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.

Mitch McConnell said it best . . .

All Mitch McConnell said it best “When the American people choose divided government, I don’t think it means they don’t want us to do anything.” We couldn’t agree more. Both sides of the political aisle are signaling a bi-model strategy where sometimes they will wield their own power to make things happen but will also look to find ways to work with the other side. They both realize that making progress was the primary demand from the electorate in this election. They – and the country – would be well-served to not lose sight of that demand.

All of this leads us to an important conclusion. More than ever before during the Obama administration the opportunity for our leaders in Washington to demonstrate that finding points of common ground and making progress on our pressing issues is a present possibility. Formidable obstacles remain but it is our hope that both sides will embrace that possibility. Read the New York Times article here.

Evidence suggests Americans not as divided politically

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that Americans are not as divided politically as it would seem. Yes, our elected officials struggle to work together on the more important issues. But people outside of the beltway continue to see eye-to-eye on issues more often than they don’t. This is one of the reasons we at Common Ground Committee believe that finding common ground on important issues is achievable. Check out this DC Decoder article from our media partner, the Christian Science Monitor.

Nudging News Producers and Consumers Toward More Thoughtful, Less Polarized Discourse

We appreciate the seven recommendations for new producers and consumers put forth by Darrell West and Beth Stone of Brookings that, if followed, would lead to news consumers being better able to understand the implications of policy generally and personally. Better information when combined with a willingness to understand that information is a powerful means to more thoughtful, meaningful discourse and, consequently, better decisions.

Read the full article here.

Restoring Civility

Recently, Thomas J. Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, gave an important speech about restoring civility. His remarks are important:

. . . Most of our rights in a free society also carry responsibilities. This is especially true when it comes to speech. I strongly believe that the right to speak carries with it the responsibility to listen. . . to give others a fair hearing . . . to be open to different points of views. In my view, it’s the stubborn refusal to listen that is the cause of much of the incivility and dysfunction we see in Washington and across our country today. Restoring civility in American life must begin by reaffirming our commitment to everyone’s right to speak — and everyone’s responsibility to listen. . .

What Obama and the Tea Party Have in Common

George Will makes an important point about the critical difference between a parliamentary democracy and our system that puts in place structures to protect the rights of the minority — in this case, the Senate conservatives.

Whether you agreed with Ted Cruz or not, he was exercising a very important, albeit messy, constitutional right to express a minority view. Liberals should take note, because this is a right they may need the next time around. George Will is pointing out something really hopeful about our system, which seems dysfunctional at the moment: people don’t reach for common ground because they want to — but because they have to. We just aren’t very good at it right now. That is why there is the Common Ground Committee. org, to shine the light on efforts to do this that are successful. This gives Americans hope, which is critical to regaining faith in democracy — so badly needed these days.

Read the article

An imam and pastor spread tolerance

Sometimes common ground is actually not the right goal. Rather, bringing about tolerance and understanding among those of opposing views is the place to focus because how people view those that differ rather than the differences themselves is the problem. These two gentlemen found common ground in the need to address exactly that problem. Our political leaders in the US, for sure, need to find common ground on the challenging issues the nation faces. But they would be well served to also take a page out of the book being written by Mr. Wuye and Mr. Ashafa and work on finding, demonstrating and promoting the respect necessary for working together. Read the article

The Groundswell for Increased Civility

The politesse movement to get more civility into our contentious public debates is not about being “nice.” It’s about getting some long overdue work done. Read more