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When you’re a mayor, you don’t have Republican potholes or Democratic schools that are failing, you just have problems that you need to fix.

– U.S. Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) on the productive virtue of non-partisanship, during the Problem Solvers Hangout, an internet video chat that was held yesterday by No Labels. Three other Problem Solver Congressmen joined Cicilline and No Labels co-founder Jonathan Miller along with several members of the No Labels community for a free exchange of ideas and a frank and honest discussion about problems, solutions, and the country’s future.

Information about the event, including video of it in its entirety, can be found here.

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The one thing missing from the Senate yesterday during the series of votes on various gun control proposals – seven in all – that was most important and crucial to the proceedings, the lack of which can be faulted for each bill’s defeat, and that which has indeed been largely missing from the entire gun control debate overall, is this: respect.

From Trevor Burrus, writing yesterday (before the vote) for the Opinion section at FoxNews.com:

This week the Senate is debating gun control, and we’ll see whether calmer heads can prevail. As I said in Fox News Opinion once before, the gun control debate is fundamentally a culture debate, dominated by extreme voices on both sides.

Very true. And both sides are guilty of, to put it politely, conduct unbecoming of, well, anyone:

Gawker illustrated this when it published a list of “all the a**holes who own guns in New York City.” Later, the upstate New York newspaper The Journal News printed a similar list.

The dramatic behavior of Gawker and The Journal News hurts the gun-control cause. Shaming gun owners will bolster resistance to all proposals, reasonable or not. As the culture debate rages on, Democrats and their supporters cannot continue to demonize and misunderstand gun owners.

The problem is predictably exacerbated by celebrities and those in the spotlight:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg laughably tried to bridge the culture gap with ads featuring a stereotyped gun enthusiast – identified by his rural setting, pickup truck, and Cabela’s-inspired wardrobe – whose finger is wrapped around the shotgun’s trigger, violating one of the fundamental tenets of gun safety.

Gun owners also feel exasperated when elected officials show their ignorance of guns. Recently, Diane DeGette (D-Co.) seemed not to know that gun magazines are reusable, echoing the famous description by Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) of a barrel shroud as the “shoulder thing that goes up.”

A few weeks ago, actor Jim Carrey released a satirical video called “Cold Dead Hand” on the website Funny or Die. Carrey places himself on the set of “Hee Haw,” resorting once again to the tired cliché that gun-rights supporters are ignorant yokels. He goes on to attack the size of gun-owners’ manhoods, and close the video with a one-finger salute.

Carrey previously established the communication baseline of this debate by taking to Twitter to call gun-rights supporters “heartless” and saying that those who purchased an “assault rifle” after Newtown have “very little left in their body and soul worth protecting.”

Carrey’s stereotyping of gun-rights supporters, and his rage at those who resist suggested reforms are perfect examples of “gun disgust,” the term I used in my previous piece to describe those who give guns the same emotional response as a dirty public restroom. Under this view, guns contaminate society, and thus deaths by guns are somehow worse than deaths by other instruments.

The message here also applies to the larger, more general divisions of the greater political scene – the very first step in getting anything accomplished, through any means, is coming to some level of mutual respect and understanding. We must be willing to believe that the other side may actually have good intentions, and maybe even common ground with us. This is the most important concept in bringing about an agreement.

In the case of guns, the gap is indeed largely cultural, as in rural versus urban, more so than it is rich/poor, black/white, liberal/conservative, or Republican/Democrat.

We cannot bridge the cultural divide until a respectful tone is adopted. That goes for both sides.

Gun-rights supporters need to stop characterizing all gun-control advocates as ultimately wanting to “ban guns.” Most do not. For gun control advocates, it would help to disavow the rhetoric of people like Jim Carrey and to treat gun-rights supporters with respect rather than elitist disdain.

If both sides can do this, some common ground might be possible. Expanding background checks and allowing for better mental health record-keeping could keep guns out of the hands of some dangerous people.

Though most of it is posted here, I recommend going back and reading this post through in its entirety. I, for one, was both glad and relieved to hear a like-minded voice and rational sentiment similar to my own coming from what I would normally perceive to be the “other side.”

Though this reaches kind of far into the childish and petty – which I try to avoid both participating in and even acknowledging – I think it is worth pointing out what is happening, for anyone like me who didn’t know anything about it. From admittedly liberal news sight PoliticusUSA.com comes this article, first pointed out to me at The Secular Jurist (emphasis mine):

More dirty tricks by a desperate minority: The 2012 election taught conservatives that they are the minority, even on social media like Twitter and Facebook. While the Tea Party has started their own version of Facebook (tick tock — waiting for them to be sued for stealing the layout), their solution on Twitter has been to silence speech they don’t agree with by spam blocking en masse to get progressives suspended. Last weekend they got over a dozen accounts suspended.

“#TGDNexposed” was trending on Twitter after progressives uncovered the coordinated assault. Zach Green, Founder of UniteBlue.com, explained to Politicus how conservatives are trying to silence the speech of progressives using the hashtag #TGDN, “A group of conservatives organized under the hashtag #TGDN has been targeting progressive accounts with the intention of getting them suspended. They report progressive accounts as Spam, which is particularly effective against smaller accounts with few followers. We’re helping the Left find and follow one another so they are protected.”

Into this assault stepped #UniteBlue. Mr. Green described #UniteBlue in an interview with Politicus as “a watering hole for progressives to connect on Twitter. Our sole purpose is to connect the Left with the understanding we’re stronger together.” Unite Blue functions on Twitter as a list to protect progressive accounts from being suspended via conservative “spam blocks” by getting them more followers.

I, for one, am about to totally go and de-friend everyone not listed as “Liberal” on my Facebook account. That’ll show ’em.

Spam blocking in order to silence progressives is just another tactic of a minority trying to hijack the dialogue. Remember the death panel town halls of 2010? If they can’t win with messaging, they will resort to dirty tricks executed with the necessary belligerence of the minority.

Zach broke it down for Politicus readers, “The 2012 election showed progressives simply outnumber conservatives now. Republicans saw that, and their solution is to silence the Left. Make voting harder. Gerrymander districts. Rig the Electoral College. Spam-block and suspend accounts. UniteBlue will work to connect the Left on Twitter because we’re stronger together.”

Though the inclusion of ‘spam-block and suspend accounts’ in that list of truly despicable and troubling fringe-conservative plots is enough to give you a migraine from the cognitive dissonance it invokes, it is a fundamentally dishonest attempt by the right to silence what the don’t want to hear. Hopefully this story won’t get too much play – I’d rather liberals not be seen losing their shit over anything anyone does on Twitter – but it does seem unavoidable to conclude that the only thing more petty than making a big deal about this is the original act itself. Getting people blocked on Twitter? Come on people. It does give you a pretty good idea of where the average, man-on-the-street conservative extremist’s head is.

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A fanatic is someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.

-Winston Churchill

A post I’ve discovered on Daily Kos, from almost exactly a year ago, has gotten to the heart of the problem, more succinctly and concisely than I have yet to put it. One needn’t even look past the title to find its insight: “An open letter to the people who hate Obama more than they love America.” This is the bone-deep problem with the extremist elements on the right, and a trait by which those known as “extremist” can be defined: their hatred for Obama and what he represents takes precedent over anything and everything, including the well-being of the nation, the economy, the health of the citizenry, and on, and on. This is the root of their obstructionism, from which stems all the actions they’ve taken, and even seems at times to be obstructionism for its own sake – they oppose whatever Obama does and says simply by virtue of him doing or saying it. Opposing him is what they stand for, is what defines them, and is their overwhelming and superseding goal.

And they have just about said as much. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is a big player in the Republican party, is widely quoted as having said, two years into Obama’s first term, “my number one priority is making sure president Obama’s a one-term president.”

Number one priority.

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The statehouses in a few Democratic-leaning states are…quiet…too quiet…

Senior Republicans say they will try to leverage their party’s majorities in Democratic-leaning states in an effort to end the winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes. Instead, bills that will be introduced in several Democratic states would award electoral votes on a proportional basis.

Already, two states — Maine and Nebraska — award an electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. The candidate who wins the most votes statewide takes the final two at-large electoral votes. Only once, when President Obama won a congressional district based in Omaha in 2008, has either of those states actually split their vote.

But if more reliably blue states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were to award their electoral votes proportionally, Republicans would be able to eat into what has become a deep Democratic advantage.

All three states have given the Democratic nominee their electoral votes in each of the last six presidential elections. Now, senior Republicans in Washington are overseeing legislation in all three states to end the winner-take-all system.

“What’s he building in there…”

Well Tom, apparently a way to subvert the nature of democracy in at least three states, in an effort to pull the rug out from under future Democratic presidential candidates, according to this article. So much for the Incredible Changing GOP. They don’t want to ever have to change…ever. They’d rather buy the store.

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Romney’s loss on November 6th came as a relief to many people, myself included. Unfortunately for him, the judgement passed on him, and more importantly, the decision not to vote for him, was not entirely dependent on his opinions or actions. In fact, it wasn’t even mostly dependent on his opinons or actions. For me, and for many people, the scariest thing about Mitt Romney was the party he represented.

Romney’s policies are one thing, and there is plenty of fault I could and did find with them, but that largely was not the issue I voted on. In the current political climate, I thought it would be immensely damaging to the country to put someone in the Oval Office who could be at all beholden to the current Republican party, as radical and unstable as it has become, and far more damaging than anything Obama was or is likely to do. Romney, the former moderate governor of Massachusetts (and I would have been a lot more likely to vote for him if he’d stuck to those positions) flipped hard right in order to win the Republican primaries – particularly in states like Iowa and Texas – by changing positions to portray himself as “severely conservative,” in order to appease the increasingly radical Republican party (with its increasingly relevant and powerful fringe). Whatever his motivation was, this sets up a precedent for doing whatever he had to do – appeasing whoever he needed to – in order to win. A Romney win would have provided a conduit, if you will, for the radicals to possibly have influence over the Oval Office. This, in essence, is the main reason he lost my vote, and, I believe, the votes of many, many other moderates. The allegations that Romney would simply “rubberstamp the Tea Party agenda” – of which there were many – rang too true. As National Review columnist Ramesh Ponnuru put it, “Romney was not a drag on the Republican party. The Republican party was a drag on him.” This, to me, is the number one reason it is good Romney did not win the presidency.

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