Breaking America’s Political Trance

A Conversation About Our Relationship with Political Culture

On Wednesday, September 19th, Living Room Conversations & the Transpartisan Review will begin a series of conversations exploring our relationship with political culture and the important issues defining it using the Living Room Conversation method.

Beginning with an online conversation and leading to a face-to-face small group meeting at the 2018 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation, this dialogue series will explore an idea: does polarization and the deterioration of relationships between people with differing opinions interfere with the objectivity needed to solve problems in our communities, and does this translate to a “political trance” on the national level, encouraging political hostility and widening the political divide?

For more information about the conversation please contact Jacob Hess, co-director of Village Square Utah, at jzhess[at]  For technical questions and info about the NCDD event, please contact Andy Fluke, co-founder of NCDD, at andy[at]

Our (Virtual) Living Room Conversation

Our conversation will be facilitated using the Living Room Conversation method. If you have not participated in this method before you will find all the information you need in the short pdf document linked below.   It offers an Overview & Explanation of our conversation, explains the Conversation Agreements participants are asked to embrace, and offers a Feedback Form to help assess the experience.

To prepare for the conversation, please download the following files:

Breaking America’s Political Trance – Conversation Guide [PDF]

Instructions For Joining The Conversation [PDF]

If possible, please print out the conversation guide in preparation for our first conversation. The instruction pdf has the links you need to test and join the Zoom video call.

Below you will find a description of our topic along with a set of questions we will be incorporationg into the Living Room Conversation.

Breaking America’s Political Trance

What’s going on in the U.S. today? The answers to this question – the stories we share – have become surprisingly different. Perspectives from each side of the “political divide” seem not only incompatible, but increasingly combative.

As political hostility rises in America, many people are wondering if we’ve fallen into a collective funk or a rage-filled delusion… or maybe even, a trance?

In response to the almost hypnotic, reflexive reactions that currently paralyze politics, Jim Turner and Lawry Chickering have developed a creative “Transpartisan Matrix” which steps away from simplistic left/right classifications to a more nuanced language that honors truth from all political perspectives.

This tool offers both a starting point and a three-dimensional guide for the conversations we need to be having in his country; conversations that endeavor to “break” the partisan trance and focus on the shared needs and responsibilities of all citizens.

So, where do we start?

Questions for the Conversation

The following questions encourage you to share your personal experience with political tension, cultural polarity, and the resulting hostilities challenging productive engagement and problem solving.

  • How would you categorize yourself politically and how has this point of view evolved over your lifetime?
  • What benefits are there to more nuanced political categorization, especially when explored through the use of tools like the Transpartisan Matrix?
  • What is your best understanding of what has gone wrong with our political culture and how has it affected you personally? What underlying beliefs or assumptions should be challenged to benefit the political climate?
  • Please share personal experiences with both unproductive and healthy political engagement. What does it take to encourage each side to listen to one another and discourage repetitive arguments and hostile rhetoric?
  • Have you ever been so frustrated, fearful, or angry that it influenced your personal perspective? Tell us what that was like – and what you learned. How do you believe these primal emotions encourage “partisan trances” or influence the nature of political conversations?
  • Likewise, have you ever experienced dramatic change in yourself or others when it was possible to move beyond fear and anger? Tell us what happened.
More About the Transpartisan Matrix

Jim Turner and Lawry Chickering have authored a series of Transpartisan Notes over the past two years, many of which have examined both current and historical topics from the perspective of the Transpartisan Matrix. We invite you to learn more about this perspective by exploring the following Notes.

Shared Rights In Public Space: A Transpartisan Key
Note #103 – People working together for the common good build strong democracies. Strong democracies build strong communities and strong countries.

The Transpartisan Matrix: Help Understanding Our Volatile Politics
Note #78 – The Four Quadrant Transpartisan Matrix will help us find opportunities and manage threats.

The Transpartisan Matrix: Help Understanding Our Volatile Politics II
Note #79 – Individuals participating in electoral efforts provide real opportunities for the big brand parties.

David Brooks & The Matrix
Note #93 – Brooks argues that excessive individualism is undermining the institutions essential for society to exist.

MATRIX: Broadening the Left/Right Spectrum
Note #52 – People feel an increasing desire for active citizenship that is found in all successful social models.

Authoritarians, Half the Matrix
Note #21 – The problem is deep divisions in our society’s political party culture.

The Many Faces Of Transpartisan I
Note #10 – The contemporary Transpartisan movement appears to have two quite different faces.

The Many Faces Of Transpartisan II
Note #11 – Left and right agree that both freedom and order are essential for solutions to social issues.