You're Not as Crazy as I Thought (But You're Still Wrong)


You're Not as Crazy as I Thought (But You're Still Wrong)

Conversations between a Die-Hard Liberal and a Devoted Conservative

Phil Neisser and Jacob Hess

230 pages


April 2012


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eBook (PDF)
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May 2012


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About the Book

Americans have been divided along political lines for so long that they have nearly forgotten how to talk to one another, much less how to listen. This is not likely to improve as long as differences between them continue to be cast in overly simplistic terms, such as “ignorance” vs. “enlightened awareness” or “morality” vs. “reprobate immorality.” Such dichotomies ignore the fact that many citizens who disagree politically nonetheless share a desire to work for the larger good of society.

Phil Neisser, a self-described “left-wing atheist,” first met Jacob Hess, a social conservative, at the 2008 proceedings of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation. After discovering a shared commitment to cross-party dialogue, they embarked together on a yearlong attempt to practice what they preached. In this book they share the result by exploring the boundaries of core disagreements about morality, power, gender roles, sexuality, race, big government, big business, and big media.

Each chapter revolves around an issue explored in depth through back-and-forth, lively question and response. This nuanced, iterative process was transformative for both authors, and could likewise serve as a valuable resource for anyone—liberal or conservative—who feels disillusioned by today’s often shallow, demagogic public discourse.

Author Bio

JACOB HESS is the research director at Utah Youth Village, a nonprofit for abused children and families in crisis.  In 2004 he helped to develop and co-facilitate a liberal-conservative dialogue course at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign--the first of its kind in the nation.  He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.  


"This book is a wonderfully entertaining, provocative, and engaging read, as well as an antidote to the 24/7 news cycle of instant punditry and screaming headlines. The authors’ spirit of passionate, yet respectful, engagement brought forth nuances that were illuminating and surprising. By exploring their views on contentious issues and posing tough questions to flesh out each other’s perspectives, they have made a genuine contribution to American political life. More of us could benefit from leaving the ‘comfort zone’ and sticking our necks out to connect with people who have very different ideas from our own."—Dave Joseph, vice president, Public Conversations Project

"One of the toughest divides to bridge is that between liberals and conservatives. Yet Neisser and Hess pull it off, and without compromising their principles or forcing agreement when it’s just not there. Their journey together is engrossing and inspiring: they listen carefully to each other, ask plenty of questions, and have fun. In doing so, they offer a model of thoughtful deliberative practice, something sorely needed in these polarizing times."—Sandy Heierbacher, director, National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation

"I've been so disheartened with what I see going on in the political world these days that I found myself engaged in this book from the start. What I read gives me hope that if more people tried out what Neisser and Hess have done, this country could move away from political posturing and toward reasoned discussion of the many issues that divide us."—Dr. Joycelyn Landrum-Brown, program coordinator, Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign