A few days ago I had a great evening talking with Brian and Dave. Somewhere between the first beer and the third it became clear that we disagreed on a number of opinions, sometimes fervently so. Even with this difference of opinion we actually talked about our ideas and listened to each other, something lost in politics today. I doubt we truly affected each other’s point of view. But I am confident if we were trying to build a successful policy on the issues we discussed, health care and education; it would be far better for the discussion.
It’s just the way ideas work and are improved. You figure out a goal, use real data, create an idea to solve it and then you find people that disagree. By using differing points of view you can actually improve the original idea. This means embracing disagreement, not fighting it.
But our political system has become a strange competition between two organizations vying for popularity. Worse yet, the competition usually comes down to making the other “side” look bad. How utterly stupid this is! First it has somehow made it appear that all the issues that face us have only two sides. How can one look at issues like defeating terrorism, raising the quality of life and decreasing crime and only come up with two potential approaches? It is just a strange insanity that is sold to us. Then these two sides face off and try to look good by not “giving in” to the “other side’s” approach, delaying any real attempt to solve problems.
Finally most discouraging to me is the shameful way that each “side” treats people that don’t agree with them. The “liberal” side people portray those with “conservative” opinions as a bad people, a simpletons, or just plain corrupt. And on the “conservative” side people portray those with “liberal” opinions as elitists, “un-American”, or just plain wimpy. These are all just ways of avoiding having to think about a different point of view. It may be somewhat entertaining for a while, but it won’t solve a single problem.
Our political system can be better, if we stand behind politicians who work to include contrary views. You can spot them, they’re the ones that vote in ways that cause their party consternation, the ones labeled “independent thinkers” or “mavericks”. These are the leaders we need to support. We need to be skeptical of those that always “vote the party line” and dismiss contradictory viewpoints. We should avoid voting for those that don’t impress us with their ability to understand opposing views and use them to improve their own ideas. And most importantly we should reward those in other “parties” that do impress us. Because we all face the same problems, regardless of party affiliation. We need to strive to elect leaders that understand solutions quite often cross party boundaries too! Well, guess I’ll have to see Brian and Dave again soon, the next beer is on me.