#2 Fix It Shorts: 2016 Presidential Campaign: Lessons From History. Sean Wilentz

How many times have heard somebody say that the political campaign has reached a new low?  How much worse is the 2016 race compared to previous elections?

We asked Princeton University Professor, Sean Wilentz, to give us a history lesson. 

In his latest book, "The Politicians and the Egalitarians" Sean makes the case for pragmatism, arguing that politicians serve the country best through the art of compromise.

 On this episode, he tells us that "nasty, slimy stuff" is nothing new in Presidential campaigns, using the wild rhetoric of 1828 and 1860 as examples.  But what is new this year, Sean argues, is hyper-partisanship, "where you cannot imagine the other side even existing. You want to obliterate them. You want to wipe them off the face of the earth." 

The SOLUTIONS start with us.
 How we talk about those we disagree with.  Are you gleefully vilifying the opposition?

  • Go beyond our information silos.  Read and listen to those we disagree with. allsides.com has daily examples, looking at the news from the left, right and center. Follow journalists who cover solutions.
  • Revitalize civil discourse. If you have a strong disagreement with friends or neighbors, consider setting up a living room conversation.  

Support politicians who are pragmatic and work for common ground.
Useful articles: "What The Decline of Partisanship Would Look Like" and"How Conservatives and Progressives Will Work Together Next Year."
 

#43 Joan Blades Part 2 - How to Speak With People You Disagree With

 

This episode looks at the simple, highly personal way that living room conversations allow people of different viewpoints to really hear each other.

A progressive activist, Joan Blades was deeply involved in starting MoveOn.org in the late 90's. More recently she has also worked on ways to encourage respect and dialog among liberals, independents and conservatives.  She is the cofounder of LivingRoomConversations.org.

In part one last week (episode 43), we looked at why Americans need to find new ways to speak about our differences, such as visiting websites with opposing political opinions, and having conversations that are not vindictive.

"It's actually really fun having a living room conversation," says Joan. "They're more fun than if you have a bunch of people around that you know what they're going to say.  We get to laugh about our differences once we understand what's going on."

Among the first conversations the group had was a discussion on climate and energy. "One of the problems progressives have right now is that if they run into someone who doesn't believe in climate science, they roll their eyes."  As soon as you do that, "you've lost your conversation," Joan says. "Nobody listens to anybody."

Here are some of the topics we raised in this episode: 

  •  LivingRoomConversations.org has simple for ground rules each meeting - encouraging participants to be curious, show respect and take turns.  
  • Listening to people is the best way to get people to listen to you. 
  • These conversations are not debates. Instead of winning, the aim is come up with solutions.
  •  LivingRoomConverstions.org guidelines are open-source. People can use what works for them.

#41 Mark Earls Explains Donald Trump: Emotions & The Power of "We"

Let's face it.  Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have won far more votes than almost any "expert" forecast. 

The reason may well be that emotions and learned behavior from others play a far bigger role in our decision making than most of us realize. 

Our "Fix It" guest Mark Earls - the HERDMeister - is an award-winning British writer and consultant on marketing, communications and human behavior. In his latest book, "Copy, Copy, Copy," Mark shows how we vote and buy stuff by copying others - our friends, family and our neighbors.

"Donald Trump is "much smarter than we give him credit for," says Mark.. "He gets that people need to feel stuff rather than think about it." 

In his advertising work, Mark has used the lessons of behavioral science and marketing success to advise clients.  He shares his fascinating, if somewhat frustrating insights with us.

As voters and consumers we can learn from what his research tells us - even when he go to the supermarket or spend time with friends. 

"I would not recommend buying grocery shopping when you're hungry," Mark tells us. And...  "If I find myself in a British bar I tend to have a glass of beer and that's how it goes, unless somebody else around me goes 'ooh, a gin and tonic. I haven't had a gin and tonic for a long time'. So we both have the same thing."

Original Photo taken by Gage Skidmore: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/8566727275