There is a difference between policy and principle. People of bright minds and good faith can disagree about policies, but principles are usually pretty universal. Nobody is really anti-liberty, or anti-charity, but between policy and principle is priority, and that affects how the latter is realized as the former. That’s where people on the political spectrum differ. Focusing on foundational principles, though, will help us build on common ground.
A good example might be what seem to be the most disparate groups in American politics today: the Democratic Party and the Tea Party. Since the emergence of the Tea Party about three years ago, liberals and their friends in the media have often and openly vilified these conservatives, and largely acted kinder towards the mainstream Republicans that they had previously contested with in the court of public opinion. Maybe it’s an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” thing.
This is unfortunate. The Tea Party and many liberals have something in common here. Why does the Tea Party exist? Because they feel that the mainstream Republican Party has failed them. (Consider how many mainstream Republicans have jumped on the anti-Tea Party propaganda bandwagon so the kids at the cool table will like them.) They needed a homemade outlet to protest the betrayal of conservative ideals in exchange for political success.
So some of their principles might include empowering citizens in their right to petition for redress, and calling for an end to waste and corruption by those in power, by demanding accountability from leaders. Aren’t these things good people of all political stripes can get behind? Yes, we can and should debate each other vigorously about fiscal policy, and all kinds of policy, but can we at least recognize when there are underlying principles that we share?