Somewhere along the line, politics replaced sex as the one thing in America we don’t discuss in mixed company– even amongst friends and family.
Several months ago, my 17-year-old son accused me of being one of the most intolerant people he had ever met when it comes to politics. He said I didn’t listen to people with different points of view and that I wouldn’t even know if the other side had a good idea. Like most people, I hate divisive politics, but until that moment, I had not identified myself as part of the problem. Something has to change.
That’s when Bring It to the Table was born. Over the next six months, my crew and I brought a star-spangled Table on tour across America, setting it up in public places such as bookstores, bakeries, barbershops and libraries, asking voters to sit down and speak candidly about their political beliefs. No hysterics. No ranting. Just genuine discussion aimed at peeling away the stereotypes that dominate today’s political debate.
Democracy is founded on robust dialogue, and if we can’t have conversations across party lines, democracy doesn’t work. At the Table, people are given the space to express the complexity and contradictions inherent in everyone’s beliefs. We veer away from finger-pointing and we delve deeply into the personal experiences that shape people’s convictions. The discussions are about values and ideas, not candidates.
Our journey took us to nine states, the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, two college campuses and one retirement community. We were embraced at a Baptist church in Georgia, and we attempted to speak with autoworkers in Ohio who were not very receptive of our cameras. We had Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Constitutionalists sit at our Table. We had conservatives, liberals and people who prefer to think of themselves on a “three-dimensional paradigm.” Cumulatively, the 120 people who have sat at the Table so far have proven that most of us don’t fit into the tidy little partisan boxes that political consultants have created for us.
Every day through the election, tv.msnbc.com will share a video from the Table. These videos bring citizens with differing opinions who are thoughtfully weighing in with their opinions such issues as abortion, economic stimulus, taxation, and social and corporate welfare. We hope this sparks a discussion that endures far beyond who wins the White House. After November 6, visit the Bring It to the Table website to see additional Table Talks.
Bring It to the Table producer Julie Winokur is founding director of Talking Eyes Media, a non-profit organization with a long history of producing documentaries and multimedia on pressing national issues. The project is partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign and was created by Jessey Dearing, Elissa Pellegrino, Andrew Hida, Julie Turkewitz, Sasha Jiwani, Lauren Glading, Mara Mellstrom and Becky Kumar.