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OPINION                July 5, 2021

What if TV programs united Americans rather than divided us? Here's how we plan to try.

MainStream Nation's mission is to give Americans the vision and tools they need to reverse toxic polarization that threatens our democracy.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/07/05/saving-democracy-how-tech-startup-bringing-americans-together/7840659002/

Jim Ragsdale, Marinda Ragsdale and Susan Muller

Opinion contributors

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Few would disagree that our nation is suffering from political and cultural divisions that threaten its very existence.  Most of us agree the insular and siloed ways we are currently getting our information is creating and making this division exponentially worse. 

We recently launched our socially responsible company with a mission to give Americans the vision and tools to turn this trend around.

MainStream Nation is developing entertainment for national television that focuses on political and social solutions with direction from users of our companion mobile app.  By producing interactive shows on topics like racial equality and presidential politics, we strive to create an “arena of ideas” that allows people from all sides of the ideological spectrum to listen to each other and find solutions together.

Our social television concept goes beyond social media apps and “mainstream media” programming. We are creating a civic ecosystem that uses our app in direct coordination with streaming programming to entertain and engage consumers.  

Our first slate of programming concepts illustrates how our brand of alternative programming can function to achieve better discourse and more choices for voters in upcoming elections.

MainStream Nation shows include “President-Elect,” a competition show featuring the top user nominees as they face a season’s worth of challenges to prove their fitness for the Oval Office.  The content for this and other shows like “ReUnited,” “Solving America,” and “Is that Racist?” will be largely based on engagement with users of our app.

 

Part of our effort is to support the work of thousands of bridge-building and civic reform organizations that give all of us opportunities to see that there is much more that binds us together than pulls us apart.  We are proud to be members of both Bridge Alliance and the #ListenFirst Coalition.

As partners of the #ListenFirst Coalition, we helped promote the recent America Talks and National Week of Conversation. The #ListenFirst hashtag reached 36 million people in the past few weeks as thousands of Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs came together via video conference to discuss their political differences.

Users can help shape content

Through our app, viewers will be able to submit ideas for policies, news stories, polls, new shows, and candidates for elected office with fellow users.  In the case of policy ideas and candidate nominations, the highest-rated submissions will appear on unscripted competition shows using formats proven to create large audiences.  

We want to know what our viewers and users want to hear in the national narrative as opposed to what politicians, parties and some media outlets want to tell them.  Our app will enable Americans to have a say in which shows we develop and how we do it.  This “production by demand” model will allow citizens to influence the national conversation in a very direct and meaningful way and help to create a less divided and dysfunctional media and political landscape.  

Since the founding of our company, we have assembled an advisory team of executives, academics, ethicists, businesspeople and other experts to provide our civic media utility with a diverse perspective. Among them are thought leaders who have played important roles in a growing community of reformers working to address issues like dark money, spoiler candidates, and closed primaries.

Goal is to build a community

Advisers like Manu Meel, CEO of BridgeUSA, articulate why it is important for us to be working to build a community, not just an audience. “The best antidote to polarization is humanization," Meel said. "There is so much common pain in this country, so let’s find the common purpose to fight that common pain.” 

We are honored to help create a digital community that will reverse trends of divisive discourse that cause and perpetuate bias bubbles.  We look forward to a day when it is “mainstream” for Americans to have a leadership role in their national agenda. Join us as we develop entertainment and technology to mobilize Americans for a new normal. 

Jim Ragsdale is co-founder and CEO of MainStream Nation; Marinda Ragsdale is co-founder and director of development of MainStream Nation; Susan Muller is co-founder and executive producer of MainStream Nation.