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Bridging the political divide by discovering common ground

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Understanding America’s political is one way to better understand the current divide challenging the country today. A group of experts gathered Friday, April 12th on Grand Valley State University’s downtown campus for a Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies event called, “Searching for Deeper Common Ground.”

“The polarization is so bad in this country I think we’re really risking the democracy itself.”

Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn is an award-winning author and historian serving at Syracuse University. She recommends Americans listen to each other. “And it’s very distressing to see people so divided when in fact Americans share a lot in common.” 

Yet it’s the decentralization of the media allowing for greater political reach that Hillsdale College history professor Bradley Birzer describes as the contributing factor. “Everything is potentially politicized or political because we can vote on everything now. One hundred years ago we couldn’t do that. That means the stakes are much, much higher for whatever is political and whoever is controlling the political situation.”

The solution, more listening. Lasch-Quinn explains it includes allowing voices that are less extreme to be heard.

“Both the conservatives and the liberals today, in the United States, are very concerned with manipulation. They don’t want to be used and they don’t want their views to be manipulated. I think that’s wonderful, a good starting ground. You can’t have democracy without it. You would be living in a different political regime if you had manipulation out right, and we’re border line in that. But in the case of conservatives it’s almost always out of the principle of economic freedom. We don’t want things to be manipulated, we want the free market, and for liberals it’s usually political freedom. They do not want to be manipulated in their beliefs, or let minorities be crushed in the conversation. But, if you get to why do you believe that, one side will say, ‘Well, one reason is because I value freedom.’ And you ask the other side, ‘Because I value freedom.’ And now you have something to work with. And on almost every issue it comes down to that. But you have to have patience and you have to have the art of listening to get to the discussion of the reasons.”

Patrick Center, WGVU News.