The Power of Living Room Conversations

Joan Blades and Van Jones

Living Room Conversations: Building a Healthier Democracy

Living Room Conversations: The Spark That Will Forever Change the Landscape of Democracy.

Treasonous Friendships by Jacob Hess.

*Note about audio, the microphones are turned on at about 2 minutes.

Living Room Conversations is presented as a dialogue tool and practice for citizens to rebuild our trust in one another, separating our friendships from our political views. In this era of political identity and tribal tendencies, Joan Blades and Mark Meckler provide a refreshing perspective.

Moderated by Archon Fung, the conversation between Blades and Meckler will cover the root problems of democratic dysfunction and possible paths forward on policy issues where there is potential for left-right common ground. Ultimately, how do increase the capacity of the American democratic process and give people greater voice in our political system?

News Articles

Are Police Stealing People’s Property?

January 5, 2015 11:25 am

Our asset forfeiture laws are a mess, and they’re letting cops confiscate property. Left and right ought to agree on this one.

“Don’t even bother getting a lawyer. The money always stays here.”

That’s what the Tenaha Police Department told 27-year-old Arkansan James Morrow after they confiscated $3,900 from his car for “driving too close to the white line.” The police reported the “odor of burned marijuana,” though no drugs were found in the car. Morrow was carted off to jail, while the car was impounded.

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Living Room Conversations Can Lead to More Effective Crime Control

December 9, 2014 12:56 pm
When we treat mental illness and substance abuse as criminal offenses, our communities experience unintended consequences. People with mental illness and substance abuse issues do indeed break the law. Fearing them, we spend enormous amounts of money maintaining and staffing jails and prisons and building new ones. Although the cost of incarceration exceeds the cost of treatment, including education and rehab programs; the latter programs actually decrease recidivism. The state Assembly Bill 109, Public Safety Realignment, was signed in 2011 and implemented quickly. A federal court ordered, and the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, that California drastically decrease the number of prisoners in state prisons. Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature not only punted the overcrowding problem to the counties but also, in AB109, took the opportunity to increase rehabilitation programs for nonsexual, nonviolent, and nonserious offenders. The passage of Prop 47, which offers a reduced sentence for many of the same offenders, increases demand for rehab programs. Read more here:

Reinvent Bipartisanship Roundtable Recap

December 8, 2014 8:44 pm
Political polarization in the United States is not a Washington DC problem, it's an American people problem. But because it's a people problem, the ultimate solution lies with them, with us. This roundtable pulled together folks from left, right and center and came up a range of ideas on how to fix the culture in the long-term, and tactically make progress in DC now. In the end, we did find much common ground and everyone felt more hopeful that America could work as one people once again. You will too. Our anchor on the progressive side is Joan Blades, who co-founded in the late 1990s and, in 2011, cofounded Living Room Conversations that catalyzes face-to-face conversations between people with very different politics. Our anchor on the conservative side is Jacob Hess, who coauthored a book on liberal-conservative dialogue, You’re Not as Crazy as I Thought (But You’re Still Wrong). Participants include: Jackie Salit, president of and former manager of Michael Bloomberg's three campaigns for New York City mayor on the Independence Party line. Richard Tafel, founder/president of Public Squared & founding executive director of Log Cabin Republicans Debilyn Molineaux, president of Coffee Party USA Elisa Batista, associate campaign director at Lawrence Chickering, founder/president of Educate Girls Globally & author of two books on "transpartisan politics" Watch the video here:

This Is the One Thing the Right and Left Are Working Together On In Congress

May 7, 2014 8:35 pm
Joan Blades and Grover Norquist It's time to get right on crime. There is gridlock in Congress. A Republican House can veto any progressive idea advanced by President Obama. The Democratic Senate and the presidential veto can shut down any conservative proposal by Republicans. Taxes are not likely to go up or down much for the next three years. Spending is largely set by the sequester. We know what cannot be accomplished because of gridlock. Read More

Changing the World from Your Living Room

November 15, 2013 1:30 pm
"When you combine the power dynamics involved, the media magnification of conflicts and the underlying influence of moneyed interests, it's difficult to imagine anything really changing between political opponents. Until, that is, you sit with them in your own living room, bedroom, kitchen or whatever space you happen to have available. Here's how it works: Two friends with differing views agree to co-host a conversation about a subject on which they disagree. Each co-host then invites two other friends to join them. Those attending agree to six simple ground rules that are designed to ensure respectful listening, relationship building and a discovery of potential common ground. " Joan Blades, Co-Founder and Jacob Hess, Living Room Conversation Champion. Read More Here:

Beyond Angels and Demons

November 6, 2013 5:45 pm
"I believe it’s crucial that we pay careful, regular attention to the narratives that surround us. If we’re not listening to the ways that distinct and powerful stories shape our experiences, then we’re more likely to demonize, vilify andcondemn our political opponents as ignorant or unworthy. That isn't the best way to start a relationship, let alone move towards collaboration and shared work together." Jacob Hess, Living Room Conversation Champion. Read More Here:

Breaking Partisan Gridlock Over a Cup of Tea

November 1, 2013 1:41 pm
The story that isn’t making it onto the nightly news is this: a growing number of Americans, fed up with partisan dysfunction at the federal level, are re-imagining democracy at the local level. And I mean the really, really local level—as in their own living rooms, libraries, churches, and coffee shops. Neighbours and friends, sometimes ideologically opposed, are gathering and making a concerted effort to talk through some of the most contentious and critical issues facing America. Read More here:

Talk is Deep – The Moon Magazine

August 16, 2013 11:18 pm
August 5, 2013 "It’s a very hopeful, energizing experience. You walk into the conversation anxious and worried whether people will be civil, because we’ve all seen “bad behavior” in the media, and then you find out that you like these people. And you’re intrigued by some of your differences. You’ve never thought about some things in the way they do, and all of a sudden, you get a flash of insight, “Oh, that’s where this is coming from! I understand now.” Read the complete interview with Joan Blades  

A Progressive And A Tea Partier In Complete Agreement? — Upworthy

April 18, 2013 5:54 pm
Mark Meckler (co-founder, Tea Party Patriots) and Joan Blades (co-founder, come from opposite ends of the political spectrum and should be mortal enemies if the current level of political discourse in Washington D.C. is anything to go by. Instead, they found a way to calmly share their beliefs and discovered that while "right" and "left" obviously don't agree on everything, they share a lot more common ground than anyone thought. WATCH the video NOW!’s Co-Founder Has The Tea Party’s Co-Founder Over For…Tea —

January 22, 2013 5:49 pm
It was only a living room conversation.  But: this living room conversation, earlier in the month, was between two clashing political titans: the co-founder, Joan Blades, and the co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, the largest and most authentic of the Tea Party groups, Mark Meckler.  Neither represented their respective organizations; they were there in their personal capacities only.  Tabula rasa, all to the good. A great rapport, without compromising principles, developed. Read More!    
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