Start the Debate

As the debate thread begins over at my last post, I thought I should point out that the friend who sent me those comments often allies himself with the Republican camp, so his disagreement didn’t surprise me. But my reaction did.

It’s been so long since someone I respect challenged any of my core political assertions, I hardly knew how to respond. Back in high school, nearly all of my closest friends were rabid rightists, in a town where the Green party was considered middle-of-the-road. We listened every lunch hour to this new radio show hosted by some guy named Rush Limbaugh, and it quite literally blew my 16-year-old mind that there might be another side, that there might be some logic on the right. Our lunches in high school were dramatic, fact-filled, stat-ranting, pundit-quoting shout-a-thons. No subject was too sensitive, nor was any viewpoint unrepresented. “Politically correct” was just becoming a buzz word, and we were on a mission to voice any issue it might silence.

Though my own beliefs never drifted so far as to say that I was ever Republican, I certainly gained a more open and skeptical mind. I think I held on to some of that debating athleticism throughout most of college, too. But as I got older, politics got more personal. Republican values became conflated with religiosity and hawkish unilateralism, and the party of conservatism became the paradigm of fiscal irresponsibility. In 2004, it was no longer about left and right to me, it was simply about right and wrong. George W’s re-election was for me, and so many of my friends, a betrayal.

So I stopped arguing. I knew what I believed, and I wrapped myself in the security blanket of like-minded friends. It felt too hopeless to engage any Bush supporter in discussion, so instead the goal has been to fortify our own side.

This recent contention from a friend stirred the sleeping lunchtime debater so long dormant in the back of my mind. In fact, he often jokes that for all that liberals claim to be “open-minded,” the one thing they can’t abide is Republicans. For me, the greatest appeal of Obama is his assertion that there are no “red” ideas or “blue” ideas, there are good ideas and better ideas. People across the political spectrum are frustrated with our country’s health care, economy, foreign policy. Compromise is painful, but in the end, it’s the only way to actually get anything done (save for false intelligence and fear-mongering, but I digress…). And it is essential that we get things done.

I know that many Republicans fiercely believe that Obama is as far left as any, and his calls for coalition are mere rhetoric. So now is the time to dust off those analytical skills and engage in a true debate about how to move forward. There are three really good candidates for president. May the best person win.

6 thoughts on “Start the Debate

  1. my intention on visiting this site was to merely get a jump on the next American Idol million-dollar song, but alas I was drawn into the debate. sorry for the long-windedness but heregoes…I too find it puzzling that, although liberals pride themselves on being “open-minded”, in my experience, that open-mindedness consistently ends with the words republican/conservative. In Chicago it’s very easy to find a safe enclave of liberal likeminded thinkers. Any person who dare even consider the option of being on the offensive in the war on terror is brushed off as a bigoted war-mongering republican, end of story. That’s unfortunate.

    As for reaching across the aisle, I think John McCain gets the gold, silver, and bronze in this three person race. He was vilified by his own party on several occasions. Obama, on the other hand, is indeed extraordinarily polarizing with respect to his politics. This is perhaps not more clearly demonstrated than by his repeated attempts to defeat the BAIPA (Born-Alive Infants Protection Act) while in the Illinois Senate. Obama claims a mother should have the right to “dispose” of a newly born child if that child was the result of a failed abortion. Not very centrist.

    Lastly, in response to 347…it was actually the Clinton camp that attempted to portray Obama as a Muslim. oy.

  2. The thing I don’t get about Obama is that he claims to be such a “uniter” — not seeing “red” or “blue,” as you put it — and yet, his voting record doesn’t reflect that so much. He almost always votes with his party (if he votes at all.)

    My worry with him is that he is simply all talk. There is no evidence that he is able to unite the country or heal anything except that he says he can. I guess I don’t get why people think he’s so different from other politicians.

    If you judge candidates by their actions as opposed to their words, Obama is the LEAST likely of the three to bridge the gap, as it were. Oddly, John McCain seems to be the MOST likely to actually listen to and work with members of the opposing party.

  3. I’m confused…is Obama a secret Muslim or a radical black Christian? I missed my Republican talking points. Oy!

  4. It’s funny how one’s own beliefs affect one’s perception of others. It’s hardly surprising that Obama is painted as “far left” by those on the right. And, for America, he’s definitely left of center. On the global scale, though, any viable American politician is, generally speaking, a centrist.

    I don’t know whether Obama’s talk about ending “politics as usual” is just campaign rhetoric or if it’s genuine. I personally home it’s just rhetoric. :)

    Of course, compromise is how “things get done” in American government, especially given the slim Congressional majorities the Democrats are likely to have. What’s important to me is where the compromise ends up: I hope we have a president who’s willing to push hard for his side so that the inevitable compromise ends up closer to the goal.

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