First off, I want to sincerely thank my friend and Purple Ground blog host Jamie Rudolph for inviting me to join her page for periodic posts. I so completely support her motivations for these discussions. Political discussion has become rigid and beyond partisan — no one is happy with a political system that is paralyzed by anger, fear and inflexible ideology. Our country is built on the idea that a healthy discourse is crucial to a free democracy.
That’s why finding common ground in political discourse is so important. Jamie and I stand on opposite sides of the political divide. We have significant philosophical differences on some issues, but we share the conviction that the best decisions for America will come from people willing to listen and understand each other‘s perspectives. Working toward building consensus, agreement and compromise is how our founding fathers always intended these United States of America to be governed.
So right off the bat, here’s some common ground we can all agree on: Regardless of ideology, we all want our elected officials to govern the United States of America on our behalf. The voice of the people through elected representation.
But to do this requires active interpersonal communication. Our electeds must do what the rest of us do every day: Figure out how to get along and live/work together! Most of us do a pretty good job of treating one another with courtesy and respect, and basically try to be good humans. You learn pretty quickly in life that it’s best to try and get along with one another. In the world of our lawmakers, we hope that those we elect have this idea down as well.
So when dealing with contentious issues, it’s a good idea to take time to first appreciate what you can agree on. Take some time before jumping into debate to first acknowledge that you and your rival might have some core objectives in common. Why? Because it reminds you that we’re all in this together – it’s not “us” and “them.”
Look at sports. In those moments before the game when we’re singing the National Anthem, one of the reasons it feels so good is because we’re acknowledging our common ground. No matter who we’re rooting for, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder as proud Americans, appreciating the thrill and beauty of the sport, the spectacle of entertainment, and the communal feeling of thousands of fans sharing an experience. A few minutes later, we will be carried away with the competition, cursing at the obnoxious fan in the next row, but during the Anthem, we are all in it together.
So if we expect our politicians to find room for intelligent discourse, we can start by showing them we can do it ourselves. We can lower the intensity of the rhetoric a bit, take an edge off the angry partisanship, and even try to find the joy in what we have in common, what we share. In the coming months, I look forward to discovering our Purple Ground.