The pair spoke yesterday at an event at the Brookings Institution, which presented The Forgotten Americans: An Economic Agenda for a Divided Nation, a book by Brookings senior fellow Isabel Sawill. They have similar ideas of what should be in that agenda. But bipartisan arrangements have a branding problem, the governors complained. “Right now, anytime you compromise you’re seen as a victim in some way, or a traitor,” said Hickenlooper. That obscures the common values Americans share, he added.

“We believe that everybody ought to have the opportunity to create their own version of the American dream… I don’t think that’s moderate. I think that is the way the country was intended,” said Hickenlooper.

America’s shared principles first

Finding common principles is how you get productive conversations started, added Kasich. For example, the condition for joining a working group he created in Ohio to reduce gun violence was that members had to support the 2nd Amendment. The discussion then became about how to limit it, he said.

That approach would have been a better way for Trump to nominate a new Supreme Court Justice, according to Kasich. A conservative appointment was a given, since the president is a Republican. But instead of imposing Brett Kavanaugh, Trump might have gathered a bipartisan group of prominent politicians to discuss which conservative they could back. “If you can agree on the principles, the details is what you hammer out,”  said Kasich.

But he admitted that most Americans aren’t talking about principles, and have little patience for wonky details. “We have this tendency today to give attention to that person who screams the loudest,” he said, recalling the Republican primary debates in which he faced then presidential candidate Donald Trump. “The whole key was how can you say something so incendiary that they are forced to cover it the next day.”

Moderates, too, have to find a way to grab voters’ attention so that people don’t gravitate towards political extremes, he said. “The real trick is to figure out how the middle is not boring,” he added.

He didn’t offer any ideas for how to solve that problem, though.

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