After 40 Years, Friends with Different Political Perspectives Discuss if the US Can Overcome Polarization


Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Leahy was joined at the WHO studios in Des Moines, Iowa with long time friends Jim Larew and Nancy Zweng.

During the second hour, all three friends agreed that there was cause for concern about the obvious polarization in the nation. Leahy and Larew advocated for people to come together and talk about what their issues are on both sides of the aisle. Zweng concurred stating that although our views are different it was important that we remind ourselves “We the People” and what that stands for.

Leahy: In the studio with two good friends from 40 years ago of Harvard days. Nancy Zweng from California who came in to help the Joe Biden campaign in Iowa. Jim Larew, our long time ambassador to the Democratic presidential field. We’ve known each other for along time. And we’ve been friends for a long time.

You’re on a different political perspective than I am. And most of our listening audience is conservative. You’re not. Republican. Democrat. Here’s my big concern, and we’ll start with you Nancy because you made the trip from California. Are we doomed as a country to break up?

Are we able to have unity among the polarized elements of the country? You know that map of the United States by the county after 2016? You’ve got the big center of the United States where 90% of the counties were red. Then you have about 80 counties on the coasts.

You live in one of those counties on the coast that is blue. Not just blue, but deep blue where it’s 3 to 1 against Trump and Hillary. You were involved in the Hillary Clinton campaign as well. Is this country going to break up or can we overcome this polarization? What’s your view, Nancy?

Zweng: What I think we need though is candidates. Not just at the presidential level but all the way down the line that really stress our original founding values. I think if we just remind ourselves what “We the People” and what that stands for. And that we are trying to form a more perfect union that we are striving to be that shining city on a hill.

I think people rise to that. They rise to those ideals. And people believe in fair play. People believe in being honest. Americans at the basis of value, are much more aligned. I’ve got many members of my family who are quite conservative. My uncle is a card-carrying member of the John Birch Society.

Leahy: That was way back when.

Zweng: He was my godfather, and we were incredibly close. So you don’t have to forget your humanity when you’re having these political discussions. I just wish people would go in with a more open mind to find out what the other side is thinking and what drives them to their conclusions.

Because maybe you don’t agree with every step of the way, but if you respect the person and their viewpoints and their values then you are at least starting to form a dialogue and create a basis.

Leahy: So you know when you said that going back to the founding principles of the country. You sounded like all of our listeners. But you’re Democratic and support Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. But what you said is exactly what our listeners say, and we’ll get to this in a bit.

We have strong support for the Constitution on this program. Nancy, you don’t know this, but we’ve written a book about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for secondary students. We have a Constitution Bee every year in Tennessee. And we’re expanding it nationally. But what you just said, going back to the principles of the Constitution. Everyone in our listening audience would agree with that. Jim, what’s your take on this?

Larew: Here is something that we are missing that we had even 50 years ago in my lifetime. For the lack of a better word, I would call it the “mediating institutions.” We need to invent them to keep up with the incredible brilliant inventions of the radio, Facebook and social media and the way people are talking to each other. And I don’t think we’ve planned it, but it’s how it is at the moment is that we are talking with just like-minded people.

Leahy: One of the great things that you’ve done Jim, is you reached out to me and we talked about this. It was a driving force in our conversations. I’ll characterize this. You are about as far left as I am far right and yet we’re friends. And we are able to have a conversation.

Having that conversation was very important to you and that’s why you put up with our wake up calls to you at six o’clock in the morning where you are not quite prepared for it, but you go with it and are a good sport about it.

Larew: At the end of the day, you and I even and your listeners have so much more in common, there is no other place we’d rather live than in the United States. We might have a preference in our own states. But we enjoy visiting each other’s states. So we have all that in common.

But we don’t necessarily have places to mediate and to recognize what we have in common. I had an experience with Nancy that was interesting to me at least. I was explaining to her when we went to one of the iconic restaurants in Iowa City called Hamburg Inn #2. Every presidential candidate goes there at least once. President Reagan went there in 1988. And ever since then people running for president go there.

I was explaining to her that now its a comparable reach out, there’s a county chair who I’ve been trying for the last couple of years, in particular, to meet with coffee once every month or two. He’s a Libertarian Republican. He’s smart as a whip.

Leahy: He sounds like a great guy. My kind of guy.

Larew: I learn a lot by talking to him.

Leahy: Talking to him, but not over him.

Larew: No way. I’m listening to him.

Listen to the second hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio






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