenges more productively. Such progress, however, will clearly require the revitalization and expansion of impartial institutions to pave the way.

Online access: https://www.nationalcivicleague.org/ncr-article/the-case-for-principled-impartiality-in-a-hyper-partisan-world/