I don’t know whether this advice is still in fashion or if a newer “best advice ever” has already appeared, but numerous articles say that when you are arguing with someone you should repeat what they said so that they know you listened to them. After you make your point, they should do the same, so that you know that they heard you. I’m sure that quarreling couples, parents with teens and maybe even friends have found this advice useful, but quite frankly, if my husband repeated everything I said, I think it would drive me mad. We tend to figure out if the other person missed a point without turning into parrots.
However, I think it is a great idea to bring into politics. Years ago, a well-known radio show host and good friend, John Carlson, frequently invited individuals with opposing views to debate. He never skewed the discussion by pitting one articulate speaker opposite a fool or by inviting five people, four of whom shared the same opinion. Although John had strong beliefs of his own about the issues under discussion, he didn’t ask one person loaded questions while lobbing softballs at the other. The two sides actually dealt in facts and convictions, asking each other pointed questions. The host didn’t even allow the show to devolve into ad hominem attacks as a way of deflecting difficult inquiries. I very much appreciated those debates and even if I didn’t change my mind, I came away with additional perspective. How quaint that show seems from today’s perspective.
As a member of the minority, politically conservative Jewish community, I feel a kinship with African-American conservatives. Whatever negative reactions I get, they get a hundred-fold. They are frequently ostracized and condemned and I am sure that even family get-togethers overflow with controversy. Two brave pundits who fit in this category are Star Parker and Crystal Wright. I have met Star, an articulate speaker with a compelling story, and I would be delighted to cross paths with Crystal as well. For this reason, I was particularly interested in an article each woman recently wrote about E.W. Jackson, the candidate for Lt. Governor in Virginia. The two came to exactly the opposite conclusion about his selection, each passionately advocating her opinion.
One of the drawbacks of the our Internet culture is that when articles like these appear the comments section quickly sinks to the lowest common denominator. Personal attacks, vulgarity and atrocious grammar reign (my children will tell you that they aren’t sure to which of these I object the most). Rather than advancing or enhancing the columnist’s points, the comments decrease the writer’s effectiveness.
Instead of reading comments, I would much prefer to hear a debate between the two columnists, with much more than thirty-second sound bites allowed. I’d love to hear Star and Crystal actively engage each other and courteously respond to the other’s points. While they won’t change each other’s mind, I would be better off for the exchange, which in many ways reflects a fault line in the Republican Party at large. Without being able to hear each other, even if we need to use the “latest” psychological advice for arguing, conservatives will continue to disappoint and demoralize those of us who wonder if we are actually advocating for the same side.