There is nothing worse than the point in an argument or debate when you realize you are wrong. If you engage in enough discussions, especially those that are political in nature, it’s inevitable that you will find yourself in that position. It is impossible or at least highly improbable that you will understand every key issue you are confronted with. Instead we tend to focus on the issues that matter most to us. We spend our time learning them, understanding the arguments and getting to the point where we understand the complexity of the issues so that we can in turn explain them simply to those who have not taken the time to do so. There are only so many hours in a day and only so much time you can give to any subject. As Richard Feynman said, “I was born not knowing and have had only a little time to change that here and there.”.
Though being wrong does not feel good it should not be allowed to be a deterrent from engaging in those conversations in which you are not an expert. How else are we to learn? We should embrace the chance to discuss, ask questions and become familiar with the facts as they pertain to the issue. Ignorance is not a crime nor should it be viewed as a reason to dismiss a person’s opinion. Rather it should be viewed as an opportunity to teach and possibly learn a new perspective that you hadn’t though of previously. But we must also be careful not to mistake a difference of opinion with ignorance. They are in no way the same and to make the assumption of ignorance is what leads to dismissive and disingenuous discussions that lead to stagnation with no forward progress. Unfortunately this tends to happen a lot.
Political discussions devolve into an exchange of parting shots aimed at those on the other side. Pointed words aimed at not only the issue being discussed but the character of those who oppose our views. More often than not Democrats tend to do this by focusing on the moral character and intellect of the person they are debating. Republicans proclaim to focus on facts and ignore emotional responses as nothing more than opinions that carry no relevant weight in the discussion. After all, as Ben Shapiro says – ‘Facts don’t care about your feelings’ and that mantra is carried by many Conservatives. The problem is that you can readily find moral reasons or facts to uphold any side of an issue you debate. So the questions are: which is correct? How do we determine what side of the issue is the one we should choose to work towards finding a solution that best suits that side of the argument?
I found myself in this position Wednesday evening while discussing with two others on social media the Electoral College. I raised the discussion point contending that the Democrats in the House are attacking the Constitution itself by submitting H.J.Res.7 that would abolish the Electoral College. The two individuals I was discussing this with took the stand that the E.C. is essentially a relic that was pro-slavery and therefore should be abolished with the Popular Vote replacing it. I disagreed with their reasoning and stated that I believe the E.C. should remain and be protected. The sides we took are not the issue I’d like to discuss here, but rather what happened as we debated the issue.
The conversation quickly became a listing of educational resume from one of the two who support abolishing E.C., that my sources provided in support of my view are not academic institutions and the constant statement that I am out of my league on this matter because their education is superior to mine. The second supporter of abolishing E.C. was not on the attack as much as the first, but was dismissive of any responses I had no matter their validity (like the fact that slavery is no longer a thing). Simply put the problem was both sides were convinced their side is the correct side. We failed to acknowledge that both could be true at the same time.
Did the E.C. benefit southern states by the Three Fifths Compromise allowing slaves to be counted for representation in the House? Of course it did. To bring the example to present day it would be the equivalent of us allowing Illegal Immigrants to be counted on our census thereby giving more representation to those states supporting sanctuary cities like California, Illinois and New York. Republicans would lose their collective minds if that were to happen, just as the Democrats rightly objected to the Three Fifths Compromise. Was the E.C. specifically written to support slavery and allow a skewed electoral process? Absolutely not. Additionally, neither of the two have yet to provide facts supporting their argument despite multiple requests for them to do so. I only received an NPR article explaining why some scholars believe it to be so, but no hard evidence just conjecture. Federalist No. 10 and No. 68 explain how the E.C. protects against factions and what Alexis de Tocqueville called ‘the tyranny of the majority’. Nowhere do those papers indicate slavery as a necessary cog to make this engine work.
Instead we volleyed shot after shot at each other’s education, the quality of information being shared, some name calling and a lot of snarky comments along with a lot of wokescolding towards me. I regret to say this conversation thread lasted many hours. As would be expected no middle ground was to be found. It essentially ended with the posting of memes at my expense and the classic ‘no point in arguing with someone who needs to double down to support an illegitimate treasonous president.’. I find many of my discussions with Liberal Democrats end with them ending the conversation by similar means instead of providing persuasive evidence to support their views.
We are seeing the exact same behavior playing out in Washington D.C. today in regards to the Government shut down over border security. President Trump is refusing to budge on $5.7bil for a wall/barrier. Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer refuse to provide the funding for something they believe to be ineffective and immoral. Thus, the shut down continues on into its 28th day – the longest Government shut down in our nations history. Neither side realizing that both of their visions of border security can be true at the same time. The Democrats know barriers are a necessary part of border security and have voted many times before in the past for precisely that. President Trump knows the Dreamers path to citizenship is important to the Democrats and their base. There is a deal to be made here where both sides could walk away with political wins. Provide funding for the barrier, give DACA recipients a pathway to citizenship and reopen the government. America sees this compromise – why can’t Congress?
Perhaps bipartisan debate by We The People of the United States of America is actually the first step in getting our elected officials to do the same. After all, we elected them to office so it is really not all that surprising that they mimic our actions and behaviors when we debate with each other on social media. But there is an expectation that those in Washington D.C. would conduct themselves better. It literally is their job to find compromises on issues such as this. Maybe we should first hold ourselves to maintain civility, decency and the truth in our own conversations before expecting the same from Congress? Lead by example with civil discourse and respect. Following only the facts to support our positions with reason and compromise at the forefront of the discussion.
Now wouldn’t that be something!