The Public Debate

Apr 12, 2012 by

Today, you can turn on the news and hear a public debate about a range of issues.  From Global Warming, to the Deficit, to women’s rights, to economic standing, the debates are going on.  However, I idea of debate seems to be fundamentally flawed.  We do not think that someone does well in a debate so much when they present a good fact, we think they do well when they stir up emotions.

Take, for instance, two main issues between the parties:  National Pride and Global Warming.  National Pride is where the Republicans get deep into the name calling arena.  There are people who believe that we have overstepped our bounds and gone into countries when we should have stayed out.  That America has been an international bully.  Thus, we need to apologize for our actions.  These people have honest intents.  If we have been a bully, then we do need to apologize.  However, the Republican response to something like this is to say that those people hate America and think America is always the bad guy.  That is unfair.  Parents hold their children to higher standards, not because they believe their child the bad guy, but because they love their child.  People are holding America to a standard above constant war because they hold love America and think it should be an example to the world.  Yet, this is deemed as anti-American.  Deeming this, off the bat, as anti-American is starting the debate off as, you are inferior so I will not listen to your points or beliefs.  As a result, the opposition does not listen to the Republicans.  It becomes a war for public support and good sound bites, not a war of ideas.

The Democrats are not, by a long shot, above this deterioration of ideas.  Take Global Warming.  If I dare believe that Global Warming is non-existent, or not to the degree of crisis or significance for a long time, I suddenly am a flat-earther.  I am the person who does not believe in science.  I am suddenly a person who believes in what I want and not what is factually true.  Yet, it does seem as though there are facts against global warming.  The earth goes through natural warming and cooling periods, for instance, is a fact.  Yet, when an opponent puts this idea forward, suddenly, they are equated with believing the earth is flat.

Both sides are guilty of degenerating legitimate debates into brawls of name calling.  This is not unique to our time.  Patrick Henry invoked the wrath of God upon James Madison and those who would ratify the Constitution at the debates in Virginia.  Such talk causes division, not solutions, in the problems which these debates are meant to solve.  Rather than invoking such name calling and fear mongering, how about we begin debating on principles, ideas, facts, and practicality?  Then maybe we can actually agree on or come closer to agreeing on the right course of action.  Without facts and ideas being the source of debate, we have no information to decide on except our internal passions and the likeability of the person speaking.  With likeability as the source, you can just as easily get an Adolf Hitler in power as a George Washington.

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