Liz Joyner at TEDxFSU: Mixing it up at The Village Square

TEDxFSU: Liz Joyner “Mixing it Up at the Village Square” from The Village Square on Vimeo.

(Check out TEDxFSU HERE.)

Mark Halperin on extreme partisanship

“If he repelled a Martian invasion tomorrow, I’m not sure he’d get to 65%.” –referring to the tiny bounce in the polls that President Obama got after Osama bin Laden was killed

It is worth noting that George Bush Sr. got to 90% approval after the Gulf War & there was probably more ambivalence among Americans about whether that was a good thing than whether killing Bin Laden was. Perhaps a clear measure of how divided and dysfunctional our politics have grown since?

Polarizing, demonizing, conspiring. Cha cha cha.

People make sense.

Years of schooling in behavioral sciences (thanks mom and dad) ultimately led me to that conclusion. If you know what people know, if you know what people don’t know, if you experience what they’ve experienced, well, then… they tend to make sense.

Could that mean that people make sense in the unhinged world of politics too? An organization called is accumulating information from the study of our psychology as it relates to our political polarization. Co-founder Dr. Jonathan Haidt of University of Virginia is doing fascinating work in looking at our moral psychology vis-a-vis our political orientation. His work supports my conclusion – albeit with a smidge more science: People make sense if you understand their moral foundations. Read all »

Hold up a Guinness to the “Northern Irish”


This post is from 2 years ago on St. Patrick’s Day, but worth another run. The commentary addresses the March 2009 killing of two British Royal Air Force soldiers and concern about the return of violence to the long history of difficulty. Matthews’ description of the social segregation of the people of Northern Ireland is instructive.

Like him or not, it’s worth watching Chris Matthews’ commentary on Ireland tonight. Read all »

Our Crossroads, Mr. Franklin

I spent last night into the wee hours editing the video of The Big Sort from our February visit from Bill Bishop. It could have been exhaustion from the tedious process of video editing but I ended the evening with an even more onerous feeling about the importance of where we turn from here in our life as a country. I was struck with the heavy realization that what Bill describes and documents in his must-read book may be the beginnings of our form of government gone to seed.

“A Republic, if you can keep it” were Franklin’s haunting words. If we are half the patriots we like to say we are, times a wasting for the actions required to do so.

A “government by and for the people”, by definition, requires that we engage in the conversation of governance. “Us” doesn’t have to mean you and me literally, but at the very least it means the people we elected to govern for us. In case you haven’t noticed, they aren’t. They’re only partly to blame though because when they hold their fingers in the political wind – as they are apt to do – they know that we don’t exactly want them to. Read all »

Going to extremes, round and round and round

I’m reading Going to Extremes: How Like Minds United and Divide by Cass Sunstein. Sunstein has – quite ironically given the nature of Sunstein’s academic work – been charged by such disparate bedfellows as Glenn Beck and Glenn Greenwald with being an extremist. Doubly ironic is that much of the rhetoric against Sunstein by Beck – considered by a whole lot of people to be pretty seriously extreme himself – is pretty well described by Sunstein in his writings. Like this:

“The most important reason for group polarization, and a key to extremism in all its forms, involves the exchange of new information. Group polarization often occurs because people are telling one another what they know, and what they know is skewed in a predictable direction.”

Hard to draw conclusions about who out extremes who in this melee of accusation. Like falling down a rabbit hole.

Conversing in the land of the food fight

Wednesday night Keith Olbermann gave the “Worst Person in the World” bronze to “the ludicrous new political organization No Labels. It’s sales pitch is it’s nonpartisan. It’s sales pitch is in part plagiarized…”

He gigged them for using a logo that belonged to another organization (a charge that is true).

But Olbermann went on, into the familiar character assassination zone that for me has long made listening to Limbaugh and Beck require an IV drip of Valium (and propelled me to start The Village Square): “Nice start for No Labels which – since it is a bunch of fraudulent conservative Democrats pretending to be moderates and fraudulent Republicans pretending to be independents – they really should have stuck with a different animal motif: Maybe wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Read all »

Good guys and bad guys in 21st century America

When I go to back to school night and when I pump my gas and when I buy my groceries, I don’t meet people the likes of which I meet in the cable TV world or the talk radio world. It’s like Saturday morning wrestling: Remember when Vince McMahon was on in Philly and they had the grand wizard of wrestling and they had the good guy and the bad guy and it was all so predictable, you knew what they were going to do and say. That’s what we’ve become. — Michael Smerconish

Ross Douthat: On airport security, we’re partisans first, ideologues second (we wonder when we become just Americans)

There’s a great article in today’s New York Times about the inconsistency of the argument on the new TSA airport body scanners given the ultra partisan environment today. The article certainly supports the notion advanced by our next Village Square Dinner at the Square guest Bill Bishop that we have been sorting ourselves out into “tribes” for decades now and that the pull of group think within those likeminded groups (and the lack of trust between “tribes”) is very very strong. Noticing that partisans have taken quite opposite and ideologically inconsistent positions under different presidencies (whether it’s your party’s or not) Ross Douthat writesRead all »

David Brooks: It’s really about whether you believe in the founders’ vision of equilibrium or not

David Brooks channels Village Square in Monday New York Times op-ed:

“For centuries, American politicians did not run up huge peacetime debts. It wasn’t because they were unpartisan or smarter or more virtuous. It was because they were constrained by a mentality inherited from the founders. According to this mentality, a big successful nation exists in a state of equilibrium between its many factions. This equilibrium is fragile because we are flawed and fallen creatures and can’t quite trust ourselves. So all of us, but especially members of the leadership class, should practice self-restraint. Moral anxiety restrained hubris (don’t think your side possesses the whole truth) and self-indulgence (debt corrupts character). Read all »

Washington Post: “Widening disconnect between the polarized political system and less-polarized public.”

Why’s this happening? According to the op-ed’s author Robert Samuelson:

“First, politicians depend increasingly on their activist “bases” for votes, money and job security (read: no primary challenger). But activist agendas are well to the left or right of center. So when politicians pander to their bases, they often offend the center. In one poll, 70 percent of registered voters said Republicans’ positions were too conservative at least some of the time; 76 percent likewise thought Democratic positions often “too liberal.”

Second, politics has become more moralistic from both left and right. Idealistic ideologues campaign to “save the planet,” “protect the unborn,” “reclaim the Constitution.” When goals become moral imperatives, there’s no room for compromise. Opponents are not just mistaken; they’re immoral. They’re cast as evil, ignorant, dangerous, or all three. Read all »

Kathleen Parker: Oy

Must read Kathleen Parker column:

Political parties, meanwhile, have distilled themselves so completely to their essences that they have caricatured themselves into cartoonish self-parody. Witness the recent town hall wherein President Obama’s audience was culled from a casting call and the Republican ad campaign in West Virginia that sought “hicky” people.

Oy, as we say down South. Republicans and Democrats are so busy pointing fingers, they fail to see what is plainly obvious. They are mirror images of each other and each is equally cynical and corrupt.

Read the whole column HERE.

Living the narrowcast, baby

Fascinating article in today’s Washington Post that hits on the problem The Village Square is trying to solve:

The increasing polarization of cable news is transforming, and in some ways shrinking, the electoral landscape. What has emerged is a form of narrowcasting, allowing candidates a welcoming platform that helps them avoid hostile press questioning and, in some cases, minimize the slog and the slip-ups of retail campaigning.

“There’s no question it’s contributing to the splintering of the political system and the means by which people get information about that system,” said Robert Thompson, who runs the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “If there’s no standard base line of fact and reporting, where can the conversation go?”

Love to hear what people think, both sides of the aisle. Read the whole article HERE.