That’s hardly surprising at a time when media coverage has focused on personal insults, name-calling and partisan gridlock, instead of governance and compromise.
But much of this is our fault. Not just the politicians. From older angry white men (Trump supporters) to idealistic Millennials (Bernie backers), voters have repeatedly rewarded candidates who use angry rhetoric and blame others for the country’s problems. Sanders bashes Wall Street “crooks”, while Trump attacks Mexican immigrants and Muslims.
Among the candidates of left and right who have pushed back against this trend, only Ohio Governor John Kasich has won more support than expected.
“We live with the dysfunction of partisan behaviors and believe we must and can do better,” says Joan Blades, co-founder of the non-profit group, LivingRoomConversations.org. She makes the case for personal dialog across party lines, arguing that it’s a key part of changing the way all of us think about politics.
A strong progressive, who co-founded the liberal activist group, MoveOn.org in the late 90’s, Joan says you’ll never convince anyone with an opposing viewpoint unless you listen to them first.
“One of the problems progressives have right now is that if they run into someone who doesn’t believe in climate science, they roll their eyes.” As soon as you do that, “you’ve lost your conversation,” Joan says. “Nobody listens to anybody.”
Americans need to find new ways to speak about our differences and visit websites with opposing political opinions from their own. Speaking with those you don’t agree with is part of the solution.
“It’s actually really fun having a living room conversation,” she tells us on episode 44 of our podcast, How Do We Fix It? “They’re more fun than if you have a bunch of people around and you what they’re going to say.”
LivingRoom Conversations.org has simple for ground rules for each meeting – encouraging participants to be curious, show respect and take turns.
Listening to people is the best way to get people to listen to you. These conversations are not debates. Instead of winning, the aim is come up with solutions.
The group’s guidelines are open-source. People can use whatever works for them. I want to host one. What about you? And what topics might work in these settings? You can find examples at LivingRoomConverstions.org.