Nathan Ryan Is Putting the Party Back in Politics
The businessman and local leader started GoodPolitics to spark engagement and build trust
By Hannah J. Phillips
Name the last election you enjoyed watching unfold. Go ahead, we’ll wait.
With presidential campaigns marked by extreme animosity, the 2016 election revealed an ever-deepening rift between America’s highly polarized voters. Regardless of where you fall on the partisan spectrum, most voters are less than enthusiastic about the current political landscape – which is exactly why Nathan Ryan created the GoodPolitics community with co-founder Liz Coufal. Ryan, who appears in Tribeza’s December issue as one of the people making an impact in the community in 2019, invited us to a recent GoodPolitics event to learn more about his and Coufal’s mission to bring good people into the political process.
Partnering with KUT Austin and MOVE Texas, GoodPolitics hosted a lively watch party for the last Democratic debate in November. Held at the Riveter, the event attracted a diverse crowd: civil rights lawyers, students, policy researchers, entrepreneurs and more. While everyone took their seats with drinks and queso, Coufal invited Joseph Kopser, GoodPolitics board member and former congressional candidate, to share a few words.
Kopser now runs US Tomorrow, an organization focused on developing cross-partisan solutions to the country’s most pressing issues. Sharing the history of his partnership with GoodPolitics, Kopser introduced the ethos behind their watch party events:
“Tonight is special,” he said, “because GoodPolitics exists to answer the hyper-partisanship that we saw in 2016, which I experienced firsthand on the campaign trail.”
Afterward, Ben Philpott of KUT provided a quick quiz on the ten candidates who would take the stage, sharing a few highlights to anticipate. At previous GoodPolitics events, KUT provided BINGO sheets with hot topics and favorite phrases (think Bernie’s “I created the damn bill,” for example); prizes included KUT-branded gifts like grackle socks featuring Austin’s favorite flying vermin.
Surrounded by more than fifty people who cheer when a candidate delivers a great sound-bite or meme-worthy expression, the GoodPolitics debate-watching experience is unlike any other – more backyard film gathering than heated dispute. The crowd unanimously claps when Klobuchar and Biden both agree that a woman is qualified to be president, later laughing when Booker or Harris give a sarcastic response.
Just down the road in San Antonio, GoodPolitics held its first gathering outside Austin, hosting a San Antonio watch party at the MOVE Texas headquarters. Focusing on peer-to-peer youth organizing, the nonpartisan nonprofit first developed a partnership with GoodPolitics after Communications Manager, Charlie Bonner, met Ryan and Coufal in 2017.
“Young people are not just the future, they’re the present,” Bonner says, sharing how MOVE’s mission aligns with the atmosphere at GoodPolitics. “Debates are a great way to get involved and build community, talking together in a low-barrier way.”
With plans to expand GoodPolitics in other cities across Texas in 2020, Ryan hopes their events will continue to bridge the current hyper-partisan divide.
“It often feels like we’re more focused on winning arguments than doing what’s right for each other,” Ryan said after the event. “By providing opportunities to engage one another and build trust, we think things can get better: room by room, block by block, city by city, state by state.”