Jon Meachem on a little secret we stumbled upon

“[President Thomas Jefferson] used the table – the art of cuisine, of entertaining… those Virginia rites of hospitality that he grew up with – to move opinion in his direction. It doesn’t mean that it created a bipartisan Valhalla. But life is lived on the margins in politics and every once in a while, when you need a vote – you’re more likely to get the benefit of the doubt from someone with whom you’ve broken bread and who knows what your eyes look like and what your voice sounds like than you are from some distant remote figure.” – Jon Meachem, author of “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power”



Benjamin Franklin at the close of the Constitutional Convention

“Mr. President,

I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others…

I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does.

Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best… I hope therefore that for our own sakes as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts & endeavors to the means of having it well administered.

On the whole, Sir, I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and… put his name to this instrument.”



Common Threats? We have them.

It’s really a curious state of affairs that we seem to be so incapable of finding common ground in today’s divisive political slugfest. The uber-partisans remind me a lot of two toddlers fighting intensely over possession of a plastic toy as their tussling moves them ever closer to a busy roadway. No matter how oblivious they are to it, that busy roadway exists and the cars are whizzing by. The toddlers are not really attending to the higher priority problem because of how intent they are about the toy. And these two young lads (let’s face it, they’re probably boys) factually have incredible common ground, their fate is likely the same and may even rest in each others’ hands. Ironic since they haven’t the vaguest idea this is true, trapped as they are in their zero sum game of winning that darn toy. And their failure to see it may well seal their fate.

I make the comparison not just because after spending six years trying to heal the partisan divide, it makes me feel good to call partisan leadership children (and it does make me feel really good). The comparison works because boy do we have real problems, enduring problems, problems that are growing bigger by the day, problems we are applying precious little sustained effort to solve. Like the poor unsuspecting kiddos near the highway, we’re too busy attending to the transient and intense squabble.

The other dynamic is that we’re spending all our time talking – at an ever-increasing decibel level – about the common threat that we see, while threat warnings that come from the opposite side of the aisle barely register as a blip. It’s time to harness “the power of and” – a concept we broke out early on when we noticed the either-or thinking run amok. Both threats can be – and probably are – true. When about 50% of a society it deeply concerned about a coming threat, isn’t it worth our time to at least really listen?

Enter The Asteroid Club, a concept we’re finding genius. America’s looming problems may as well be asteroids, as they are hurtling at us through time, heading straight toward an impact that looks certain to about half of us on planet earth. Pick your asteroid, whether it’s climate change, entitlement spending affecting the deficit and financial stability, the growing divide between rich and poor, or the dissolution of the family. There is substantial data to suggest that each (probably among others) is a legitimate asteroid and they’re heading our way.

Our common threats IS our common ground. And we’d better get busy noticing the asteroids. At the Village Square, we’re going to.

— Liz Joyner



Differences in liberal vs. conservative brain stucture found

A British study released Thursday in Current Biology further supports theories that there far more to political difference than just who we vote for. It’s already been shown that there are differing levels of brain activity in the amygdala and upper brain cortex in liberals and conservatives, but apparently there is also a difference in the size of each part of the brain. Conservatives have more brain mass in their amygdala, the region of the brain associated with fear. Liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex which is associated with managing uncertainty and conflict. It’s anybody’s guess as to whether the political bent affected the size of the brain region or if the brain differences started the whole shebang. It continues to be our assertion that it’s understanding where people are coming from – differences in brain and all – that makes all the difference in having a constructive civic dialogue with them. Read all »



Mistaking part of the truth for the whole.

All students of man and society… are aware that the besetting danger is not so much of embracing falsehood for truth, as of mistaking part of the truth for the whole. It might be plausibly maintained that in almost every one of the leading controversies, past or present, in social philosophy, both sides were in the right in what they affirmed, though in the wrong in what they denied; and that if either could have been made to take the other’s views in addition to its own, little more would have been needed to make its doctrine correct. — John Stuart Mill