Liberal pundit Sally Kohn is on Yahoo! this morning with an article titled "What I learned as a liberal talking head on Fox News." She learned conservatives were personable and human.
What? Yes, she says that would amaze "fellow liberals who had not watched much Fox News but had seen the most outlandish clips of Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity that had made it to 'The Daily Show' or YouTube. They perhaps imagined that walking down the hallway outside makeup, Mr. O'Reilly might yell then, too, instead of just saying hello. That's a funny notion, but it couldn't be further from the truth."
The obvious thought here is: Why can't liberals just turn on Fox News for themselves and spend an hour? Why must they only watch it after it's "curated" by Jon Stewart? I thought liberals were the "open-minded" people that considered all viewpoints. (Okay, sarcasm isn't my strong suit.) Kohn continued:
My time at Fox News was marked by meeting and working with some of the kindest, smartest, and most talented people I've had the pleasure of meeting in life. As I said in my TED talk, Sean Hannity is one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet – and even now that I've parted ways with Fox, he remains a good friend and mentor.
For a radical progressive who once harbored negative stereotypes about folks on the right, it was a turning point for me to meet people such as Mr. Hannity, Karl Rove, Monica Crowley, Sarah Palin, and so many others, and see that – though we certainly disagree profoundly on political issues – they're personable and kind and human. Just like me.
It's strange to suggest that a seemingly simple realization such as that is in fact a profound revelation, but in our hyperpartisan era, when we often vilify the other side as being less-than-human, it is.
Once I had that experience with some of the most visible voices on "the other side" – in my case, the right – it was an easy leap to find connection and compassion with everyday conservative audiences. These aren't evil people, either, or stupid, or any of the other things that some liberals, in their lowest moments, have suggested. In fact, in many cases, I've learned that the ideological labels that feel so firm and unyielding among the professional political class are rather malleable among ordinary Americans.
Most people just want a better life for themselves and their kids. And they're worried about the things they see as barriers to that opportunity – whether it's big banks gobbling up all the money and real estate titles or higher taxes or struggling public schools or the cost of food. In real communities in real places across the United States, I've found that liberals and conservatives share many of the same concerns and problems and simply gravitate toward two different sides in searching for solutions.
Kohn made an obvious point that if you want to convince people to share your viewpoint, you can't be viciously hostile.