That was then:  Joy Behar, Sherri Shepherd, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Barbara Walters on ‘The View’ (Donna Svennevik – ABC)

I wish Elisabeth Hasselbeck had stuck it out on “The View.”  Or gone somewhere a little…riskier. Why high-tail it to FOX in the mornings?

Hasselbeck leaves an empty seat of opinion that can’t be filled by her replacement, Jenny McCarthy. Here’s why. Remember the parties from high school? The kids who succeeded socially never hung out solely with their crew, homies or BFFs. They were pimple-faced networking experts en route to the top.

They mingled their way to class president, homecoming queen and varsity football captain. Whatever their motives, they stepped outside of their cozy, familiar friendships. They mastered the social game and influenced peers by spending time with Other People.

Grown folks can learn from socially keen adolescents. When the national dialogue halts at the fences of more comfortable conversations — “I’ll join my like-minded political friends on Fox” — democracy shrinks back because it’s like saying, “I’ll take my marbles and go back home.” Nothing gets done and nothing is learned because ideas refine ideas.

The nation’s founders understood the tumult democracy requires. On July Fourth, I re-watched snippets of HBO’s “John Adams” and thought about the animosity between them. The betrayals. The egos. The small-mindedness. The founders dreamed, prayed, insulted, cajoled and threatened America into the birth canal of an imperfect union.

And there you have it: the roots of my regret. Hasselbeck’s departure from ABC further exposes the ongoing cultural shut-down between conservatives and liberals. Sure, I didn’t share every Hasselbeck opinion, but there were some I did. Her delivery sometimes seemed hewn from rocks beside seasoned spin-meisters. Yes, she frequently shared ideas as if she crammed GOP literature the night before. But she was no more a walking complexity of choices and ideas than Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Sherri Shepherd or Barbara Walters.

I respected Hasselbeck for being there. Right in the middle of things. I admired her willingness to share her perspective, and grow into the job before the world. Hasselbeck spoke for a segment of American women unimpressed by what inflames Hollywood, New York and D.C. I’ve listened to this woman in church and social groups and overheard her in shopping malls. I’ve seen her books and posts on Facebook. I saw her challenge voting procedures during the 2012 presidential campaign in my Dallas precinct. She’s real, and Hasselbeck breathed her into political life.

In the end, Hasselbeck likely will become another FOX songbird, humming the bromidic familiar. The contrasts that defined her voice on “The View,” and which introduced many to another slice of female Americana, may, unfortunately, fade away.

How I wish the fire-breathing liberals at MSNBC had hired her instead.

Judith Howard Ellis is an editor at her company, Daybreak Lit. A former features editor for the Denver Post, Judy is writing a sequel to her fantasy novel, “Fall of the Savior King,” a story inspired by the Book of Genesis. Follow her on Twitter @JudyHowardEllis.