Justice Ginsburg Pens a Moving Tribute to Justice Scalia

The intensity of the political noise caused by the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia reminds us of the Spinal Tap amplifiers turned up to “11”. Painful to the ears. But amid that noise is the outpouring of respect and admiration from a host of people representing all bands of the political spectrum. To us no tribute to Scalia was as noteworthy as that paid to him by his SCOTUS colleague and ideological adversary, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In any debate, bringing light, not heat requires a willingness to listen to and respect the views of those who one might vehemently disagree with. In a relationship similar to but even deeper than that of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil Justices Ginsburg and Scalia not only respected and listened to each other but they were able to build a strong friendship that both clearly treasured. In this 2016 election year, they serve as a reminder that we can expect better not only from our leaders but also from ourselves in how we go about debating issues both public and personal.

Enemies or Friends?

As the election season kicks into high gear the overall tone is swinging even further into the attack zone. While unfortunate, that is natural in an election when candidates’ strategies are all about differentiation. However, those not up for election – and that includes most of us – don’t have to get caught up in the rancorous atmosphere that the competition for votes leaves in its wake.

This recent piece by Rich Karlgaard in Forbes takes a frank look at finding common ground at a personal, day-to-day level. It demonstrates what we believe to be fundamentally true – that we can find common ground on issues of national importance without compromising fundamental principles. The key is to resist the desire for a win-lose (where you win and the person who disagrees with you loses) and seek instead the points of agreement which is a win-win both in moving forward on an issue and in building and maintaining a good relationship that can facilitate future progress. It actually isn’t that difficult to do.

Read the Forbes article here.

The Key to Political Persuasion

Finding common ground without compromising fundamental principles is not something that magically happens. It can be particularly difficult in politics, but it is not impossible. Indeed, our organization has found it is always a very present possibility. But there are a number of keys to achieving it. In the following piece published in The New York Times on November 13th, Robb Willer, a professor of sociology at Stanford, identifies an important one: understand the values of those with views different than yours and craft your arguments accordingly. Even if not successful in persuading others, you will have contributed to an environment more likely to bring light, not heat to the debate. And that kind of environment is the petri dish in which common ground and consequent progress can germinate.

Politics needs more civility, not less

The following piece by Jeff Jacoby is thought-provoking but concludes with a prediction, we hope, will be proven wrong. It’s thought-provoking because the civility of Ronald Reagan demonstrates what we at Common Ground Committee know is true: one can debate one’s side with heart-felt passion and still treat the opponent with respect and dignity. But Jacoby’s conclusion that things are not going to end well with the tone of public discourse is not inevitable. Americans of both parties continue to yearn for leaders who can lead effectively while avoiding the cheap shots and empty talking points.

The Presidential race so far has been dominated by showmanship. Of course, in politics there will always be a place for that. But we believe when all is said and done, the vast majority of voting Americans will go to the polls with a clear view of who they think is the best person for the job. We would like to think the candidate who is best able to positively differentiate themselves, inspire people with their vision and at the same time demonstrate respect for their opponents through civil debate and engagement will have a leg up on the competition. Some of the candidates are already pursuing that strategy. We hope more jump on the bandwagon.

Good for Jared Bernstein

Our hat is off to two-time Common Ground Committee panelist Jared Bernstein who demonstrates in the link below that he is walking the civility talk. Note how blog entry author David Henderson speaks about Jared with respect and appreciation – even though the two may disagree fundamentally on the question at hand – simply because of how Jared conducts himself in the discussion. This is the way public discourse ought to work – use facts, listen to and respect one another’s position – and sometimes throw in some good-natured banter just to make things fun.

Will new Senate institute honoring Ted Kennedy foster bipartisan cooperation?

The opening of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate is a very tangible demonstration of how bipartisanship and a spirit of working together for the good of the county is highly valued by both the public and our leaders even if it is not well-practiced.

Read the article in the Christian Science Monitor.

Bipartisan Support For Healthcare Legislation

In a significant bipartisan move backed by President Obama, the House agreed on changing the formula for doctors’ fees and extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

We heartily applaud Mr. Boehner and Ms. Pelosi for working together to put this healthcare bill together and President Obama for supporting it. While both Republicans and Democrats see flaws in the legislation the view that moving ahead on points of agreement was better than pushing for purity won the day. That is what the Founding Fathers envisioned. The bill is perhaps most noteworthy for demonstrating that today’s highly partisan Congress can work together to make progress rather than blast opponents using sound bytes and emotional arguments. Here at Common Ground Committee it is a good day, indeed. We look forward to seeing more results like this one.

Unlikely Cause Unites the Left and the Right: Justice Reform

We are heartened by the bipartisanship that was demonstrated by the US Senate and political forces such as the Koch brothers and the American Civil Liberties Union in putting together the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. Another proof point that people with diametrically opposed philosophies can work together to drive change that all agree is better than the status quo. Not all sides got everything they wanted but they were pleased to have made some significant improvements. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said it all – “We are political odd couples. But we found common ground.”

Read the New York Times article here.

Bridging the Divide Between Business and Government

Finding common ground can be very difficult. But, as this article suggests, the probability of success substantially increases when one understands the other side’s perspective and context. We believe a crucial attribute of a “common grounder” is consistently demonstrating the discipline to do the listening, fact-checking and research needed to gain that understanding.”

An Incredibly Simple Way To Reduce Partisan Rancor

A fundamental principle in the forums we produce is that people who know their stuff and disagree can still find points of agreement if they are challenged to do so. This article by Robert Wright in the Atlantic shows how easy it can be – not just to initiate such discussion but to keep it going, too.

The best thing about it: all of us, not just public servants, can use this approach in our own discourse with others.