Thanksgiving and civility, part 2: Four topics worth putting on the table
Konar is the founder of Common Ground Solutions, a nonprofit that seeks to increase civic engagement and improve political discourse. Kull is the president of Voice of the People, a nonprofit that's developing methods for citizens to crowd-source policy proposals with broad appeal.
It's a sign of our fractious age: Each Thanksgiving, as millions of families prepare for the holiday weekend together, we see numerous "how to" guides for navigating and avoiding political discussions. "Even the most innocent mention of politics or social issues could threaten to turn MawMaw's house into the thunder dome," wrote CNN.
No one wants a cable TV shouting match to ruin the holiday. But the idea that we are too hopelessly polarized to have a reasonable conversation about politics is wrong. In fact, on many of our toughest issues, like health care, immigration, taxes and political reform, large majorities of Americans share a remarkable amount of common ground.
Nonpartisan, in-depth surveys show that red and blue Americans routinely agree on many difficult issues — crossing party lines, defying conventional wisdom and finding more common ground than you might expect, and far more than you find in Congress.
Your Thanksgiving table can talk politics and agree on something. Here are four examples of policy areas on which majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents generally agree.
Health care. More than three in four Americans oppose letting insurance companies charge higher rates to people with pre‐existing conditions, or charging older people dramatically more than they do younger ones. Eighty-eight percent want to make it easier to get generic drugs on the market. Almost eight in 10 want to protect patients from surprise medical bills for services that are out of their health insurer's network.
Immigration. Almost seven in 10 Republicans and Democrats would allow undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to stay here for work or study, so long as they pass a background check. Also, 69 percent want more temporary work visas for industries like landscaping and hotels. Majorities of both parties favor deterring illegal immigration by requiring employers to verify employee immigration status using the E-verify system.
Budget and taxes. Majorities of Republicans and Democrats agree on spending cuts and revenue increases to reduce the deficit by $376 billion. They support new taxes on Wall Street, rolling back the recent tax cuts for people making more than $200,000 a year and increasing taxes on alcohol. They also agree on modest cuts to defense spending and on cutting subsidies to agricultural corporations.
Political reform. Almost eight in 10 Americans want to stop the revolving door by banning members of Congress from lobbying for five years after they retire. More than eight in 10 demand real-time transparency from corporations, unions and others on their campaign spending. Almost as many want to keep legal bans in place on political activity by churches and universities that receive tax-deductible donations. More than 70 percent want term limits for legislators, and three-quarters say it's time to give third-party candidates better opportunities to compete in elections.
In other words, pass the pie and keep talking — there's plenty for your red and blue relatives to agree on. Once you find areas of agreement, you're much more likely to have constructive discussions in areas where you don't agree.
Listening carefully to other points of view might even teach all of us something we didn't know before. That would be one more reason to give thanks.