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Ambidexterity

Posted by Devin Glaser at Mar 16, 2012 11:00 AM |
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Devin Pink

Our political climate has become increasingly polarized in the battle of the Left versus the Right, and it's often hard to imagine common ground.

The effect is amplified by our dueling media sources, which report the news with equally partisan fervor, sometimes acting more like cheerleaders than journalists. Wonk wunderkind Ezra Klein explored this idea a few weeks ago over on the Washington Post.

Left vs. Right Cropped

But just this weekend, Harvard Professor and darling of the "left" Lawrence Lessig gave a speech with Tea Party Patriots Founder and true son of the "right" Mark Meckler.  The two joined forces for the Guiding Lights Weekend in an effort to illustrate the inanity of Red State vs. Blue State infighting.

"The chatarrati like to think of America as divided between the left side and the right way," Lessig told the crowd. "I think it's a really boring distinction."

"If we have so much in common," Meckler added. "Why do we spend so much time fighting each other?  Why do we spend so much time hating each other?"

Lessig Meckler

"I've had these discussions with people in DC and they're not embarrassed by this," continued Meckler, adorned in a cowboy hat and leather boots. "They understand that they divide us on issues of race, gender, income, pro-life, pro-choice, gay rights, marriage, family."

"If they can make us hate each other, make us focus on our disdain on each other's positions, what happens?  We focus on that."

Meckler and Lessig both focused on common ground agendas that the left and right agreed upon.

"Recently in the SOPA/PIPA debate, we found out that both sides had the exact same position," said Meckler.  "I chose to link to Moveon.org's page.  The flames came."

"Show me where their position is wrong," replied Meckler to his partisan detractors.

Lessig went on to tell of a time when he was working with members of the Occupy Movement.

"I told them 'you have to invite Tea Partiers and you have to start talking to them about crony capitalism.  You'll have an enormous amount of people down here."

"I'm not a mathematician.  But how do you get to 99% if you subtract the 20% or 30% of the country that identifies with the Tea Party?"

"America is not polarized - the politically active classes are polarized," said Lessig.  "The rest of America sees the politically active classes and says 'those guys are crazy."

Time will tell whether or not Americans are ready to start letting go of our politically divisive rhetoric.  But already some prominent figures are crossing the divide.  Venture capitalist and progressive thought leader Nick Hanauer has recently signaled his interest in working with Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Rob McKenna on education reform.  Hanauer was previously influential in the push to implement a high-earners income tax.

And lest you forget, Washington state's gay marriage legislation was a huge progressive victory made possible by a few brave Republicans who broke party rank and voted with their conscience.

After all, as deficit hawk and DOMA signer Bill Clinton once said: "We all do better when we work together. Our differences do matter, but our common humanity matters more.”

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