Letter Bag: Debate is Good for Democracy!

Recently, I received this comment on the post The Real History of Democrats and Republicans. Faced with a slow news day leading up to a long weekend, I figured this was an excellent time to post another edition of Biblical Conservatism's Letter Bag!  Here's the comment:

Obviously, you're a Republican...my question is: why do we need to have these two different office? Why not have one group? Why do we always need to compete as opposed to working in unity?

An Independent
First of all, Anindy, thank you for the hearty laugh your attempt to sound wise while exhibiting zero signs of actual wisdom gave me.  I really appreciate you breaking up my day with some humor.  Sadly, friends, I'm fairly certain our friend Anindy is serious.  So I'll take some time to explain to our well meaning friend how America works.

Regardless of which side of the aisle you fall, there are primarily two very different mentalities for how to govern this nation. Conservatism believes in as much freedom and as little government as possible.  We believe that life is never going to be fair, but the best chance anyone has to succeed is to make their own choices and have the chance to earn their own way.  In short, we believe in equality of opportunity. Liberalism believes that government can create a social utopia where people somehow have equality of result by socially engineering and government legislating everything in our lives.

Both sides firmly believe in their positions, Anindy.  (Conservatism also has a history of results.)  It would be intellectually dishonest for either side to just say "You know what? Even though I firmly believe in my ideas, I'm going to throw them out and just get along because that'll be nicer!" Yes, I know, political "moderates" like yourself who can't stand disagreement will be happy, but it doesn't mean it's the best thing for the nation.

Both sides are going to instead compete with their ideas. That's how America works. You see, the two sets of ideas compete for votes and the opportunity to enact those ideas.  When a set of ideas wins, they get the opportunity to enact said ideas.  In the last 50 years, both conservatism and liberalism have had their chances to enact their ideas.  (The conservative ecnomies are, by the way, the 50s, the early 60s, the 80s, and yes the 90s...sorry Democrats, Clinton's boom hoappened after he signed conservative reforms.  The liberal economies include the late 60s, the early 70s and the current economy under Barack Obama.) 

Both sides are very different, Anindy, but they are also intellectually honest. They believe what they believe and they fight for it.  Then there's a third group.  This group wants to be thought of as intelligent and wise, but doesn't want to go through the effort of actually BELIEVING in something. So instead they say things like "let's all work together." Translation:  "Let's all ignore our deeply held beliefs so we don't have to have mean old arguments. If we all just put aside our beliefs and pretend not to care things would be more pleasant."

Newsflash, Anindy: THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN. It also SHOULDN'T happen.  You see, America works BECAUSE we discuss our differences and let our ideas compete in the arena of ideas.  When ideas can't compete, new ideas don't get brought up, old ideas that worked are ignored, and we pretty much stay on whatever trajectory we're on now.  You get consistency, sure, but you also get mediocrity. 

America is advanced citizenship.  You have to participate.  You have to listen to the two sides and make an intelligent conclusion. You have to see if your current beliefs hold up to scrutiny. You have to be willing to change your mind in the face of evidence. This last part is the real problem, not that icky debate stuff you dislike so much.

Now I realize there is one problem with this for people like our friend Anindy: You have to pay attention to come across as politically intelligent. You can't just say canned lines like "we should work together" to try to sound smart without having to pay attention or hold a position.

Now I know some people aren't politically active. That's fine.  It's ok to not be politically active.  Just as long as you don't try to tell those of us who do pay attention how you're so much smarter than us and then say "we should just get along and quit fighting." Those of us who are fighting for our respective sides, both liberal and conservative, we are the ones who make America work.  We are the competitors in the Arena of Ideas. 

People like Anindy aren't even the spectators.  They're the people who drive by the stadium and mumble "baseball is boring" without understanding the game at all...they just heard that line from their friend Lenny who is a football nut and doesn't like baseball because it isn't football, and wanted people to say "right on!" to them like Lenny's buddies said to him at the time.

I close with this, Anindy: Please, I'm begging you, either get on the field and play or get out of the stadium. Quit trying to put on a striped shirt and then run on the field and pretend you're the referee.