May 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Lincoln Project offshoot aims to boost civics education

Illustration of pencil on an open notebook with The Franklin Project logo drawn inside

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

An offshoot of the Lincoln Project is launching Tuesday, aiming to unify people opposed to partisan dysfunction and authoritarianism through civics education and grassroots organizing, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The Franklin Project, while a nonprofit and legally distinct from its predecessor, will target "the exact same problem ... but from different angles and with different methods," says co-executive director Greg Jenkins, a George W. Bush administration alumnus.

  • Lincoln will keep airing its brash, anti-Trump ads while Franklin will focus on nonpartisan education and collaboration tailored to build consensus.
  • "We're not the megaphone; we're the convener," Jenkins said.

The Lincoln Project was a breakout star of the 2020 campaign, a group launched by Republicans opposed to Donald Trump. Its signature was quick-turnaround ads attacking him and his policies.

Franklin organizers believe civics discussions have devolved from an exchange of ideas to "an unhealthy game of winners and losers," as their prospectus states. That's triggered extreme partisanship, fueling the rise of authoritarian figures.

  • The Franklin Project plans to develop and provide a K-12 civics education program it will offer free to local school districts.
  • It also will establish the "Democracy Corps," a hyper-local movement spread across the nation "that will advocate for and amplify the values upon which America was founded," the prospectus says.
  • The project does not plan to align with or endorse candidates, offering a true big tent to anyone feeling misrepresented by either major party, or left out of the current political system, said Jenkins, who is leading the group with co-executive director Erin Dobson, a veteran communications strategist.

What they're saying: "There are plenty of frustrated people out there who don't know what to do, don't know where to go, they don't feel like either of the parties are representing them adequately, and they're right. So, what we will do is tell these folks, 'Listen, you're not alone,'" Jenkins told Axios.

  • "We're going to provide you content that reminds you about your roles — as a citizen, what it means to be a citizen, what you can do."
  • "If progressives and conservatives don't feel at home with us, then they have a problem," said Jenkins. "Self-identified Republicans and Democrats ought to feel perfectly at home."
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