Yes, that’s right.  You’re not misreading the headline.  This weekend I had a chance to go to Berkeley, California and hang out at the home of my friend Joan Blades, one of the co-founders of  “What???  How is that possible,” you ask?  It’s possible because there is more common ground between left and right in this country than you might think.  And Joan and I (and many others) intend to do our best to explore that ground, and force intransigent incumbent politicians to take action on the issues where we agree.

Joan and I were introduced almost two years ago by a mutual friend, Ralph Benko.  Ralph concluded his introductory email between us with something like this line:  “God help the politicians if the tea party and ever agree on anything.”   Well the time has come for us to find some agreement.  If you disagree, let me ask you a few questions that I’ve asked many of my friends on the left and right.

How many of you voted for trillion-dollar deficits?   I haven’t yet met the voter who did, yet representatives on both sides of the aisle continue to impose them on us.

How many of you think we have the premier education system in the world, where the dollars and are efforts are focused on our kids?  Hmmm…none of you?  Then why are so many of our politicians on both sides of the aisle wedded to the status quo, and we see so little change?

How many of you think that our criminal justice system is the best in the world, and the War on Drugs has been a tremendous success?  Hmmm…anyone…left or right?  No?  Then why are so many of our incumbent representatives on both sides of the aisle so weak when it comes to making any real criminal justice reforms?

How many of you think that we have far too much unproductive, government mandated paperwork?  Everyone?  Then why can’t we get our elected representatives at all levels to do something about this?

There is much common ground on these and many other issues.  And it is on these things Joan and I are focused, and on which our discussions focused on Saturday.  I brought a couple of conservative friends, both in their early 30′s (and some homemade baked goods from my beautiful and talented wife Patty).  As a relatively old guy (50), I was hoping my friends would add some youthful balance to my perspective.  I brought the baked goods as an upfront peace-offering, knowing that no one can resist Patty’s baked goods.  Joan had invited two of her friends from the left, creating a good mix of people, and the potential for some political fireworks.

I think my two guests were a bit nervous, as Joan is obviously a legend on the left, and they had never met or spoken to her.  I was very comfortable, as I already knew Joan through emails and phone calls over the last two years.  While we disagree strongly on many political issues, we’ve learned over time that we really like each other as people, and have a mutual respect not often found in cross-partisan dialogue.

We arrived at Joan’s house in the beautiful Berkeley Hills around 1 p.m. after making the tricky navigation on the tight winding streets in my ridiculously large Ford F350 pickup, which was about as out of place on the streets of Berkeley as a vehicle could be.  I even felt a bit bad parking it on Joan’s street, hoping it wouldn’t draw the scorn of her neighbors upon her.  After all, it says “Tea Party, the Original American Grassroots Revolution,” in large letters across the tailgate.   As you might imagine, it was not exactly in tune with the rest of the bumper stickers in the neighborhood.

From here, I’ll quote from Joan’s great blog post on the Huffington Post about the event:

“Mark arrived at my door wearing his signature cowboy hat, big belt buckle and warm smile.  But that was not all, he brought delicious baked goods made by his wife Patty and two friends to join our conversation.  Once we’d introduced my friends and Mark’s friends and made sure everyone had what they needed, I apologized to Joe the reporter from the SF Chronicle for our plan to ignore him completely and we began our conversation.

This was a conversation that was a bit different than the standard Living Room Conversation because we had a reporter present and because of Mark and my roles in the conservative and progressive movement.  I thanked everyone profusely for their willingness to have a public Living Room Conversation and we dug in.  Mark asked me to tell his friends how MoveOn started and then we wanted to hear from Mark about how he helped start Tea Party Patriots.  Generally we followed the suggested structure for a Living Room Conversation but to some extent Round two and three blurred together.   This worked fine with a group that it turned out had no adversarial vibe at all. We were curious about each other and really wanted to understand how we might work together to make our democracy and our communities more successful.

The conversation was enthusiastic, lively and primarily focused on all the common ground we saw as well as revealing many issues we would like to talk more about.  Right or left, none of us are comfortable with the degree of influence that big corporations have on government regulation.”

I think all six of us who participated could have talked late into the night, but I had promised my wife I’d be home by 6 for a dinner engagement, so we had to break off conversation earlier than all of us would have liked.   We didn’t solve the problems of the world in one, three-hour meeting, but six people gained a better understanding that as human beings, we’re not as far apart as many politicians would like us to believe.

There are many things that divide us politically, and when the time comes, we’ll all still have our very partisan fights about those.  But we can’t continue to buy into the overall politics of hate, perpetrated upon us by politicians and others in the ruling elite who find it quite profitable to keep us apart in order to maintain the status quo.   When it serves the interests of “We the People,” we need to stand together and remind the politicians, they work for us, not the other way around.

Joan’s Living Room Conversations are intended to foster this approach, and I look forward to participating in many more.  If you want to know more about Joan’s approach, or how you can host a similar conversation in your home, you can visit the website here.

About The Author

Mark Meckler

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.

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  • Buck O’Fama

    “Right or left, none of us are comfortable with the degree of influence that big corporations have on government regulation.”

    As a small government conservative, I am on board with this as well as the items you mentioned earlier. Here, I would say what I have said numerous times, “Crony capitalism is NOT capitalism.” Corporations big and small should prosper because they bring better products and/or services to the market place, not because they bought better influence in Washington.

    The current system certainly serves the interests of politicians very well (which may be why there’s an economic boom in DC while much of the rest of the country just scrapes by) and thus they and their sock puppets in the media manipulate the “debate” to distract attention away from the fact that there possibly could be much both sides could agree on – if only we could hear each other speak.

    • miller

      The father of modern economics, Adam Smith, believed in free markets but noted that businessmen seldom to, stating:

      “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

      • Mark

        Goes back a long way in history, doesn’t it.

  • submandave

    This surprises me not one bit. Agreeing on goals with decent minded folks is not hard; the Gordian Knot comes to agreeing on methodology. I have found many on the political left, for all their talk of open mindedness, to be more blindly loyal to their orthodoxy than some evangelicals are to the Bible. I see the greatest challenge coming to get the MoveOn faction to recognize when in the past their methods to achieve laudable goals have failed and getting them to agree to try a different (Tea Party, small government, federalism) approach.

    • ezag

      Exactly right. The left turns to a stronger centralized solution. More money and power in the center….just better people and methods…they think. But it becomes another center of corruption.

      • megapotamus

        Exactly but philosophical Leftism is standard issue for EVERYONE, even the TEA Party. There is only ONE solution and that is a radical dismantling of the Welfare State. That includes entitlements dear to almost everyone. That includes farm subsidies. Bank and business bailouts. There will also have to be a deforestation campaign against the Regulatory State. Fannie and Freddie will have to go. GO! Vast swaths of the military will also have to be trimmed. EVERYONE will be taking a haircut of some depth. The collective resistance to any particular constituency being first or worst is what holds the bubble together. It is what holds every bubble together.

        • Mark

          “philosophical Leftism is standard issue for EVERYONE, even the TEA Party.” That’s quite a statement (and I think perhaps hyperbole). Can you back it up with something? Everyone I know in the Tea Party movement would agree with virtually everything you say after that. So where’s the “philosophical Leftism” in the tea party movement? Show me some documentation please.

  • rasqual

    If Moveon’s concerns about education don’t involve support for vouchers — that is, “choice” for parents, not just pregnant women — screw ‘em. Sorry, but my children and the children of my friends have had to endure a system that’s regressive — benefiting the well-off while leaving the poor with no real choices. It’s as if there’s a conspiracy to keep the masses stupid.

    The public education system has to be challenged on a level playing field — not perpetuated by public union employeers who yammer that their unfunded benefits are “for the children.”

    Also, how about if states stop justifying lotteries and other such revenue gimmicks by making it for the children. Screw that. It’s a disgrace. If they’re serious about school funding, they can slate the most reliable revenues for that. Put their own salaries on the lottery takings, if they wish. The demagogical justifications for hair-brained revenue-gleaning approaches that don’t increase wealth, have got to be pilloried mercilessly until the pols in the states are embarrassed to propose them.

  • tom swift

    Don’t get too excited. Identifying problems is only part of the job. The Right/Left schism becomes apparent when one tries to imagine solutions.

    Example – “Right or left, none of us are comfortable with the degree of influence that big corporations have on government regulation.” Lefties think that the problem is corporate money buying regulation. Ergo, corporations are the problem, and crippling control of business is the answer. Righties think that the problem is government selling regulation to the high bidder. Ergo, oversized, overbearing, and inherently corrupt governmet is the problem, and cutting it down to affordable and manageable size is the answer.

    We see this dichotomy in the Tea Party vs the 99 Percent movement. It’s nothing new, of course, just Adam Smith vs. Karl Marx, dressed in populist raiment.

    • Mark

      Thanks Tom…don’t worry…I won’t get too excited. Every road to political change in this country is long and hard. I’m certainly aware of that. And you’re certainly right that surface agreement, doesn’t mean fundamental agreement on solutions. I’ve been having these conversations for two years…I still consider them very worthwhile.

    • TMLutas

      If corporate money is buying regulations (and it is), those regs are written down, have a chapter/title/book/line number associated with them, and we should be able to unite, left and right, to get it pulled. Isn’t it strange that nobody seems to have a ready list of those regulations to rally around repealing? This isn’t just a federal problem. The US has 89,034 governments according to the US census department (they count them twice a decade). Every single code needs to be reviewed and pruned to legalize jobs and restore a fair playing field so new companies can get started, reducing unemployment and filling the tax coffers with extra funds without raising tax rates.

      Why won’t anybody with some money behind them do this work? It’s not complicated. It is just a great deal of work.

      • Mark

        Agreed. When I was with Joan Blades this weekend, she said she’d promote any organization that took this on as a task.

  • rasqual

    Two words: Subsidiarity and Distributism. If the terms weren’t principally salient in historic Catholic thinking, secularists with theophobias wouldn’t have remained ignorant of them so long. Think “federalism” and “anti-trust” if you can’t wrap your head around bigger ideas. ;-)

    • Mark

      Two beautiful words in my opinion, and words and concepts I’ve found the left to be generally in agreement with, when introduced.

      • Seerak

        I’m not surprised that you found those terms amenable to the Left. How familiar with their nature are you?

        “Subsidiarity” is an expression of what I call the “localism” fetish; it’s the root of the bizarre conservative notion that one can fight tyranny by localizing it.

        It betrays an unfamiliarity with medieval Europe, which conformed quite closely to “subsidiarity”; nearly all effective political power was vested in the local nobles, with the king a distant and largely symbolic figurehead (this varied by which nation; France was the most extreme example). Not sure how it improves things when you’re being tortured by some guy who lives fifteen rather than fifteen hundred miles from you.

        Subsidiarity also comports well with the Leftist worship of primitivism and consequent utopian notions of peaceful agricultural villages.

        What is telling is that both of these examples are consistent with subsidiarity, and are also both examples of plain collectivist tyranny, varying only in the lines drawn (the first is a caste system, the second is a simple tribal collective). Subsidiarity says nothing about protecting individual rights, particularly those of the lone dissenter.

        It should be clear that if opposition to tyranny is actually your primary political motive, subsidiarity is of no use; it is indifferent at best to that issue.

        “Distributism” claims to be pro-individual and pro-property rights, but in that it is only a minor improvement on its subsidiarity cousin — as these are expressed as a mere preference, not a principle. In other words, it “prefers”, at the outset, not to violate the rights of the individual, but nevertheless remains vulnerable to crushing the nonconformist tall poppies in need of being cut down.

        The Founders understood the dangers of such societies. They understood and enshrined the principle of individual rights against the government — “democratic” or not. That’s why it’s called the Bill of Rights, not the Bill of Permissions.

        Socialists, particularly those of a Catholic bent (and there were lots of those, not that modern Catholics admit it too often) over the years have found themselves intermittently attracted to these notions; like “democracy”, they work well as substitutes for actual liberty which can subsequently be moved away from it as the people slowly lose their concept of what liberty actually is.

        Both of these ideas undercut and dilute the American principle of inalienable (absolute) individual rights. That’s the reason why socialism and Catholicism have always had much more overlap than the latter will admit.

        That the Left didn’t immediately recoil from them should have been a warning to you.

        • Mark

          Once again, mostly we are in agreement. The concept of subsidiarity works (and was certainly organically in place at the founding of our country) but only if the primary philosophical principle is the protection of individual liberty. You are right, subsidiarity is not the solution…it is only a structural description. The solution is the elevation of individual liberty.

          As to your statement that “That’s why it’s called the Bill of Rights, Not the Bill of Permissions,” I’d have to take issue. Historic research shows that the drafters didn’t call it “The Bill of Rights.” Apparently, that term didn’t come into regular use until the early 1930′s, and was part of the revisionist history of the progressive movement, seeking to define “Rights” as something granted by the government. My favorite historian on the American Revolutionary period, Pauline Meier, is currently researching and writing a book on this subject. Very interesting stuff.

          However, I would still agree with you in principle on this. Our rights do not come from the government, and the very purpose of our system of government was to protect us from infringement of our inalienable rights by the government being structured at the time.

          In regard to the history of Catholic socialists, I’d agree with you there as well. And there are still many socialist influences within the Church. Luckily, we have organizations like Acton Institute that are working to educate the clergy world wide (not just the Catholic clergy) about the importance of free markets. Rev. Sirico’s book, Defending the Free Market, is an excellent read on the subject.

          • Deoxy

            That there are socialists in the church (catholic or not) actually makes sense, as the description of the early church is straight up socialist.

            If everyone (or at least really close to everyone) is willing to sacrifice for the good of everyone else, socialism is actually really awesome.

            Of course, that’s the rub. Whether you believe christian doctrine or not, I think it’s fair to say that those who do believe have the greatest possible reasons to sacrifice in this life for those around them… and still, even christian groups seldom make socialism work.

            I think that’s the strongest non-body-count argument that can be made against socialism – those with the greatest reasons yet known to man to make socialism work have a low success rate. Everyone else has a zero success rate. GIVE IT UP.

          • Mark

            I think you may misunderstand the early church. Christian charity consists of free-will offerings, motivated by love; socialist redistribution is brought about only by force. You might find some evidence to support your thesis in Acts 2, but the fact that this did not become the doctrine of the early church is seen by the fact that that the apostle Paul never mandates it for his churches, but rather depends on their voluntary charity to support mission projects. Socialism is the public ownership of all property, and examples of the approval of private property are throughout the Bible. You may want to check out Rev. Sirico’s book, “Defending the Free Market, The Moral Case for a Free Economy” from which I’ve plagiarized most of this. He’s a very capitalist, free market priest who founded the Acton Institute 22 years ago to promote free market ideals within the clergy. As a young man, he was a full blown leftist, socialist who hung out with Jane Fonda, et al.

        • richard40

          ““Subsidiarity” is an expression of what I call the “localism” fetish; it’s the root of the bizarre conservative notion that one can fight tyranny by localizing it. ”

          It is not bizarre and actually works, since it is based on a free market idea, competition, in this case between local and state governments.

          If a local gov is corrupt, businesses and individuals will tend to move to an area with a less corrupt gov. Same with state level gov. When governing entities lose residents and businesses, thereby also losing tax revenues, they have an incentive to become less corrupt before they go broke. CA and IL are beginning to find that out.

          This works less well at the national level, since it is much harder to leave the country than to move to another state or town. That is why conservatives and libertarians favor doing as many gov functions as possible at the state and local level. It provides competition between governing entities, and like with any market competition, produces a better and cheaper product.

          • Mark

            Agreed on all counts. You can still have local tyranny, but much easier for people to leave, and also easier to resist tyranny at the local level than the state or federal level.

          • srp

            There are two problems with this “voting with your feet” theory. First, the level of sustainable mis-governance is a rising function of the non-governmental desirability of a locale. So places with good weather, beautiful scenery, or a history of entrepreneurship can get pretty lousy before the exodus leads to a correction. See California.

            Second, local tyranny is much harder to mobilize against because outsiders are much less interested in the subject, whereas national tyranny instantly generates a galvanized level of opposition. The number of people who even know what their local government does and how it is structured, not to mention the identities and policies of its occupants, is a tiny fraction of the number who know about national issues and national governance.

          • Mark

            Agreed on your first point. Is what it is. People will take a lot to live in a desirable place. Not up to us to fix that for them. People have to be willing to act. Like the old dog on the porch whimpering when he’s sitting on a nail. He’ll move if it hurts bad enough.

            I disagree with you on the mobilization against local tyranny. We don’t need “outsiders” to galvanize against it. It’s not up to outsiders to galvanize against it. I don’t even want outsiders galvanizing against it. If local folks aren’t unhappy enough…then they will live with it. When the become unhappy enough, they will rebel against it. The number of voters it takes to turn the average city council or county board election is quite small.

            I think the sweet spot where you may be on point is in our very large cities and counties (See L.A. as an example.) There, local tyranny is at its worst, and mostly, outsiders aren’t interested. The population is spread over a large geographic area, and is very diverse in its interests. Very hard to get enough people together, and enough money, to fight the good fight in a place like that. I don’t really have an answer for you there.

      • megapotamus

        When introduced? Man, that is the saddest bit. Yet you will find the self-assuredness of the ignorant is based on….. SUPERIORITY! Implicit, of course.

  • Stephen

    An important meeting. I hope everyone involved can agree on at least four things; definition of terms, what a fact is and is not, the prime role of premise in a chain of logic, and what cause-and-effect is and is not.

  • Lexington Green

    The Left and Right can find common ground fighting against crony capitalism and the capture of government by business. That is the main problem we have now, and it benefits no one other than the participants. Genuine liberals are the ones who believe most in an efficient, viable government. Making entitlement programs workable and affordable is in everyone’s interest, and having a strong private economy to sustain them, is in everyone’s interest. (The libertarian dream of ending these programs will never happen. The voters want them.) The Left and Right can agree on privacy issues and due process issues. There is a lot to work with here. And to the extent we are having productive conversations with the saner members of the opposition, we will build up a foundation of knowledge and mutual regard that will allow the genuine and irreconcilable disagreements to be fought out politically without personal anger and even hatred. This is a truly excellent initiative.

    • CameronH

      It is not just the capture of Government by big corporations. It is the capture of government by all big organisations. The Environmental arm of the government, for example, has long ago been captured by the Big Green environmental NGOs. These groups have been complicate with the government in destroying millions of lives in rural communities and also for economic vandalism across most industries that produce the wealth of the nation.

      All big lobby groups should be banned from direct access to Government at all levels.

      • Mark


        The discussion ranged far beyond “big corporations,” to many other “big” interests. You are right on target.

      • Seerak

        It is not just the capture of Government by big corporations. It is the capture of government by all big organisations.

        IF the government is properly constrained by the principle of individual rights, “capture” becomes far less of an issue, simply because there is little to nothing you can do with a constrained government.

        Jerry Pournelle has a saying to that effect — that in the past, it hardly mattered which gang of crooks ran the government, because there was so little that they had the power to screw up. A government shutdown in the 1870′s would have hardly touched a thing until it dragged on for years.

        But now? Things start to break in a matter of hours.

        It’s not corporate control of government that’s the problem; it’s government control of corporations (and everybody else). It should be obvious when you consider the corporate-government “partnership” in terms of their essentials: when one guy has a sack of gold and the other has a gun, which one of them do you **really** think is going to eventually end up with both the gun and the gold?

        That Mark reverses this key fact, in the same manner of the Left and what I call the “Zero Hedge” right, is a very, very bad sign for the Tea Party.

        • Mark

          I actually agree with you 100%. When people tell me the problem is “money in politics,” I often respond that there is so much money in politics, because there IS so much money and power in government. If government was appropriately constrained, it would not be worth spending the money to influence government. Today, government is such a huge beast, and has control over so many facets of our lives, and especially business, that it makes rational business sense for huge corporations to work to infiltrate and influence government. Size and scope is key. And I think your sack of gold and a gun analogy is perfect.

          • Another Mark

            I always respond that politics in money is a greater problem than money in politics. The macroeconomic definition of an honest dollar is important.

          • Mark

            I’m with you on this.

        • megapotamus

          That’s why I practice hitting people with sacks.

    • Mark

      Hallelujah!!! I’m with you 100%, and willing to invest my time and energy. I hope many more are as well.

  • Tim

    I wouldn’t confine the discussion about deleterious government regulation to the “evil corporations.” What about the equally, if not greater, influence of unions on, e.g., the NLRB to scrap the secret union ballot or state legislatures to place the heavy hand of government regulation on charter schools in order to protect the public school monopoly on education?

    • Mark


      100% agreed, and we began to delve into the union power issue as well. We agreed to have that as another conversation, because we only had a few hours to talk this time.

  • md

    this is ok as far as it goes, but MoveON is the tip of the spear of leftwing hate speech in this country right now and has been for some time.

    also does anyone see the mindbending & hypocritical disconnect of anti-capitalist, “Smash-the-State” left wingers living inside a culturally blessed, jealously guarded bubble of million dollar custom homes.

    dialog that is honest, empathetic and respectful about any issue with a MoveOn co-founder like this is difficult if not impossible absent explicit acknowlegment of these things.

    • Lee Reynolds

      The concept of “hate speech” is a scam created by leftists so that they could deny their opponents the right to speak.

      When you complain that move-on is full of “hate speech,” you reinforce the lie that there is such a thing as “hate speech” in the first place. Doing so helps leftists use this scam to silence others.

      I understand that you are trying to use their own book of rules against them, but when a rule in question is damaging to society in the first place, the long term negative consequences far outweigh any short term snark satisfaction.

      • rasqual

        Another problem with the idea of “hate speech” is that it gratuitously attributes an emotion to one’s interlocutor when what’s needed is a rational critique. I think some folks refer to many who refer to hate speech as engaging in hate speech because they are refusing to engage on rational grounds, and prefer to attribute hate. In essence, they’re projecting.

        It’s like finding the bottom turtle. “Will the real hater please stand up, because we’re having a hard time figuring it out!” ;-)

      • Deoxy

        By their own definitions of “hate speech”, you’re spot on.

        The problem is that hate speech is, in general, a useless thing to talk about, really.

        “Hate crimes” are even more so. Dragging someone to death behind a pickup is bad. Whether I did because I hate people of the victims’ skin color in general or because I just thought it would be a giggle is really not material to whether or not it is bad.

        But that same logic applies to “hate speech”.

  • The Gift

    So we got a bunch of Debbie Downers in the comments section, saying it’s no use talking to “those people” because it’s all doomed to failure before you try. And that serves to change an untenable status quo — of restrictions on the freedoms enunciated in the Bill of Rights, of crony capitalism, of monster deficits — exactly how? You don’t like the status quo? Then don’t limit yourself to options that got us into this status quo.

    • Mark

      Agreed. None of us are seeking “compromise” in these discussions. We are looking for common ground. And where we find it, we will fight together. And where we don’t, we will return to our corners and fight against each other. Any other approach only weakens all of us.

  • JadedByPolitics

    So lets see what do we have in common? They believe in redistribution I believe in self determination, they believe in the almighty federal government, I believe in limited government. So what you have is an agreement that “big business” is a problem, well they don’t believe that as they support George Soros who FUNDS them, does that little POS ever do anything for America? hell no, he is an anti-American communist sympathizer who makes his fortune off of the downturns and SUFFERING of human beings around the planet. How nice that you have a friend, nothing wrong with friends but for this TEA Party Patriot my friends do not want the “fundamental change” of America, we want America back!

    • Mark

      We can have fundamentally different opinions on many different things, but if we let those differences keep us apart on the areas where we otherwise agree, we are only playing into the game of the ruling elite who like things just like they are.

      • Lexington Green

        This is exactly right. I greatly regret that the Tea Party did not make an aggressive effort in the very beginning to enter into discussions with the Occupy movement when it was mostly young kids without jobs and before the professional leftists took it over. I had this on the subject, after I went to an early Occupy meeting: It may be of interest.

      • JadedByPolitics

        You show me ONE instant of Move>on trying to break down BIG GOVERNMENT which is corrupt as BIG BUSINESS and BIG Science I will reward you tip jar. When business works to destroy main street small mom and pop shops and when the BIG government rewards “green” (science is settled) w/100s of millions that could truly help the poor in the inner cities instead of the money go round for politicians, or even, showing that science is NEVER settled, otherwise its not settled its propaganda or BIG BUSINESS such as AARP even NRA throwing their weight around for bought and owned politicians, and all along Move-On owned and operated as many leftist organization are by the Ford Foundation and other SOROS backed leftist causes, you have not one leg to stand on.

        • Mark

          Jaded…first…no need to hit the tip jar, either way. And again…to be clear…I wasn’t meeting with I was meeting with an individual, Joan Blades, and a couple of her friends. So…not looking to show that is doing the right thing, or any right thing. I’m simply trying to dialogue with other people who come from a different place than I do to see if I can find some common ground upon which to work. If we can, it would be very powerful. If we can’t no real loss. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

          • JadedByPolitics

            Bottom line is would you debate with your murderer on how to die? I get its your friend, but for me I don’t understand a friendship where there is NO area of agreement. I don’t have leftist friends because I don’t want to live my life in perpetual fights. My final words are, she, they are no friends of America, they want to Europeanize her, they want to “transform” her and well she is beautiful just the way she is. Good luck!

          • Mark

            In some areas you are right, in others you are wrong. I have no desire to let them “Europeanize” her, and will fight with all my might. But when they are willing to do things like help us bring transparency to gov. and reimpose Glass-Steagall…I see no reason not to work together. Equating non-violent human beings with whom you disagree to “murderers” is unproductive and offensive. Of course I would not “negotiate” with my murderer. Nor are we “negotiating” anything here. We are simply seeing if there is common ground on any issues (meaning no need to negotiate).

  • Reilly

    I have long believed that the ruling elite in D.C. (both sides of the aisle) have deliberately riled up their constituencies to keep the focus off the real problem. The sense of power, entitlement, and disregard for the electorate is the problem and it lies squarely in the laps of the ruling class, particularly the career politicians and the revolving door between big investment houses and former politicians. As the corruption, incompetence, and multi-millionaire status escalates, so does the rhetoric and animosity in D.C. We the people are tearing each others throats out, while the policy makers are laughing all the way to the bank gratis their employers. No wonder they think the “little” people are stupid.

    • Mark

      It’s working perfectly for all of them in DC…just not for us!

  • Dave

    Would we like corporations (and unions and foundations and big media and big legal and big ed, etc) to have less power? Sure! But how can we expect these groups to back off and play nice if the federal government so heavily regulates and in many cases funds them? They almost have no choice but to get heavily involved in the political process lest they be regulated out of existence or worse yet, their competitors get subsidized to a level no one can compete with. We want less big org manipulation of government? Then big government needs to quit injecting itself into every nook and cranny.

  • Tully

    I’ve been singing this hymn for years.

    There is so much that we CAN agree on, even if our preferred tactics for dealing with same differ wildly. But the powermongers don’t want us to agree. They want us divided and bickering and arguing over minutiae and hating each other. That way they can continue to rob us blind to feed their cronies our money in wholesale lots, driving us deeper into debt with a system that favors only the connected.

    Hold your own “tribe” accountable when they get into power. Or admit that you’re wasting your time supporting them. Do not be afraid to cross the aisle on a specific issue when you think your “leaders” have gone demagogic. Stand UP! Or be forced to your knees.

    • Seerak

      Finally, someone getting close to the reality of it.

      It is unfettered government power with is the root cause. Any corporation that operates under the jurisdiction of an expanding government will be at a disadvantage to any competitor that succeeds in “regulatory capture”. It’s akin to being in a room with someone who wants to fight you, and there are clubs on the floor. Do you wait for the other guy to start clobbering you with one first?

      Uncontrolled government necessarily spawns an environment of “eat or be eaten”. If you could snap your fingers and there were no dishonesty among any businessman anywhere in the economy, the presence of unfettered government would bring it into existence. It sets up all kinds of perverse incentives, from deliberate wastage of resources in search of tax deductions (I’ve seen that one live too many times) to entire business models built on legal advantages that should not exist, to the worst: manipulating the government in order to pass laws that hurt the competition.

      Hell, observe Obama’s efforts to strong-arm Walmart in the gun control effort. “Corporate power” my ass.

      • Mark

        The root cause is absolutely “unfettered government power.” I would add “unfettered government size,” but I suppose those go hand in hand.

  • Lexington Green

    “They almost have no choice but to get heavily involved in the political process”

    We are past that point. The regulated industries have captured the regulators and are using them, most of the time. The originators of the expansion of government power is now big business itself. That is why it has shifted to supporting Democrats. This is brilliantly discussed in Luigi Zingales, A Capitalism for the People, which I highly recommend.

    • Mark

      I agree and also highly recommend Zingales’ book. He’s a very interesting guy with a great perspective.

  • Elisa

    It was great to meet you, Mark! This is a great write-up. Thanks to your wife Patty for the delicious scones and for the great conversation. I look forward to continuing it!

    • Mark


      Great to meet you as well! Thanks for your willingness to take the time on a Saturday away from your family. Looking forward to more conversations.

  • Don Berryann

    this was a nice article to read and reassuring. I firmly believe that the two ruling parties have evolved into organizations which no longer represent the majority of opinions of America’s citizens. By dividing us, they increase their chances of winning elections and decrease their chances of governing effectively. Yet, with over 40% of registered voters no longer willing to identify with either the Republican or Democratic Party, we STILL continue to dismiss quality Candidates who really do represent more of American voters’ opinions if they are not the nominees of the dominant ruling parties. What will it take for us to realize the Citizens of this country are not as divided as the ruling parties?

    We must have the courage to vote for Libertarian and Independent candidates to regain control of our political system and get our Representatives focusing on delivering Good Government instead of just winning elections.

  • Fen

    I think its important to consider MoveOn’s origins if you are contemplating working with them. I remember distinctly, because when I grew up we were constantly peppered with lectures about sexual discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.

    Fast foward to the Clinton Impeachment – the sexual discrimination and sexual harassment of Paula Jones, the sexual discrimination re Monica Lewinsky (ie all the other females in the White House who didn’t get job interviews with Revlon and the United Nations because they chose not to have sex with Bill), and they sexual assault (breast groping) of Kathleen Wiley.

    To this, MoveOn was founded on “its just about sex, MoveOn”. So, these people don’t really believe in the things they lecture the rest of us about. Please remember that when dealing with them.

    • Mark

      To be clear, I’m not working with I’m holding conversations with Joan Blades, one of the co-founders of, in regard to her new venture, Living Room Conversations. This effort is not endorsed by, and she doesn’t speak for them in our conversations. In fact, just like me, she’s not trying to speak for anyone else. Both of us are doing this as individual citizens trying to find common ground with those we may disagree with on many subjects.

      • Fen

        Understood. If it were me, I would find out if Joan Blades was one of those feminists who harped about sexual harassment and then chanted MoveOn! when 3 of her fellow democrats were sexually discriminated against, sexually harassed and sexually assaulted.

        Because if she lacks integrity, you’re just wasting your time.

  • thgep095y

    Brilliant! Please please please, spread this to other cities. Get more grass roots leaders involved. We need more of this. The poliarization of this country is fostered by politicians and media commentators because it gets them power and money, but it hurts the interests of all the people.

    We need to learn the truth that the people who disagree with us are not evil but just people.

    When the grassroots on both sides demand action on the same issues the politicians won’t be able to demonize the other side for political gain.

    • Lexington Green

      Some of them are evil. Or nuts. Or hate conservatives so much they can’t be civil. But most aren’t. Finding the ones who aren’t is part of the process of conversation.

      • Mark

        Agreed. And some conservatives are the same. When you’re dealing with millions of people, you’ll find bad people, and people of bad faith on both sides. F

    • Mark

      You can spread this yourself to other cities. Go to and download their materials and run your own conversation. It’s up to each of us…

  • jordan

    What a great idea. What about issues like indefinite detention, warrantless surveillance, airport security overreach, and returning to regular order in Congress so the public can study legislation before it’s passed?

    • Mark

      I think your list matches many of the things that regular people on the left and the right agree upon.

  • Thucydides

    I have had a similar experience here in Canada, dealing with true believers from Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP). While we may agree on “ends”, there is never any agreement on “means”, nor is there any willingness on their part to even explore anything that deviates from “the way”.

    Since they are Social Democrats, this isn’t unexpected. Canadians who are members of the Liberal Party are generally more flexible in their approach, but the pragmatism is simply a means to achieve political power. Liberal governments at both the Federal and Provincial level have made cronyism with Big Business and Big Labour into something of an art form, and have been quite successful in using cronyism to maintian power even when the results are a complete disaster. Google Dalton McGuinty (Premier of Ontario) for the most recent example.

    Since the basic philosophy of socialists and crony capitalists is to expand the size and reach of government, I think this is a well intentioned experiment that is doomed to fail; there is no common ground after you define the problems.

    • Mark

      I don’t agree. In fact, those on the left with whom I am dealing insisted that we include the problem of “crony socialism,” if we were going to deal with “crony capitalism.”

      • CameronH


        This makes no sense. Socialism is about the Government controlling the means of production as opposed to private citizens using their own Capital to develop and control the means of production.

        Socialism is also all about cronyism. In Communist Socialism (Marxism), the actual government owns the production assets and gives the plumb jobs at the top of the tree to all of the people in the inner circle whereas in National Socialism (Fascism), the government selects the asset owners of the productive assets that it will support and then directs them by dictate on what to produce and how much of it to produce. All other asset and business owners are sent to the camps for reeducation or disposal.

        Crony Capitalism is, therefore, a form of socialism more closely liked with Fascism. The main difference is that Fascism controls production from private capital via dictate whereas Crony Capitalism does it through providing subsidies and mandates to the selected few while increasing the taxes and regulatory burden of those who the government wishes to “dispose” of.

        In dealing with the left and all other socialist you should remember the O’Sullivan rule: “All organisations that are not specifically right wing will eventually , over time, become left wing. The left are the great corrupters and are implacable enemies of our society and our civilization and should always be approached with caution.To use an old adage: “If you would go to sup with the devil be sure that you take a spoon with a long handle”.

        • Mark

          Notice that the old adage is not “don’t go to sup with the devil.” In fact, man is meant to grapple with the devil and win. ;-)

  • Vinny


    No one detests the professional Left more than I. HOWEVER, I think this dialogue is worthwhile. Even if we cannot find agreement on any issues, we could at least agree to work to unseat incumbents and topple the seniority system that plagues the US House and US Senate (not to mention local and state government). If Tea Party folks and Leftwing folks go to work in their respective red and blue districts and States getting fresh blood into the Congress via prirmary challenges, maybe we can have real debates about budgets and priorities in our Legislative chambers, instead of the phony “fiscal cliff” and debt ceiling type nonsense we are being subjected to now. We have to keep thinking outside the box. It is the only thing that will save us.

    • Mark

      Thanks Vinny. I agree with you on this. Even if we find no agreement, we should work together to get rid of the long term incumbents who actually don’t represent any of of us. We must think outside the box…and in doing so…we may even be wrong. But the same old thinking and the same old approach will get us the same old results, for sure.


    “Right or left, none of us are comfortable with the degree of influence that big corporations have on government regulation.”
    This whole statement shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the world.
    By implication, the statement defines big corporations as the source of all evil. This is silly, because it shows a complete lack of comprehension of what makes the world go around – namely, P O W E R.
    Big corporations have money. This money gives them POWER.
    Politicians control laws and budgets created from tax revenues. This gives them POWER.
    Financiers can lend funds on fractional reserves and exert substantial control over the market value of businesses and individuals to whom they lend. Their POWER is stunning.
    The key factor uniting the three groups above is the concentration of Power into the hands of the FEW. That’s why ballot boxes no longer have any real meaning.

    The left – including the Occupy Movement – fails to grasp this. The right fails to grasp this as well, though I suspect they will be more willing to change their doctrine to accept this principle.

    Tea and Occupy can chat away to their heart’s content. But until they can agree on the above, it will be pointless.
    Unless Power over political, business and financial factors in society can be taken from the Few and distributed to the Many, the people will continue to be subjects for perpetuity.

    The power of the vote is one instrument for this. Another vital instrument would be removing control of the value of the currency from the Few who control political and financial institutions and placing it in the hands of the Many. This can only be done thru a full exchange gold/silver standard.

    The power of corporations is a bit harder to curb, but can be done. One clear factor in progress would be to make it illegal for corporations to appoint proxies for votes by shareholders. Another would be to make it illegal for any one organization or individual from having more than, say, 20% of the shares of a publicly traded company. I’m sure there are a small set of rules that could be devised which would also cover private corporations and mitigating their influence over local, state or national politicians, and smarter people than I could come up with those.

    In summary: the vote is simply not enough. The control of Money and Influence must be removed from the Few and handed to the Many.

    • Mark

      LOL. Well, it’s good to know I only suffer from a fundamental misunderstanding of the world. Whew! Funny…because I agree with you, the issue is a concentration of power in the hands of the few. Concentration of power always leads to corruption and control by the few. Guess that means we both suffer from a fundamental misunderstanding of the world. Welcome aboard! It’s good to have company here.

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  • Mark

    Don’t be fooled by these people. Keep in mind that at their core, most of them have an “ends justifies the means” mentality and lack any moral compass.

    • Mark

      No one is going to be “fooled” here. There are vast differences between us. However, in some areas, there are commonalities, and it is in those places that we should work together if we can.

    • Mark

      Be careful about that sort of generalization…”these people…” and “most of them.” There are those from all political persuasions that can be said to have an “ends justifies the means” mentality, and to be lacking in a moral compass.

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  • Vinny


    This topic really lit up this site. I hope the people who stopped by continue to come here. I believe there are hundreds of thousands of us (if not millions) who are looking to go to work around a real agenda (not phony red v blue food fights). Living room conversations like the one you had may be what it takes to kickstart a movement to save our beloved state of CA. Keep up the good work.

    • Mark

      Thanks Vinny…we’ll keep trying.

  • srp

    There is a “glaring commission” on the list of points of agreement between the two “sides” at the discussion: Getting rid of Glass-Steagall. For some reason, this has become a shibboleth among a pseudo-populist subset of the left and right, even though the combination of investment and commercial banking neither caused nor exacerbated the recent financial crisis. Lehmann Brothers, Washington Mutual, Bank of America, etc. did not get into any trouble as a result of their diversification. If anything, an over-concentration on real-estate lending was the precursor to instability and bailouts.

    Moreover, there is no reason to associate diversification with bigness. A small entity might find it desirable to combine deposit-taking and investment banking. The currently over-regulated and harassed community bankers might, in the future, find that more-innovative methods of packaging local lending into securities are vital to their growth and survival. The reflexive buy-in to the left’s narrative on Glass-Steagall bespeaks a lack of seriousness in the endeavor.

    • Mark

      Actually, the issue with Glass-Steagall is that we allowed the banks to diversify and risk customer deposits…which is fine. But we the people carry the burden of insuring those losses. That’s a serious problem. It’s the privatization of profit (good) with the socialization of risk (bad). The issue is not diversification per se. You can disagree with whether or not this is a problem, but your statement about “lack of seriousness” is hyperbole. Not necessary, nor productive to the dialogue.

      • srp

        I’m afraid you are still not being serious, in the sense of being responsive to the facts. The risk to the public was in no way increased by Glass-Steagall repeal, for two reasons: First, the government’s “too big to fail doctrine” was applied mostly to entities that were not deposit takers and hence not affected by G-S. Second, there is no evidence that deposit-taking entities such as B of A were at all disrupted by their I-banking activities. Their problem was owning piles of bad residential mortgages and securities based on same.

        To be more constructive, going forward in the rule-making morass of Dodd-Frank the place to focus attention is on the “living will” provisions for “systemically risky” (formerly TBTF) financial entities. If these can be made strong enough, it may be possible to shift the regime to an expectation that liquidity-challenged firms will automatically administer creditor “haircuts” rather than hold out for public bailouts. That expectation would apply both to TBTF lenders and borrowers–the lenders would be required to include the risk of haircuts during a liquidity crunch in measuring their own risk and setting up their own living wills.

        • Mark

          I am responsive to facts. And I disagree with you. I understand that bothers you. All good. I’d like to know more about your thoughts on Dodd-Frank reform. Sounds constructive, but I don’t really understand what you are saying well enough to know. Can you point me to a broader written description.

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    Thanks for finally writing about >Hanging Out in Berkeley with my Friend, the Co-Founder of MoveOn.Org