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This is fascinating. I hope the discussants are right in their guarded optimism for effective public compromise on these thorny issues. But I have a fundamental doubt (I should declare that I am a social-democratic European transplant).

I used to think that the difference between right and left was less in their goals, and more in they way they wanted to achieve them - left believing that government was fundamentally effective and right that it is fundamentally ineffective, with the right prepared to accept a somewhat higher degree of inequality as inevitable/acceptable. But the nature of the dialogue currently in the US has caused me to change my perspective. Instead, I hear very heavy emphasis on the right on personal responsibility, tinged with considerable resentment. Those who don't make it didn't make it for a reason. It is their problem. I will not "subsidize" them. I will not pay for anything that I (or mine) do not directly benefit from.

I find this distressingly unkind. In any welfare system there are always freeloaders, and we have to do all we can to stop that happening and ensure that our systems help to move people up not allow them to stay down. But our society will also always have the less fortunate. And I truly believe that noone on the right would want to live with the consequences of not properly caring from them if cause and effect could be effectively demonstrated.

I, personally, find it hard to listen to or want to compromise with those who have such an unkind attitude.

The participants also make me wonder if this divisive dialog is only at the political level and not reflected in public attitudes - in other words, that media sensationa is most of the problem. I wish that were true but I fear not.

Finally, I know the participants are trying to get away from partisan bickering but it's kind of difficult to listen without hearing anything about the elephant in the room - that even moderate and (formerly) respected Republicans have come out to say that their party has been far more radical in its refusal to compromise than the Democrats. The latter have also been guilty of poor leadership on many occasions, but I think a key issue for the US is the radicalization of the Republican party and how to reverse that. Talking about bipartisan compromise without mentioning this issue.......well, it's not very effective.

Good luck to the moderates in their efforts.