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For four years, Diane Hessan has been in weekly conversation with voters across the United States. What she has learned will surprise you, enlighten you, give you hope, and change the way you think about your fellow Americans.
Our inability to hear each other, our suspicion, and our impatience is stressing us out and tearing us apart. It’s a sickness that permeates the American culture, erodes our collective mental health, and makes us hate each other.
To gain insight into how we can move forward, Hessan undertook a massive listening project, conducting an ongoing series of weekly interviews with 500 voters from every state, of every age and ethnicity, and along different points of the political spectrum. The topics ranged from race to guns, from character to party politics, from masks to rallies, from the Supreme Court to the pandemic to immigration and climate change. After more than a million individual communications, two things became clear:
We have more common ground than we realize.
And we are, sadly, failing at understanding each other.
On issue after issue, our “divided” nation isn’t nearly as polarized as we imagine. An overwhelming majority of voters believe in commonsense gun licensing and regulation. They are pro-immigration. They believe climate change is real and the coronavirus is deadly. They care deeply about their families and are willing to work hard to make ends meet. And, they believe that Washington is slow, bureaucratic, and not working in their best interests.
In dozens of columns on these topics published in the Boston Globe, Hessan has upended common political wisdom. Presented together for the first time as part of this book, they reveal a unique perspective on how Americans actually think, what they value, and how we can move forward.
The path to healing our divided nation is both simple and profound. We must turn down the heat. We must begin to listen, to stop presuming, to try to understand, to treat each other with dignity, and to know that most Americans are not crazy radicals. We truly share common ground. If we can pull together, we can have a much better America.
“At a time when too many people engaged in public life are talking past each other, Diane Hessan makes a very strong case for doing less of that and much more listening. The people who talk to Diane and to each other give me hope. They are where the best selves of this nation will come from.” —Charlie Baker, governor of Massachusetts
“Diane Hessan’s tremendous skill of getting people to share, candidly, how they really feel ... enables her to analyze and write, with balanced perspective, about what is truly happening in people’s hearts and minds. This book is must-read insight into the mind of American voters.” —Linda Henry, CEO, the Boston Globe
“As a member of Congress who was on the House Floor the day the angry political mob attacked the US Capitol, you better believe I have a vested interest in moving our political dialogue to a better and more civil place. Diane Hessan and her book—if read, discussed, absorbed, and acted on—offer one way to do that.” —Cheri Bustos, US Congresswoman from Illinois
“A simple lesson in human interaction—the importance of listening as a gateway to understanding and the foundation for bridging differences—is the cornerstone of Hessan’s timely and hopeful book. Our Common Ground is a how-to for modern politics from an expert.” —Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts
“Hessan uncovers how politicians misinform voters about each other, how the media unwittingly helps them, and how we can take back our national unity. This is a book of hope. We have more common ground than we realize, Hessan says, and we can claim it.” —Donna Brazile, veteran political strategist, campaign manager, and Fox News contributor
“Diane Hessan’s informative, nuanced new book could not come at a more important time. Hessan has tried to reach beyond our divides by understanding what values Americans hold in common. Readers on both sides of the political divide will benefit from reading this book.” —Linda Chavez, director of public liaison, Reagan White House
“With plainspoken but brilliant objective analysis of everyday voters, Hessan fills the niche of in-depth insight once filled by: Eric Hoffer, Studs Terkel, Gail Sheehy, and Mike Barnicle.” —Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean and Lester Crown professor of the practice, Yale School of Management