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.