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“As crazy and twisted as some of the more radical Republicans are, and the more they take over the party, I say ‘Go ahead,’ ” Mr. Robbins said. “Because those Republicans who want what we want, to better the nation, will come over to where we are. It’s very difficult for someone with pride to come over to your side if you vilify them.”

Mr. Robbins took aim at growing left-right polarization, as if he was determined to reinvent himself as a “no-labels” centrist.

“The sooner we realize we have something in common, that we can talk to these people and have a laugh, the sooner we’ll be able to make a change,” he said. “What we have now is a divisiveness with different sides represented by different [TV] networks at each other’s throats. And what do we get? High ratings and a divided public. A divided public means that we won’t be united behind simple issues like ‘We want clean air’ or ‘We want clean water.’ As long as you’re keeping those people divided, they’re not going to get enough force and power to change things. So I’m always looking for common ground.”

“That is a long way to go to deny something,” Mr. Maron replied, laughing.

“I’m not denying it at all,” said Mr. Robbins, before injecting another note of ambiguity: “But you know that movie ‘The Manchurian Candidate …’ “

“Maybe don’t use the word ‘evil,’ but can we use the word ‘wrong’?” to describe Republicans, Mr. Maron pressed, humorously.

“I’m very hopeful right now,” Mr. Robbins concluded, sticking — sort of — to his guns.