Democrat Barney Frank, Republican Chris Shays Take On Congressional Gridlock At Public Event

Former Congressmen gave inside look at legislative process, discussed how to get things done in DC

Irvington, NY, July 10, 2019 – Last night, Common Ground Committee (CGC), a nonpartisan, citizen-led organization devoted to improving public discourse in politics, hosted its latest conversation, which brought together former Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and Chris Shays (R-CT) for a discussion on how Congress can get back to doing the people’s work in a polarized country. The event was held at The Nantucket Project’s new headquarters and theater in the round, TNP on the Hudson, in Irvington, NY.

By demonstrating how people of opposing views can find agreement without compromising core values, CGC aims to inspire the public, political leaders and the media to seek common ground, increase civic engagement and reduce polarization for a stronger nation. CGC brought together former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Condoleezza Rice to explore America’s role in the world at the University of Notre Dame in March.

“It can sometimes feel as if the polarization and gridlock that has engulfed Congress is too overwhelming to stop. Last night’s conversation proves there is a path forward,” said Bruce Bond, co-founder and CEO of CGC. “Although Rep. Frank and Shays are of different parties and pursued very different policy agendas as members of Congress, they proved that constructive dialogue and cooperation between Democrats and Republicans is possible. We hope tonight’s audience was inspired by their words to play a more active role in ensuring their representatives represent the majority of the electorate.”

During the event, entitled “It’s Time for a Frank Conversation,” Reps. Frank and Shays came to a number of points of consensus including:

  • Impeachment of the president is a bad idea because the government would shut down and nothing will get done
  • The biggest crisis in the Republican party is that they think government shouldn’t work
  • There are more Americans in the middle of the political spectrum than there are on the far left and right
  • The “all or nothing” mentality is counterproductive. It’s better to make some progress than none

During his 32 years in Congress, Rep. Frank achieved notable bipartisan success, working with Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) on immigration reform and receiving praise from notable members of the Bush Administration including Fed Chairman Ben Bernake for his work during the financial crisis. Last night he called for increased participation in primary elections as one of the most important things citizens can do to effect real change. “The middle of the country isn’t being heard because they’re not voting in primaries,” said Rep. Frank. “The failure of more moderate Americans to vote in primaries is one of the main reasons we are in this situation today.”

Rep. Shays, who served Connecticut’s 4th district from 1987-2008, also found numerous areas of bipartisan cooperation in his career. He most notably cosponsored the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 with Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA). “I would call for Americans to vote for a presidential candidate, regardless of party, who is willing to work with both sides of the aisle,” said Rep. Shays. “But most importantly, vote for someone who speaks to our better nature.”

The Nantucket Project, an organization that gathers curious people to explore ideas and connect with one another through shared meaning and conversation, cohosted the event. This is the first in a new series of conversations to be held regularly at TNP on the Hudson.

“This event encapsulated what we strive for with The Nantucket Project,” said TNP CEO Tom Scott. “We believe in the spirit of common ground and conversation, and Reps. Frank and Shays delivered that last night.”

About Common Ground Committee
Common Ground Committee (CGC) ( is a nonpartisan, citizen-led organization that inspires action on polarizing issues by bringing prominent leaders with opposing views together in public forums to find common ground. Since its founding in 2009, CGC has held ten forums featuring 28 panelists who have reached over 200 points of consensus. Panelists have included such notables as John Kerry, Condoleezza Rice, Michael Steele, Donna Brazile and Larry Kudlow, exploring issues ranging from race and income inequality to foreign policy. Common Ground Committee partners with the widely respected Christian Science Monitor to moderate its forums. Free of political agenda and financial influence, CGC has a singular focus on bringing light, not heat, to public discourse.

About The Nantucket Project
The Nantucket Project gathers curious people to share meaning in service of interpersonal connection and stronger communities. Our gatherings – in neighborhoods nationwide, at our home, TNP on the Hudson, in Irvington, New York and each fall on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts – are filled with heart and wonder. Where big ideas and compelling stories are shared through live conversation, original films, and unforgettable experiences. Where people connect and neighborhoods grow.

For interview requests, please contact Zachary Halper at or 862-224-3233.