Huffpost Homepage
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Bill Shireman Headshot

After the Summit, Jump into Bed With a Republican, a Democrat, and a Tea-Partier

Posted: Updated:

The bipartisan summit on health care has already been dubbed a failure by party spinsters on both sides. But Americans are hungry for the integrative approach it symbolizes.

So am I. I resolve conflicts between political adversaries for a living. And I spend much of my blogging time attempting to crash conversations among true-believers on the right and left - the ones that demonize their favorite enemies as the source of all wrongdoing.

Whether you're a Democrat, Republican, or Tea-totaler, it's time for you to stop hanging out with mirrors, and crash those other parties too. To solve today's challenges, we need strange political bedfellows, partisans willing to jump into the sack with one another, and bring their ideological codes together. That's the only way to conceive smart and integrative solutions to the challenges we face.

If you believe, like Karl Rove, that all virtue resides in your party - and all vice in the others - then it's time for your awakening too. These truths should become self-evident:

We are not quite right. But we are not entirely wrong, either.

Our enemies complete us. Each ideology is founded on a truth, but not the truth. Each is incomplete, and needs its opposite to be whole. Freedom needs responsibility. Mind needs matter. Masculine needs feminine. Power needs purpose. Democrats need Republicans. Each alone is fatally flawed. Together they can remedy their mutual flaws, and achieve anything.

We have friends and allies on "the other side." They know that we bring part of the solution. They want to help us convey our truth to "their" side. When we distrust and demonize them, and fail to engage them, we dismiss our most important allies. And we fail to detect the truth that is missing on our side.

The enemy is not actually evil. Most of our adversaries are fundamentally good. The few who are not have their counterparts on our side too. Yes, politics sometimes demands that we pretend our enemies are evil. But never forget: demonization is a tactic, not a truth.

By demonizing our adversaries, we defeat ourselves. When we demonize our other half, we too become caricatures. We undermine our own principles, fail in our objectives, and grow self-satisfied in the futility of our "just" cause.

We are all hypocrites. Conservatives condemn socialism - yet champion a wholly socialist institution: the family. Liberals condemn capitalism - yet are wholly dependent on its remarkable productivity. Tea Partiers condemn what's wrong in the liberal and conservative movements - but fail to offer a positive, integrated alternative.

The Liberals are right: it takes a village. There are some things that are best done by a community. If we stop polluting our air but our neighbors do not; if we educate our children but our neighbors do not, we all suffer, despite our personal responsibility. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, suffer misfortunes and benefit from serendipity, make mistakes and stumble on successes. We all gain by bringing these together as a community, by working together to meet one another's needs, and even to forgive one another's failures.

But the Conservatives are also right: we need fiscal discipline. A healthy village requires healthy individuals. We can't provide safety nets for ourselves and others, if we don't have the financial resources to weave the nets. We can't expand health care or clean up our environment if we protect every politically powerful group from the changes they need to make, to cut costs and improve performance for all.

And the Tea Partiers are right too: we need change on a revolutionary scale. Both parties are bought and sold by their own special interests. Those interests are not evil - just selfish, and afraid to grow up and take responsibility for themselves. They all want their government protectors. It will take almost revolutionary change to release their grip.

If we can channel the energy of the Tea Partiers, the compassion of the left, and the discipline of the right, together, nothing can stop us. Until we do - until we break the myth of the demon, and recognize our mutual dependence - we will continue to tear ourselves down, and potentially destroy the magnificent systems - political, economic, and ecological - that we are fortunate to have inherited.