Virtually All Americans Want the Same Things. We Just Disagree on How to Get There.

“Hundreds of thousands of people will die if this bill passes,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warns of the Republican health care bills being debated in Congress. Really Madame Minority Leader- do you think Republicans are trying to pass a bill to kill many people? Is this really the way to move such a critical debate on fixing our health care system forward?

“You have people come in and I’m not just saying Mexicans, I’m talking about people that are from all over, that are killers and rapists and they’re coming to this country”, then candidate Donald Trump said in a CNN June, 2015 interview. Really Mr. President, in a nation of immigrants, whose ranks have contributed countless blessings to America, is this the tone to set to address our broken immigration system and the growing humanitarian refugee crises around the world?

“You know, to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic- you name it,” then candidate Hilary Clinton said in a campaign speech to supporters in New York City. Really Madam Secretary, you are saying that almost 32 million people are deplorable and, as you later said in the same speech, irredeemable? For a campaign positioned as “Better Together”, this is an odd way to close divisions. And in this author’s opinion, probably cost her the election far more than Russian interference did.

“The Democrats are the party of the Klu Klux Klan. You look at the most racists- you look at the Dixiecrats, they were Democrats who imposed segregation, imposed Jim Crow laws, who founded the Klan. The Klan was founded by a great many Democrats,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz told Fox News in February of this year. Now perhaps this has elements of truth to it- the Democratic party of 100 years ago is quite different than that of today. But any sentient being in 2017 knows this history has nothing to do with the current Democratic party and comments like these can only be intended to distort reality and avoid important dialogue on race.

I, for one, am sick and tired of the political discourse on both the left and right these days. It is depressing and dangerous and markedly impeding progress on so many urgent issues we face. How, with a national debt approaching $20 trillion, can we fund rebuilding our military, providing quality and affordable health care for all of our citizens, fix our education system so that all of our children have an opportunity to succeed in life and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure? Solutions are highly complex, involve very real tradeoffs and honest debate based on fact and not to score political points.

I submit that at least 80 percent of Americans want the same things. Perhaps 10 percent on the far left and 10 percent on the far right want different things that are way out of the mainstream. As long as they avoid violence they, of course, are entitled to their views. But they should not be the focus of the debate on how to improve the political discourse and, in turn, the outcomes of policy making in both Washington and at the state levels.

This article is not a policy prescription. That is for the think tanks and researchers and academics to do- hopefully with a strong dose of listening to the American people. This is simply a call to all Americans to start with a premise of trusting the intentions of those on the other side of the political aisle. Don’t stereotype a person because of who they voted for or their political affiliation. That is grossly unfair, as there are so many dimensions that make up a person’s views. I, for one, am socially liberal, fiscally conservative and have a libertarian bent grounded in distrust of big government and trust in people to largely govern their own lives. I embody core elements of the Democratic, Republican, Independent and Libertarian parties, and, in turn, am a registered Independent. I believe there are many people that share some of these cross-party beliefs. I believe many are also sick of the rhetoric and resulting paralysis of our politics. And want our politicians to get things done.

Health care is a great example. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was passed without one single Republican vote. Previously far-sweeping and historic legislation- from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to FDR’s New Deal legislation, to the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, all passed with a fair amount of bipartisan support. (Interesting fact- 80% of congressional Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, compared with less than 70% of Democrats- even with Democrat Lyndon Johnson in the White House.) Now that Republicans control the major branches of the federal government, they meet privately and craft their “repeal and replacement of Obamacare” legislation, without any Democratic input or support. Is this what is required to raise money for a re-election campaign? If so, we are in a sorry state of affairs.

Is it too much to ask that both parties work together to fix our health care system, fiercely debating the tradeoffs, without denigrating the other sides’ motives? Can we agree that all reasonable people want quality, affordable health care for all, but just disagree on the solution (e.g. single payer vs. increased private market competition)? Can we not assume malice from people who disagree with us? Can we avoid automatically ascribing negative motives to those on the other end of the political spectrum? Can we do more listening and less shouting?

I have no magic bullet solutions outside of common sense. We must interact with those who don’t share our political views- and do so with the objective of understanding and learning. Perhaps this won’t change one’s mind, but it will create empathy and serve to reinforce that most people are very decent at their core and want the same things we do. But they may disagree on how to get there. And that’s ok- actually that’s more than ok, as robust debate always leads to better outcomes. And after all, isn’t a better quality of life for our citizens far more important than what political party controls the power levers of Washington D.C.?

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Don Kurz is the Chairman and CEO of Omelet, LLC, a Los Angeles based marketing services firm. He is the former Chairman and CEO of publicly traded EMAK Worldwide, and a former senior partner at management consultancy Cresap, McCormick and Paget, a predecessor firm to Willis Towers Watson. Don is an executive producer on the award-winning feature film documentary License to Operate, which highlights the heroic efforts of former gang members who are now healing the communities they once helped destroy. Don is a long-time philanthropist, financially supporting and donating time to Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, Teach for America, Project Angel Food and A Better LA, among other institutions. He is a trustee emeritus for Johns Hopkins University, having served 12 years on the board of trustees. Don earned his B.A. from Johns Hopkins University and his MBA from Columbia University Graduate School of Business.

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