Opinion

Opinion | Diane Hessan

Are we as divided as we think we are?

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Every day, we read about our divided country: how there is no common ground among those who support President Trump and those who don’t, among those who are Democrats and those who are Republicans, and between those who live in the city and those who live in rural areas.

As I have written in the past, more than two-thirds of the 400 voters I speak with weekly share a frustration: They are both disappointed in Trump and discouraged by the Democratic Party and its message of “no.” The political extremes are hijacking our narrative. We hear a white supremacist say something hateful and some of us imagine that it reflects racist and hateful views of all Trump supporters. An antifa activist screams that violence is necessary against our authoritarian president, and some imagine that it reflects a liberal will to remove Donald Trump by any means necessary.

In reality, we agree on more than you think. I asked the voters I speak with weekly to rate a dozen statements as True or False. Try for yourself:

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1. President Trump should trust Putin when Putin says he didn’t interfere with the US elections.

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2. The Democratic presidential nomination was rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton.

3. I believe the women in Alabama who say that Roy Moore sexually molested them when they were teenagers.

4. If there were candidates I liked, I would vote for them even if they were from a political party that was not mine.

5. Paul Manafort had shady dealings with the Russians.

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6. Money has too much influence on our politics.

7. I look forward to President Trump’s tweets.

8. There should be increased regulation on automatic weapons.

9. Gerrymandering is unfair.

10. Both the Republican and Democratic parties are a mess.

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11. The swamp in Washington, D.C., is getting drained.

12. Russia tried to interfere with the US elections.

In the end, 80 percent answered in the same way for each question:
1. False 2. True 3. True 4. True 5. True 6. True 7. False 8. True 9. True 10. True 11. False 12. True.

You probably agree with them on most of these crucial issues — whether they backed Clinton or Trump.

As Thanksgiving approaches, perhaps we can commit to understanding one another rather than making assumptions about who our fellow citizens are. Perhaps there is still hope that our politicians will address our common concerns rather than conduct scorched-earth campaigns against each other. And perhaps there is a way to move forward by asking questions and empathizing, by talking instead of tweeting, and by thinking about the common ground that we share.

Diane Hessan is an entrepreneur, author, and chair of C Space. She has been in conversation with 200 Clinton voters and 200 Trump voters weekly since last December. Follow her on Twitter @DianeHessan.