Being new to KCC at the time and unsure of my ability to tolerate the abuse that I saw inflicted on all the other contributors, I declined. Plus, I didn’t, and still don’t want to reveal my name. As Craig Glazer and others have correctly stated, if you’re going to go out publicly and spew opinions, it’s chicken shit to hide behind an alias. Ok, I’ll admit I’m a chicken shit.
However after several months of participating in exchanges, sizing up many of the commenters, and generally developing a thicker skin, I asked Hearne to let me offer a piece.
I’ve seen Dwight Sutherland consistently offer meaty pieces and while I rarely agree with his political positions, he’s brought political topics and a quality level of reasoned and thoughtful comments to the forefront. Paul Wilson, David ScottWhinery, Esquire, and even our esteemed administrator have also generated some great exchanges.
It was Mark Valentine’s comment about personal attacks that got me reconsidering the offer and putting together a few thoughts.
Obviously politics crosses a huge spectrum. It’s loaded with nuances and an almost infinite level of hypocrisy on both sides, creating strange examples of common ground – bedfellows if you will – i.e. Rand Paul and Nancy Pelosi on social issues.
There’s simply no way to address, or even acknowledge all the nooks and crannies here but hopefully it’s a start. I’ve tried to keep my “liberal rhetoric” to a minimum, but, with apologies to Leslie Gore, “It’s My Party”. With that said, here’s a few thoughts on how to best conduct civil political discourse here on KC Confidential.
1. RECOGNIZE THAT IT ALL COMES DOWN TO WHAT YOU SEE AS THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT — The U.S. has a two party system and each side has basic premises. I think for the most part, those who have at least passing interest in politics know enough about the differences to know which side of the divide they fall on.
What should the federal government be involved in and what shouldn’t they be involved in? Where is the line drawn between the rights of the individual and the rights of the group? Generally the GOP/Conservative side favors smaller, limited government and taxes should therefore be as low as possible. The private sector and the market should dictate outcomes. Individual responsibility. Not the job of government to solve every problem (who decides what is a problem?) and any regulation if at all, should be minimal and limited. Laissez faire and let the chips fall.
Generally, democrats/liberals feel the need for a strong central government and that government has an obligation to address issues that confront the nation but that the private sector won’t, can’t and shouldn’t deal with. I know this is an oversimplification and there will be disagreement with what I said from both sides.
With the exception of the most extreme libertarian, almost all would agree the government has an obligation to provide for the common defense of the country. Next on the list of existing common ground between the left and right would probably be the maintenance of the infrastructure. Interstate highway system, bridges, ports, etc. Too far past this point on the list means you’re approaching the line between the two sides and entering the “liberal dark side.”
If the convention was a sporting event and you were a Republican, small government guy that was transported back in time as a fan, you’d be rooting for the team led by Thomas Jefferson. If you went back as Democrat, favoring a stronger central government, your team would be led by James Madison. ach side had some pretty impressive players. Thankfully for us today, this contest, after multiple overtimes, ended in a tie. Maybe compromise is the better description of the outcome. If you’re going to enter the arena and offer your opinion, know which side you are on and why.
2.WHEN DEBATING A POINT, AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, TRY TO KEEP IT ABOUT THE ISSUE AND THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT, AND NOT ABOUT PERSONALITIES — I’ve said this before here but as a liberal, to me, the absolute worst Democrat is always better than the absolute best Republican and that is because pretty much every Democrat shares my view of the role of government.
Back in 2008, President Obama was way down the list of Democrats I supported as potential candidates for the nomination. Probably not even in the top five. Once he won the nomination, my vote was sealed.
Back in 2000, on a strictly personal level and politics aside, I thought George Bush was a nice guy. I thought Al Gore was a pompous ass (still do). But I supported the platform that Gore ran on so he got my vote.
Beyond the issues of defense/foreign policy, and maintenance of the infrastructure mentioned above the major issues I see that require a level of proactivity on the part of our citizens include the following; jobs, the economy (while there is some link, those are two separate issues), cost of and access to healthcare, education, fair playing field in the financial markets, cost of and access to sources of energy, safety of our foods and drugs and the environment. Certainly a number of others as well.
Do you think we have a problem in a particular area?
Does it deserve action and should the government play any role in attempting to address the problem?
While it’s not always possible, try to separate personalities from the issue when you present your point of view.
Let’s take healthcare as an example. The Affordable Care Act has been dubbed Obamacare and the debate seems to center on the man, not the basic issue. The issue of having the federal government involved in the healthcare of citizens was first proposed by a Republican president over 100 years ago. And it’s been a front burner issue with Presidents Nixon and Clinton among other presidents in the time since. The issue has been seriously discussed by both sides over the past century and we’ve even made a little progress over time in working across the aisle ( i.e. Bush legislation to reduce the Medicare prescription donut hole).
To make the discussion on this topic, or any topic for that matter focus on an individual personality as opposed to the issue itself takes away from the level of debate. Don’t mix, or confuse individual personalities with issues. (Side note, if you’re going to use words to describe your point or your opponent’s point, make sure you know the definition. Socialism is a perfect example)
3. DON’T INSULT. RESPECT THE OPPOSING VIEW AND LOOK FOR COMMON GROUND — Seems so obvious but even the professionals in Washington, DC and state legislatures haven’t learned this lesson. Accept that the other guy loves the country as much as you do and he honestly feels his view, and how he sees the role of government, is what’s best for the US.
Research your opponent’s point of view. Don’t just get your news from sources that are tilted to your perspective. Go to the opposing station, website, blog, etc. and spend some time there. Avoid the standard, rhetorical insults as it certainly reduces any chance of getting the other guy to move. Be willing to compromise or accept the validity of a point made by the other guy. I know that sometimes the other guy displays what Dude (I think it was Dude) correctly identified as epistemic closure, such a fanatical link with the positional rhetoric and adolescent talking points of his side that he is mentally unable to consider any facts that don’t support his position. He can talk but he can’t listen.
At that point it can be hard to resist a barb but try to make that a last resort.
If you have to hit a nail, try to use a velvet hammer. We’ve got plenty of commenters here, on both sides, that don’t hesitate to insult or come with personal attacks. Let’s try to play nice.
Then again, some people just like to fight with knives.
Ok, that’s all I got.
Thanks and remember to tip your waitress.