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Breaking the “Left-Right Paradigm” one living room at a time

Breaking the “Left-Right Paradigm” one living room at a time

I am often asked why I remain a registered Democrat, despite my decidedly fiscal-sanity oriented independent streak.

In part, it is how I can effectively fight the “left-right” political paradigm that is being used by the elite media and politicos to divide us, in order to better rule us.  My Democrat friends tend to listen more seriously to topics when they hear I am a Democrat — and I have even persuaded a vote or two as well!

Mark Meckler, President of Citizens for Self Governance, has the breaking of this paradigm as one of his organization’s goals. Toward this effort, he sat down with Joan Blades, one of the co-founders of, for a casual meeting to explore common ground.

His report, Hanging Out in Berkeley with my Friend, the Co-Founder of MoveOn.Org, is interesting.

Joan and I were introduced almost two years ago by a mutual friend, Ralph Benko. Ralph concluded his introductory email between us with something like this line: “God help the politicians if the tea party and ever agree on anything.” Well the time has come for us to find some agreement. If you disagree, let me ask you a few questions that I’ve asked many of my friends on the left and right.

  • How many of you voted for trillion-dollar deficits? I haven’t yet met the voter who did, yet representatives on both sides of the aisle continue to impose them on us.
  • How many of you think we have the premier education system in the world, where the dollars and are efforts are focused on our kids? Hmmm…none of you? Then why are so many of our politicians on both sides of the aisle wedded to the status quo, and we see so little change?
  • How many of you think that our criminal justice system is the best in the world, and the War on Drugs has been a tremendous success? Hmmm…anyone…left or right? No? Then why are so many of our incumbent representatives on both sides of the aisle so weak when it comes to making any real criminal justice reforms?
  • How many of you think that we have far too much unproductive, government mandated paperwork? Everyone? Then why can’t we get our elected representatives at all levels to do something about this?

There is much common ground on these and many other issues.

Meckler was participating in Blade’s Living Room Conversations Project, which was initiated to test the hypothesis that people could come together through their social networks to engage in a self-guided structured conversation about a charged political issue. Each conversation had a designated set of ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’ co-hosts, with each host inviting two of their friends or family that shared their political worldview to join an evening of conversation.

The meeting did not resolve any particular issue, but Meckler says it was a success nonetheless.

There are many things that divide us politically, and when the time comes, we’ll all still have our very partisan fights about those.  But we can’t continue to buy into the overall politics of hate, perpetrated upon us by politicians and others in the ruling elite who find it quite profitable to keep us apart in order to maintain the status quo.   When it serves the interests of “We the People,” we need to stand together and remind the politicians, they work for us, not the other way around.

Blades felt the same way:

The conversation was enthusiastic, lively and primarily focused on all the common ground we saw as well as revealing many issues we would like to talk more about. Right or left, none of us are comfortable with the degree of influence that big corporations have on government regulation


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There might be specific issues on which the Tea Party and MoveOn might agree.

But the organizing ideology and principles for each group couldn’t be more different.

At some point two widely divergent groups can no longer agree on issues and cooperate on any shared view of specific issues, but must come to terms with their ideological struggle.

MoveOn and the Tea Party might agree that the War on Drugs (for example) has failed. But their solutions would be very different because their founding ideologies are different. That’s not to impugn them but to point out that how MoveOn would handle a trillion dollar deficit (raise taxes) is far different than how I’d handle it (cut spending).

There is less here than meets the eye.

    Ragspierre in reply to stevewhitemd. | January 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    “But the organizing ideology and principles for each group couldn’t be more different.”

    The Collective thinks “rope-a-dope” is a high form of principle.

    Color me chary. Not opposed. Wary.

    At some point two widely divergent groups can no longer agree on issues

    True, Steve, and like Rags I’m wary, but more tellingly the media and politicians STRONGLY do not like this development. That by itself is enough for me to give it more time. No one will be changing my (our?) core beliefs, but that’s not the same as agreeing on joint strategies that weaken and evict the progs from power palaces. I say let the conversations continue. But be wary.

It’s like when a pollster asks the question, “Do you think the country is heading in the right direction?” The “Yes” result is usually well under 50%, but that doesn’t mean the “Nos” want to turn it in the same direction to correct things.

An entire country lies in the great space between agreeing on what the problems are and agreeing on what the solutions are.

I agree with previous responses that the solutions that the right and the left offer are vastly different. However, entering a dialog can be good for recruitment purposes.
It’s probably possible to appeal to some on the left on the issue of crony capitalism. it’s one of the left’s celebrated causes, and yet they all rally around O. They believe strongly that 1% is ruining the country, probably not realizing that the rich voted the way they do.

    average josephine in reply to edgeofthesandbox. | January 15, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    I recall talking with a hard-left teacher back in 2008, and we were both suspicious of the looming bank bailout. Too big to fail? Systemically important? We were told the bailout had to happen, else End Times.

    Then Obamacare passed because all the Insurers, Hospitals, and Pharmaceutical Manufacturers got on board to get a better deal.

    Bernanke keeps printing money? Immelt’s GE pays no corporate taxes?

    There’s a lot of common ground between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party.

I too, agree with the rest of the comments. I would also add that there is one area that I feel is an obstacle to the author’s goal, and it is so critical that no progress can be made without it. What I am referring to is the inability of the left to analyze their own people/politicians and to be consistent ideologically. I am a conservative leaning libertarian. When I had issues with George Bush Jr., my conservative friends didn’t call me racist, a non-patriot, or ignore the points I made regarding how he was not acting like a small government guy. They debated me on solutions (especially foreign policy), but would acknowledge reality in the discussion. My liberal friends, well, anytime the least little critism of the current president comes up, out comes the racist card, the “…but Bush is the really evil one”, what you say isn’t true its just propaganda from Faux News, etc. When a group of people refuse to acknowledge that their elected leaders are doing the very same things they despised the last guy for doing, there is no reasoning with them. 1st step is acknowledging the problem, and to most democrats, there are no “problems” other than “tea party” obstructionism. I will give many conservatives & republicans credit for this: They acknowledged Bush’s faults and his actions in regard to expanding government, the bailouts, and the erosion of freedoms via the Patriot Act. Democrats? Not so much – It is still “All Bush’s fault.”

I would love to weekly televised debates about all of the pressing issues of the day – in the same manner as Firing Line. Why wait for presidential debates which gloss over real back and forth and are so late in the game?

I would watch these debates like this before I watched any other TV program (I’d still watch Larry Kudlow and Neil Cavuto).

Liberals for the most part don’t deal with facts. That’s why they go with feelings and a superficial morality. Let’s address the facts, the statistics and the reason for those facts. We need to remind ourselves why we chose our Constitution and why it has served us well.

1. The mere existence of this meeting undercuts the demonizing of conservatism/Tea Party/GOP.

2. Having decried how bad conservatives are at coalition politics, I’m glad to see them trying to learn.

3. Yes, we should explore common ground, when it exists, with people of good will who do not share our overall philosophy, but I agree with the comments that caution against unrealistic expectations.

4. Hopefully the Tea Party will persevere and move up the learning curve quickly, but they should remember three words from the past:

Trust, but verify.

    scfanjl in reply to gs. | January 15, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    The big difference: folks will go away from this meeting and still bash Tea Party folks, whereas the Tea Party folks will go away from this meeting and say the folks are nice people and we just differ.

    JUST LIKE ROMNEY DID WITH OBAMA!!! This doesn’t work when one side is dishonest.

      …whereas the Tea Party folks will go away from this meeting and say the folks are nice people and we just differ.

      The shallow minds and easily persuaded simpletons I’ve seen on both sides of this divide have mostly been picketing businesses and trashing parks, so you may be correct but logic isn’t really on your side.

I have yet to meet a Liberal who doesn’t counter facts with emotions. It’s like trying to hold a conversation with a 2-year-old who’s melted down, and “wants a baby giraffe” (or whatever). If you start to make valid points, they just scream louder.

Psychologically, they’re way out of touch with reality, know it, but it would cost them everything (friends, family, etc.) to admit it, so that it’s easier to scream and drown out reality, than to admit it.

And note the comment by the MoveOn person: all the problems are STILL due to evil Capitalism. If MoveOn’s solution is 100% government and 0% liberty, I think the TeaParty and MoveOn are utter enemies.

The Author confuses left and right with Republican and Democrat. It’s not that easy. I completely disagree with remaining with a party that I am opposed on every front with policy issues. How the author can do so, is beyond me.
The whole “change the party from within” stratgem will always be a dismal failure on both sides. Call it the 2nd law of thermodynamic politics. The two parties will inevitably polarize until the Republic collapses from special interests putting their own interests ahead of the country.

I am looking forward to more polarization, and more gridlock, because, at least with gridlock, no further damage can occur. In other words, it’s time to take a final stand. I watch every day how good intentioned people whittle our rights away in the name of safety. It’s disgusting. Ben Franklin said it best, “Those who would trade their liberty for ssecurity, deserve neither.”

What a bunch of garbage.

Is this the re-branding of the tea party?

“Hey, we have a lot in common with Moveon and OWS?”


Reagan was confident he was right.

He was confident enough to negotiate with Tip O’Neill, and with Gorbachev.

I miss that attitude. And, like Sally, I miss Firing Line.

I would point out to my properly skeptical Conservative friends that the Tea Parties were founded on the premise that, if we focus on fiscal issues and leave cultural issues out of it, we have a lot of common ground. Leslie is from California, and in San Diego, at least, the local Tea Partiers did meet with the local OWS people. I applauded that move, because if they managed to at least meet the one or two live wires out of the whole OWS crowd, it was time well spent.

Politics is the art of the possible, and the whole point of the American political process is to make strange bedfellows when the time’s right.

Those of us who followed OWS from its founding know the movement was astroturfed. It is instructive, however, to look at its purported ideals, and what ideas it used to attract people, because that gives us clues as to where we can find friends and allies.

OWS was designed to tap the outrage people felt about the relationship between unidentified people on Wall Street and in our government that ranges from cozy to unethical, and has yielded bad results for our people as a whole. OWS was designed as an outlet for people who would otherwise agree with the TEA Partiers, and its ranks were therefore a target-rich environment for the TEA Partiers. I hope they scooped up some good ones.

I agree that it’s a whole lot easier to identify areas where we agree there is a problem. But acknowledgement of that much is a big step, particularly in an environment where some people have developed a monetary stake in promoting discord.

    Browndog in reply to Valerie. | January 15, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    No, Valerie.

    OWS was designed to stoke class warfare to defeat Mitt Romney.

    Some of you people really need to get a grip on what you’re dealing with.

    I believe the Professor wrote a post about it the other day.

    This post, on the other hand, is nothing but “feel good” garbage…in my opinion.

Thomas Sowell is one of my favorite authors, and this article connects well with our discussion here. Having a legitimate concern doesn’t mean a good outcome, if your solution has perverse results.

Pragmatic discussion about what works and does not work will make more headway that almost any other kind in this country.

    Browndog in reply to Valerie. | January 15, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    What is not understandable is how so many liberals can blindly ignore 50 years of evidence to the contrary since then.

    A great way to summarize this discussion.

    (I hope you don’t think I’m picking on you–I’m not, on the contrary. Debating whether or not to engage those who seek your destruction is a worthy debate. Engaging those who seek your destruction in debate is not.)

    98ZJUSMC in reply to Valerie. | January 15, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Dr. Sowell has an unparalleled ability to synthesize the complex down to base elements and then explain them to we rubes. The man is a treasure. If we had a hundred more like him in academia and politics, our troubles here would end very quickly.

    Alas, we end up with flim-flam narcissists and power mad illusionists.

    ….with pleasing baritones and nicely creased pants.


I wholeheartedly endorse endeavors for common ground and respectful discourse. But I warn against a naive hope that this leads to a fair, and honest exchange of trust and cooperation.

At this point, the Right are the useful opposition to be blamed when the Left is to be held accountable for any prominent mishap. A few years ago, Democrat legislators in California were caught on tape scheming to foment a budget crisis, just to say they needed more authority from the electorate while they blamed the Right for the crisis. It’s an unfair and deceitful strategy that works because the predominant media reports consistent with a left of center agenda — and that agenda rarely shares common ground with conservative perspectives on problems and their solutions.

I am wondering if the better route is to recuse from participation in the federal budgeting and policy farce, and retreat the to the states where conservatives govern, and trumpet the results there. The media will have a difficult time blaming conservatives for the mishaps coming Washington’s way.

    Browndog in reply to Mark30339. | January 15, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Fight, retreat, or cooperate.

    Like many, I too struggle with the way forward, knowing that God fearing, honest Americans are fast becoming enemies of the State.

    I can’t help to think what Margaret Thatcher or Sarah Palin would say to that…

    98ZJUSMC in reply to Mark30339. | January 15, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    I am wondering if the better route is to recuse from participation in the federal budgeting and policy farce, and retreat the to the states where conservatives govern, and trumpet the results there. The media will have a difficult time blaming conservatives for the mishaps coming Washington’s way.

    With the current (last 20 years, especially) state of media dishonesty (I am trying to be nice and civil), I see no other way. The only way to wake people up is some very rude, shock therapy. Unfortunately, the ones who have always played by the rules, will not be issued rubber gloves.

Mr. Meckler has the best of intentions, but he’s setting himself up as a useful idiot.

We are dealing with a cunning, ruthless enemy whose goal is to take power forever. This requires the dismantling of the Republic. Their machine is hard at work. We must unite to have any chance at all. They only won by a small percentage.
We don’t need to make common cause with their radicals, such as moveon.

If you want to know how their power grab works, closely study the methods of the Nazis. There are parallels galore!

Before Reagan created his coalition (which, btw, included people called Reagan Democrats), conservatives were not taken seriously at the national level. They were viewed as unelectable…eccentrics.

Just sayin’.

    Browndog in reply to gs. | January 15, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Not sure what you’re ‘just sayin”

      Henry Hawkins in reply to Browndog. | January 15, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      I think gs means it’s not enough to be conservative because our numbers are too limited to win elections on our own, that conservatives must identify and build coalitions with other groups not quite so conservative, using as a historical example those more conservative minded Democrats who crossed the aisle to support Reagan after experiencing the results of the doe-eyed liberalism of Jimmuh Carter, et al.

      A huge opportunity may exist among hispanics, if the hispanics I encounter in my business are any example. A lot of the folks in my area (rural eastern NC) are socially conservative Catholics, and the majority of them agree with most of the conservative principles I’ve explained to them, explaining they had no idea and had assumed the Democrat Party was their only ticket to normalization. GOP outreach to hispanics is nonexistent here. I’ve had similar experiences with small town blacks here, big time church goers who are socially conservative, but blindly married to the Democrat Party. Again, I am repeatedly told I’m the only conservative they’ve ever heard from.

      It’s counterintuitive, but I think another possibility is union members, based on the idea that a good economy means good business and a more sustainable (can’t believe I’m using that word) job situation – less bennies than they’ve become accustomed (entitled) to over the past 30 years, but fewer bankruptcies and off-shoring of employer corporations. A tough sell, but as Obamacare kicks in and the economy continues to stagnate, business will suffer, as will employees, union members included.

      Yet another, often alluded to here at LI, is Jewish voters, especially as the post-election Obama – with his increased “flexibility” – and the rest of the anti-Israel liberal Democrats continue to establish their pro-Palestinian/pro-Islam prejudices.

      The bottom line problem, of course, is that the GOP is not conservative, indeed, is working to oust conservatives from its ranks.

        Henry, you’ve articulated my opinion better than I would have.

        I’m also saying that the consequences of blowing another election like we blew this one would be grim.

          Henry Hawkins in reply to gs. | January 16, 2013 at 11:18 am

          Thank you. The GOP is going to need another Reagan in terms of a candidate who is: 1) truly conservative rather than posing as such for the purpose of nomination (Romney), 2) politically savvy for building required coalitions, and 3) possessing the personal charisma needed to sway voters in the center/left-center. McCain ’08 and Romney ’12 had none of these attributes.

          Unfortunately, not only is the current GOP leadership incompetent to these requirements, it seems adamant about exorcising from their ranks the one good thing they have going for them – a conservative base of TPers and the great many who share the TP fiscal conservatism even if they don’t join groups or participate in activism.

          Had Romney been a true conservative willing to speak earnestly to conservative principles, his lack of charisma would have been forgiven and he’d have won. Had Romney been charismatic, his dubious conservatism would have been forgiven and he’d have won. His term as governor in MA indicates he has the political savvy required, but that alone wasn’t and isn’t enough, especially when the GOP nat’l leadership was doing its best to undermine conservative candidates, thereby alienating its own would-be base: nose off/face spited.

BannedbytheGuardian | January 15, 2013 at 9:40 pm

The Lesliedemocratea Party is moving on.

What will it be next week?

Leslie will be replaced by Anonomous ?

Then we will have to campaign with signs outside the inter faith meetings -Bring Back Leslie!

[…] other day Legal Insurrection had a post about a meeting – pleasant and mutually enriching – between TEA Party and MoveOn […]