Debate over gun control is like a family dinner after your sibling brings home a lackluster report card- it never goes well. One second you’re reaching for the mashed potatoes, the next second your sibling is calling you the obnoxious favorite child. At the end of dinner, no progress is actually made. Rather than proposing solutions based on logical conclusions, your family members make pointless accusations fueled by anger.
Now why exactly has political dialogue become so tense? One clear reason is a lack of mutual respect. Believe it or not, it’s entirely possible to have a conversation about public policy without calling someone Hitler.
Iraq war veteran and Republican member of Virginia’s House of Delegates, Nick Freitas, recently emphasized the importance of mutual respect during his pro-Second Amendment speech on the Virginia House floor.
“I don’t assume you’re horrible people because I disagree with you on a policy position,” he said while addressing his Democrat colleagues. “I assume you have deep convictions so that we can have an argument and debate about it. But if you’re not willing to reciprocate that level of respect, then don’t be surprised when it becomes more difficult to talk about these things.”
Freitas hits on a very important point. Assuming the worst in each other only limits dialogue. The fact is, Republicans and Democrats want the best for the world. They just think differently.
Blaming each other for the deaths of high school students will never lead to solutions. No sane human being wants to see innocents shot to death. The best response to tragedies like Parkland is a thorough, respectful conversation with the intent of finding solutions to the problem.
Gun control is not the only policy debate filled with utter disrespect. In today’s heated political climate, it’s extremely hard to find any sort of policy minded discussion that doesn’t end in scapegoating or name calling.
Ever since Donald Trump won the 2016 election, Democrats have committed to an agenda of strictly resisting. Their ultimate goal is to paint President Trump and his supporters as idiotic racists. This cynical approach makes bipartisanship nearly impossible. If the President is as evil as Democrats claim he is, then why would they ever work with him? The Democrats’ extreme rhetoric toward President Trump isn’t leading to any solutions. In fact, it’s further dividing the country.
However, this lack of mutual respect is not a strictly left or right issue. Both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of assuming the worst in each other. Conservatives too often assume that liberals are evil dictators attempting to turn America into a reincarnated Soviet Union.
For example, many pro-life activists often call abortion activists murderers. This divisive tactic is not winning any moderates, let alone liberals, over to the pro-life side. Abortion does indeed end the life of a human being, but the idea that the average abortion advocate murders children is rather ignorant. Most people who identity as pro-choice don’t fully understand what abortion is. They’ve most likely never read a scientific study about life at conception or the many other wonders in the womb. The average abortion advocate is not a murderer, but rather someone who has been mislead. This is why the pro-life movement must spread the truth in a mature manner. Screaming “Abortion is murder!” often scares people away. Calmly citing a scientific study can spark an intellectual minded conversation.
The truth is, conservatives and liberals need each other. Our differences should inspire us to have deep discussions that lead to real world solutions. This is an idea that Arthur Brooks has advocated for in his 10 years as president of the American Enterprise Institute. One issue Brooks has focused on is world poverty.
“We need to come together around the best ways to mitigate poverty using the best tools at our disposal,” Brooks says, “and that comes only when conservatives recognize they need liberals in their obsession with poverty and liberals need conservatives in their obsession with free markets.”
Not only is mutual respect needed to achieve meaningful dialogue, it’s the key to discovering effective solutions. The more respectful dialogue conservatives and liberals engage in, the better off the world will be.
Brooks recently announced in a Wall Street Journal piece that he will be stepping down as the AEI president in the summer of 2019. As Brooks’ unifying tenure comes to an end, conservatives must follow his example by aspiring to find solutions through a dialogue fueled by mutual respect and a motivation to make the world a better place.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.