I like everything you said, but I believe there's a bit more to it than that if we want to fix our country. People who listen to conservative talk radio think that they're fulfilling their civic duty to be informed. Shaun Hannity's listeners greet him when they call in with "you're a patriot" and often he responds in kind if he knows them at all. And it's not like liberals are any better; they jump to conclusions and vilify the other side with sincere passion every bit as much as conservatives do while thinking that their hyper-partisanship is a virtue. Both sides truly believe that they're serving the country with their actions and I think that their heart is in the right place even if their brain is out to lunch.
They have a good reason (I use italics to reference the fact that this is true only from their perspective) to avoid compromise. If you believe you have the solution to the problem, then deterring even a little bit from that optimal path will actually hurt the country. That's the problem with ideologues, they're honestly convinced that their political philosophy is a superior outlook on politics to the other side, which justifies all kinds of extremism and absurdities.
This is especially true when our political parties are coalitions of disparate elements that don't necessarily have any thematic consistency. Republicans claim that they want small government and believe in the rights of the individual while supporting all kinds of legislation that dramatically increases spending like the war on drugs and policies the life of the individual like DOMA. Democrats make a similar claims about wanting to preserve civil rights, but they only seem interested preserving certain explicit freedoms while they have no problem passing bills that require people to behave in a certain way (such as the health care bill), and of course they have numerous other hypocrisies. Libertarians, by contrast, have a political system envisioned that is internally consistent because every tenet of their belief is informed by the basic principle of limited government.
The only way you can really accurately characterize Republicans and Democrats is liberal and conservative, in that Republicans trend towards preserving traditional governmental policies and liberals are generally in favor of progressing our laws and institutions in a new direction. Both are necessarily components of any stable society. How it's supposed to work is that unless most issues that the liberals bring up conservatives block, with the exception of the ideas which truly are valuable and good and those ideas eventually survive the cut and become the new preserved tradition. Conservatives are supposed to keep liberals from throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but everything is out of whack now. Now conservatives are trying to roll back the clock, they've become de-progressives basically.
Why did this happen? Because around the time Reagan came into office the policies which made it past the conservative/liberal tug of war were seemingly failing. It looked, at the time, like our process of conservation and progression was out of whack and we'd become too centered on progressing recklessly. To the American public Reagan "fixed' the problem by winding back the clock, which fundamentally change the dynamics in this country. Now nothing is functioning as it should and we're stuck in a state of political limbo where it's constantly three steps forward and 2.888(repeating) back.
The latest recession was a really great chance to prove to the American people that things, as they've been post-Reagan, are not working. An impartial observer would've seen that the ways in which we've gone backwards are what caused our problems. Conservatives like to blame Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but even the bill which was largely Republican sponsored which recently passed through congress that is aimed at slowly phasing out those institutions admits that what went wrong with them was actually that the reckless, unmitigated, and de-regulated behavior of the private sector spilled into these government endorsed enterprises. They're all a symptom of the same problem.
A little bit of degression every now and then is healthy, because some progressive initiatives that are actually bad will get past the process by accident from time to time. Our political system is not perfect and has never been, but for the longest time it worked pretty well. Until recently America has been on what is practically a constant course upward to global prominence. Even the Civil War which served as a dark point on the timeline of our nation's history was fought in the name of bettering our nation, and as a result things did in fact get better.
The problem is, the only way in which we're going to get anywhere is a majority (or at least a plurality) of the American people come to realize that liberal and conservative perspectives are not conflicting truths. They are not philosophies wherein one must be right and one must be wrong. They are toolsets to deal problems that must be applied evenly by reasonable people if we're going to have a successful government. We can't have one party that holds at its core a self-perpetuating belief of governmental failure and an obsession with returning to the 1950s while the other half of our political system acts with typical incompetence to prove their point.
The only thing that's going to solve this problem is a more enlightened public with less confidence and adherence to their own opinions. We need to be more critical of claims made by both sides of the aisle. Everyone needs to learn to do research and think things through with as little bias as possible before coming to a conclusion. Each and every member of the voting public needs to do more than read the Constitution (it being a part of your study is good though), because that's just a statement of how things are.
Look at statistics and studies on political topics. Stop latching onto ideas because they happen to fall in line with the philosophy you're currently behind and instead question each idea on its own merits. Question yourself constantly, try and think of how other people will attack whatever it is you're professing before they get a chance to, and wonder if in fact they are right. Follow the evidence and see where it leads, don't look for evidence that fits the conclusion you're hoping to draw. Simply look at the data in general and make sure it's from a reputable source.
It isn't that we don't think for ourselves, it's that we don't think about things that could potentially disprove the truths that we hold dear. We need to stop identifying first and foremost as Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, or Liberals, and start thinking of ourselves as a voting member of the public who has a responsibility to use their higher faculties to analyze the situation that our country is in before walking to the polls to cast a party-line vote.
Even more importantly, we need to consume media with a critical eye so that it won't matter whether we're being lied to or not: if we stop watching the TV channels that try and spoon-feed us what we want to believe, they'll go out of business and be replaced by the news sources that we begin to patronize for their fair reporting. Being unbiased isn't refusing to take a perspective either, it's simply taking a perspective that's based on the evidence.
Fuck fair and balanced; the truth isn't balanced. That the war on drugs is a colossal failure isn't up for debate anymore than the fact that Barack Obama is a Christian citizen who was born in Hawaii. Facts aren't partisan. So if we want to live in a flourishing society, we need to start adopting opinions which are based on facts, not partisanship or protecting any other preconceived notion.