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Alternative Realities Hinder Our Progress

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The path to ending the divide in Washington falls upon "We the People." Unfortunately, we are at least as divided as Washington. Today's digitally fueled divide creates alternative realities that allow us to see the same picture differently. People need to see both sides in order to find a way out of the divisiveness that grips us and prevents us from moving forward.

An important first step is to read publications from the left and the right. Reading only one is like watching a black-and-white TV. Reading both allows you to see the various hues, shadows, and nuances that reside in the minds of all citizens. Being able to see a more realistic picture of the entire electorate's views will enable you to fashion solutions that will unite rather than divide.

Almost every issue lends itself to a one-sided analysis. President Obama's effort to negotiate with Congress on the automatic spending cuts that went into effect Friday has been Washington's most recent example. In her Wall Street Journal column titled "Obama Is Playing a New Game," Peggy Noonan says:

Past presidents, certainly since Ronald Reagan, went over the heads of the media to win over the people, to get them to contact Congress and push Congress to deal. Fine, and fair enough. But Mr. Obama goes to the people to get them to enhance his position by hating Republicans. He's playing only to the polls, not to Congress, not to get the other side to the bargaining table. He doesn't even like the bargaining table. He doesn't like bargaining.

Alternatively, the New York Times' piece "Boehner Halts Talks on Cuts, and House G.O.P. Cheers" by Ashley Parker reads:

As the president and Congressional Democrats have tried to force Mr. Boehner back to the table for talks to head off the automatic budget cuts set to take effect on Friday, Mr. Boehner has instead dug in deeper...

While the frustrations of Congressional Democrats and Mr. Obama with Mr. Boehner are reaching a fever pitch, House Republicans could not be more pleased with their leader.

At the same time as Noonan in the Wall Street Journal tells us Obama is "not (trying) to get the other side to the bargaining table," Parker in the New York Times tells us that Obama is trying to bargain and Republicans are not. It is hard to comprehend that these two publications come from the same planet, much less same country, and indeed same city with headquarters about a mile apart!

Do not allow yourself to be an oblivious, compliant contributor to the serious malady of political paralysis. Read both sides, see both sides, and prod your elected officials to find common ground. Be a partisan, but please for the sake of our nation's future, be an informed, patriotic partisan.

Hon. Mark R. Kennedy leads George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management and is Chairman of the Economic Club of Minnesota. He previously served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was Senior Vice President and Treasurer of Federated Department Stores (now Macy's).