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What Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert show us about America's true political center

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Jacquelyn Martin / AP

(Read caption) Themes of peaceful disagreement, rational discourse, and politeness prevailed among homemade signs at Saturday's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington. The rally, blending laughs and political activism, drew thousands to the National Mall Oct. 30, with comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert casting themselves as the unlikely maestros of moderation and civility in polarized times.

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The true center of American politics isn’t found where most of us agree. We fiercely disagree. That’s not a problem. Democracy assumes disagreement.

The true center is about how we resolve those disagreements. Most of us believe we should work them out respectfully.

We don’t believe in winning political arguments through bullying, name-calling, lying, intimidating, or using violence.

In other words, the political center isn’t about what we decide It’s about how we decide. A central tenet of American democracy is a commitment vigorous debate, done honestly and civilly.

That’s why some of what we’ve been witnessing recently is troubling.

Consider the foot-stomping incident in Kentucky by Rand Paul supporters, just outside a Senate debate. Or Alaska GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller’s security detail handcuffing a reporter from a liberal-leaning website.

Consider last year’s congressional town hall meetings where members of Congress were shouted down, a Tampa town hall meeting turned violent, and gunshots were fired at Democratic campaign headquarters in Arizona.

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