Politics always have been contentious; but at the end of the day, liberals and conservatives once worked for the same team: the American people. Today, extremists have hijacked the political process and carved up the Constitution to fit their personal agendas. Soon their super-PACs will troll for voters using tall tales for bait.

Party fanatics surround themselves with like-minded people, limiting their exposure to fresh ideas. They are bound and blinded by hatred. This makes the prospect of learning from one's opponents or finding common ground unlikely. Political zealots use terms like "freedom," "liberty," or, "family values" to trigger emotional reactions. But they don't explain their meaning. For example, freedom from what? Liberty to do what? Or, whose family's values are we talking about?

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As a whole, neither liberals nor conservatives are corrupt, crazy, racist, or evil incarnate. The two sides have vastly different moral foundations and worldviews, but both groups are patriotic and intelligent. Political morality is not impervious to compromise. It is possible for a compassionate nation to be accountable and reward hard work instead of greed. We don't have to remove the safety net for those who would help themselves if only they could. In addition, the government can protect against corporate criminals and maintain stewardship of the planet without over-restricting individual freedom.

It is time to confront the gridlock imposed by extremists and their congressional patrons and hold their feet to the fire. We hired our legislators to lead and to solve problems, not to promote intransigence.

The real power in the next election is in the hands of moderate, independent voters. They are a muscle that will grow stronger with use.

Gary Gordon