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By Joan Blades and Ralph Benko


Back in a previous millennium, when we were much younger and carefree, a certain paradoxical question was au courant: “What happens when the irresistible force meets the immovable object?”

As it happens, we know something about this.

Joan Blades, an infamous progressive, has unleashed at least three irresistible forces in her long career.

First, she and her husband, Wes Boyd, via their company Berkeley Systems/After Dark, created the iconic flying toaster screen saver (which prevented burn-in on the cathode ray tubes of millions of pre-flat-panel-display PCs (creating the defining desktop aesthetic of the 1990s). It is “a cherished piece of computing history.”

Joan, again with her husband Wes, then created MoveOn, bringing in half a million underrepresented citizens to fight the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

Clinton survived the impeachment trial in the Senate, proving himself unremovable if not, necessarily, immovable. Then MoveOn moved on to attempt to avert America’s feckless invasion of Iraq, another immovable object.

Joan then went on to co-found Moms Rising to advocate for heretical propositions such as a child care tax credit to lift millions of children out of poverty. It recently passed the majority Republican House and is now pending in the majority Democratic Senate.

Turns out that voting for motherhood, like apple pie, is good politics as well as good policy! Who knew?

Notorious paleoconservative Ralph Benko, a card-carrying member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (low serial number!), must ipso facto represent the immovable object. He was called by The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten “the second most conservative man in the world” for his gold standard advocacy.

Ralph presents a pretty good case study in the power of knuckle dragging to induce … immovability.

The two of us have lived through many political iterations of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object, waging relentless political warfare against one another. We have learned a few valuable lessons pertinent to the current trench warfare between the far left and far right.

We, inadvertently, adduced proof of Bohr’s postulate (named after the great physicist Niels Bohr):How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.”

It also is a permutation of Bohr’s motto on his self-designed family crest: “Contraria sunt complementa.” Opposites are complementary.

This proposition may seem paradoxical. Because, you know, it is.

Rather than one side or the other prevailing, the discovery of a paradox opens the possibility of transformation.

This is by no means a counsel of compromise, certainly not of compromising our principles. It simply creates the possibility of transformation rather than domination.

Joan, for the better part of a decade, has been off on a new quest, having co-founded Living Room Conversations, in which Ralph participated for several years before refocusing his energies into restoring the internet to its conservative communitarian ethos.

Joan’s purpose in what is perhaps the most dangerously (to the entrenched power elites) radical of her ventures to date? To generate a civil and productive dialogue between the left and the right, inviting a healthy competition rather than guerre à outrance (all out war).

We of the left and right are talking past one another. During this political cycle Joan is shepherdessing a national series of local conversations on trust in elections.

Joan’s experience at LRC strongly suggests that there are many areas of potentially fruitful mutual collaboration, without either side compromising an iota on cherished principles. There are many issues ripe for a cooperative resolution!

Let’s find these and get a virtuous cycle going!

We offer you the distillation of our collective four score and seven years of political field experience at scale. Use Bohr’s postulate.

How wonderful that you have met with a paradox.

Now you have some hope of making progress.

Join our cause and there’s a fighting chance of cutting the Gordian knot of the angry tribalism that is now confounding our politics. To learn how you can join the cause, contact joan@livingroomconversations.org.


Joan Blades is Co-Founder of AllSides for Schools, LivingRoomConversations.orgMomsRising.org and MoveOn.org. She has a Left bias.

Ralph Benko, co-author of The Capitalist Manifesto, co-founder and chairman of the 200,000+ follower Capitalist League, founder of the Prosperity Caucus, was a Reagan White House official, OG supply-sider, and is an internationally award-winning and critically acclaimed writer. He is co-founder of and general counsel to F1R3FLY. Io, a hyperdimensional computing venture. He has a Right bias.

This piece was reviewed and edited by Isaiah Anthony, Deputy Blog Editor (Center bias).