Andrew, the Backseat Philosopher, is a Democrat. Today he penned a post entitled, "To My Fellow Democrats". The post opens as follows:
We Democrats are supposedly the party of the therapists, the teachers, and the 'relationship experts.' If anybody would be proud of the title, 'active listener', it would be a Democrat. We're the soft ones who understand where the other side is coming from and negotiate.
Many Democrats think that our patience and understanding are our weakness. "We don't know how to fight like the Republicans," we all told ourselves after Florida 2000. "We have to be more like them: tougher, meaner." "We have to energize our base more."
Actually, no. Our error is that we Democrats are far less understanding than we think we are. Our version of understanding the other side is to look at them from a psychological point of view while being completely unwilling to take their arguments seriously. "Well, he can't help himself, he's a right-wing religious zealot, so of course he's going to think like that." "Republicans who never served in war are hypocrites to send young men to die. " "Republicans are homophobes, probably because they can't deal with their secret desires." Anything but actually listening and responding to the arguments being made.
And when I say 'responding,' I don't just mean 'coming up with the best counterargument and pushing it.' Sometimes responding to an argument means finding the merit in it and possibly changing one's position. That is part of growth, right?
I honestly believe that what is needed in politics today is an attempt to crawl inside the other side's head and try to understand where they're coming from; to attempt to construct the best possible argument for an opposing viewpoint, not merely to debunk it, but to understand where the other guy is coming from.
Now, you always won't be successful in the attempt. It was precisely my inability to understand John Kerry on abortion & embryonic stem cell research that led me to conclusions which provoked angry responses. I simply saw no rational basis for his position, and it angered me.
But I really believe that we need to do more to try to understand one another. What that requires, though, is a real grappling with issues, and it's honestly something I've had a hard time doing lately with many of those who disagree with me. That's one reason that led me to stop commenting at The Village Gate/The Right Christians... I simply felt that my ideas were never engaged by those who disagreed with them. Rather than reason and interact with my ideas, they attacked me. And I've seen the same thing happen in reverse.
Nonetheless, I still think that we (me included) need to do more to make this attempt.