A Modest Suggestion for the Politically Inclined


I have a suggestion for those who are politically interested: surround yourself with people who are disagreeable.  Surround yourself with a lot of them.

That means that if you’re in college, odds are you should be seeking people who go to meetings of College Republicans (yes, those people exist, in surprisingly large number).  If you’re a working adult who find yourself getting your news from Fox News, you should be looking for people who worship MSNBC (those also exist, although increasingly in smaller number).

Why do I think it’s a good idea to become ideologically uncomfortable among the company you keep? Because only the people with whom you’ll never fully see eye-to-eye can provide you a sense of self-perspective, keep you honest and make you empathetic.

I know this from personal experience.

Ever since college, then graduate school and now in my career, I’ve been surrounded by people who are borderline socialists who think President Obama isn’t liberal enough.  These good friends of mine at some point became hopelessly misguided, but I also concede that they are intelligent people perfectly capable of articulating rational and coherent thought.  It is that realization that has kept me thinking my views may be, just may be, a bit extreme and therefore, I should keep a sense of humor about them.

But reasons for listening to voices that are disagreeable goes much deeper than needing to learn how to agree to disagree. One really needs a voice from a mind that is not his own to gain a self-perspective because only such a different voice can ask the right questions.

Take, for example, the Hillary Clinton e-mail-server-at-home scandal.  The question that liberals should be asking about this issue is not whether the person they hope would become the first female president of the United States did anything illegal or only did what all other cabinet members did.  Rather, the question for liberals to objectively judge the issue is this: how would they think of Dick Cheney saying, “Trust me, I’ve provided all e-mails relating to the Iraq War that’s stored in my server in Wisconsin from which I’ve only deleted e-mails that I have judged to be personal.”

Or take President Obama’s use of executive orders to give legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.  The question that conservatives should be asking about this is not whether the act to unilaterally implement a policy they dislike by a president they detest was an unconstitutional executive overreach.  Rather, the right question is whether they supported Ronald Reagan using an executive order to deny federal funding for organizations that support abortion or giving much of the legal authority the National Security Agency has today.

If you’re remotely interested in being objective, not only do these questions need to be asked, but they need to be answered honestly.  The dialogue can’t end up as a meaningless exercise of conjuring up distinctions without differences.   If your ultimate honest answer as a liberal is “I trust Hillary Clinton but not Dick Cheney,” that’s perfectly fine, but you need to concede that such answer leaves you on no stronger moral footing than my answer that I like Reagan’s policies but not Obama’s.  Both responses ultimately come down to partisan bias.

I also suspect that surrounding yourself with disagreeable people you like will make you behave more civilly.  After all, you usually don’t engage in name-calling with people you like.

Some very vocal conservatives have called President Obama very unflattering things for his rudderless foreign policy of appeasement, yet I have friends who hold very similar world views.  I don’t think my friends, like Obama, are “un-American” or “Muslim” (as if that was such a terrible thing) for thinking like that; I just think they’re clueless.  And I’d like to believe that my friends that I have judged as clueless do not think of me as a racist because for believing that the presidency of Barack Obama, who just happened to be black, has only been a step above disaster.

One thing that’s consistent across people of all ideology on the streets is that they always complain about the toxic rhetoric in Washington.  Yet what’s ironic about this complaint is that the 535 federally elected officials, who come from every part of the United States representing vastly different views from Birmingham, Alabama to San Francisco, California, are in a far more ideologically diverse environment than most of us ever put ourselves in.

Liberals on the streets religiously read Paul Krugman, a partisan hack who has never seen a Democratic policy he didn’t like, and conservatives worship Rush Limbaugh, a man who has never said much of anything too insightful.  My modest suggestion would be for liberals to listen to Limbaugh and conservatives to read Krugman.  That won’t be time well spent, but at least that’ll give them the opportunity to see how preposterous their extreme world view is after experiencing the equivalent on the other side of the isle.

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2 Responses to “A Modest Suggestion for the Politically Inclined”


  1. 1 Chris June 26, 2015 at 8:02 am

    I like what you have to say I have had friends that have been liberal and where to sensitive to debate, and now won’t talk. I find this childish and do not want people around me who act like this. I have liberal friends that can’t talk and not be offended.

    I am open to fair minded people who disagree and have viable points. I will not listen to people who say you are sexist or racist because you have conservative view points. Then these people say we need to have conversation, do they really think calling people names will encourage dialogue, they just want their view point and that is it.

    I liked Bob Schiffer’s show and now the new guy who has taken his place this is the only show I can stand watching. They have people of both sides who are fair minded, even if I disagree .

    I think people who do not think President Obama has Muslim view point’s are kidding themselves, he grew up in a Muslim country so it had to affect him. He even slipped up on TV and said his ” Muslim ” religion. But no one ever really reported it. I do not dislike Muslims, I only dislike the one’s who call themselves Muslim and then blow people up I do not think any sane person like’s that. I can understand why good Muslims do not speak out more they are too afraid sadly. Myself Jesus never referred to his father as “Allah” so Christians and Muslims seem to have different views on God which is fine as long as it is not violent. My own view on God is that Jesus was his anointed earthly yet divine son. Yaweh is God and Jesus is his “begotten son”. So my views are probably not considered mainstream Christianity, as I do not consider myself Catholic anymore, the Pope is becoming too political . Talking about global warming and people spend too much money on their pets, what does that have to do with God and Jesus? Anyway enough of religion.

    I will not debate or listen to people who revert to name calling because this is childish behavior and the perfect way to stop debate and “conversation”. I will listen to fair minded people of either side, if there are any any on TV. I am a Moderate Republican.

    I think most “regular” people are open minded. Massachusetts is 55% “un enrolled” yet we are considered liberal. We are a fair and open minded state, I wish more states were like us. My favorite line from a musician is “The world is going crazy and I am just trying to get by!” – Dave Matthews.

    Frankly, the biggest problem we have is our national debt people are warning of a greater collapse than 2008, since we are broke and the President just kept spending money anyway. This and terrorism are what we should be concerned about. I will vote for the candidate who speaks about these issues. I think law enforcement is handling terrorism well inside the country so I am not very fearful of it, even though some nut jobs will act out and hurt people in rare occasions. While race may be an issue the police did kill people who were known criminals, with that being said the police still could have behaved better in these situations.

    The residents of Charleston are an example of how we should treat each other after a tragedy ,and in general, that should not occur. I think God works in mysterious ways and maybe trying to show us a better way to behave rather than hate each other and break out in mob violence. But use this situation to help healing begin. I hope!

    One last final thought the President should not be using the N word it makes it more ok for other people to say it if he is. It does not help race relations improve. Someone’s color does not define them as a person.

    God save the United States!

    • 2 joesas October 6, 2015 at 10:34 am

      Chris,

      What I always found offensive about liberals in college was that they thought conservatives were racist, sexist, homophobic, religious fanatics who couldn’t articulate a reasonable thought even if their college diploma depended on it. With all due respect to your defense of the state of Massachusetts, that is not a fair-minded state. What I saw and heard there were quite often little different from what I see and hear now, which is to say that it’s views of self-righteous people in a small bubble who’s never come across a legitimate conservative point.

      I don’t think the biggest problem in America is the debt or terrorism. It’s ignorant people who refuse to admit that there are reasonable people who are disagreeable.


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