Thursday, September 17, 2009

Calling on the “reasonable middle” to improve our local communities (and move our nation ahead)

Two headlines appeared beside each other in last Friday’s Pioneer Press, which illustrate a major barrier to making progress on important issues facing our communities, our regions, and our nation. One stated “Pawlenty knocks Obama’s focus.” So, what else is new? The other headline proclaimed “Democrats line up behind Obama.” So, what else is new?

Real news would be: “Pawlenty compromises with Obama, for the good of Minnesotans.” Or: “Democrats use Obama’s speech as tool to collaborate with their Republican counterparts.”

Daily instances in which some politicians and other leaders state their mulish opinions, frequently embellished with misquoted, exaggerated, or twisted truths, unwilling to compromise, intent only to destroy those with opposing views – these events constitute news only to the extent that they illustrate the pervasive cancer that threatens constructive discourse in which all of us have the opportunity to contribute our points of view, then work together for the betterment of our communities.

At Wilder Research, we cherish differing opinions. No one point of view has an exclusive hold on the truth – whether that truth involves the best way to deliver therapy for children or the best policy for delivering services to older adults, or any other significant issue.

We often refer to the “reasonable middle” to identify our audience: that is, people who might be at center, right of center, or left of center - even very far in one direction - but not so far to an extreme that they can’t reach any consensus with anyone other than their own narrowly-defined group of compatriots.

Our Compass initiative, for example,, lays out facts about the trends in our region, identifies approaches to improving those trends, which other communities have tried, and invites people to work with us to address those trends. We invite those who want to work in multi-partisan situations to address social issues, improve the quality of life, deal with tough decisions related to the conditions of the vulnerable in our society, identify opportunities for increasing regional economic vitality, and any of a myriad of worthwhile endeavors.

Exciting initiatives have developed from Compass, ranging from community economic improvement efforts, to improving the system of services for the chronically mentally ill, to reducing disparities in health outcomes, to better understanding water quality. (See these on our website or Facebook page.) People from different points of view can come together to engage in collaborative action, with significant results.

Let’s all join the “reasonable middle”; let’s encourage others to do so. We can remain true to our own values, but still compromise to reach consensus, for the good of everyone.


Tara M. said...

Hear, hear! Next election, I'm not voting for anyone who has dug in their heels and refused to discuss reasonable compromise on important issues. We should encourage our families and friends to do the same.

Anonymous said...

Paul, we need leaders like you in government!