On the July 15 edition of “Meet the Press,” I saw something which I thought was all but dead: two partisan operatives being objective about, and negative toward, their own candidates. Republican strategist Mike Murphy criticized something Mitt Romney was doing, and Democrat strategist Hilary Rosen responded by giving a simliar criticism of how Barack Obama was falling short.
It was so refreshing!
This is something we’ve lost in our polarized culture: the ability to have an objective conversation. That “Meet the Press” exchange was not a conversation–a TV show isn’t built for that–but it showed me that Rosen and Murphy were capable of stepping back from their partisan roles and engaging in a real conversation.
I long for a conversation in which people can freely argue both for and against a particular candidate. I can give you pluses and minuses for Barack Obama, and pluses and minuses for Mitt Romney. I’d love to have a conversation with someone who can put aside partisan preferences and just talk freely, without thinking he must convert me…or I him.
I’d love to feel free to voice my many criticisms of Barack Obama, and to hear my Republican friends respond with their reservations about Mitt Romney. Just talk, and see where it ends up.
You just don’t see that anymore. Instead, people argue tooth and nail in favor of their prefered candidate, and will not accept any criticism of their candidate (or will dismiss it or rationalize it away). I’m at fault, I admit. When people take nothing but an anti-Obama position, then I’m goaded into responding in kind. I seldom affirm pro-Romney or anti-Obama statements, so I’m as guilty as the next person. Guided largely by my assumption (right or wrong) that the other person has no interest in a conversation, I default to argument mode. And I hate that.
I would love to have an actual conversation. A conversation where someone makes a point in favor of Mitt Romney, and I can say, “You’re absolutely right.” And the person then says, “But on the other hand…”, and then gives a criticism of Romney. And I can respond, “I disagree. Here’s how I would defend Romney.” A conversation without dividing lines.
Because nearly everyone I know is a Republican, I’m normally cast in the position, at least out of fairness, of defending Obama. Of defending him against someone who will not admit the slightest shred of good in anything Obama has done. There can be no conversation with such people, and that disturbs me.
I just want to talk. Not argue. I’m tired of arguing.
Can’t we just talk openly, honestly, about politics? Can’t we try to follow Stephen Covey’s principle, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”?
The fate of our country does not hinge on whether you vote for Obama or Romney, or whether I vote for Obama or Romney. So ferociously trying to win every political argument is silly. The fate of our country, more likely, hinges on our ability to engage in civil dialogue with people who disagree with us, and to honestly seek to understand the merits of opposing viewpoints.