Sunday, February 26, 2012

Being Disagreeable

Alec MacGillis' op-ed in today's WaPo does the American people a service by reminding us all that folks disagree about stuff that matters. Whether it's birth control or energy policy or the make-up of the Supreme Court or foreign policy, these are all areas that impact a lot of people's lives. They address matters of private conduct and income and job and career opportunities or a sense of safety and security in a turbulent world and the even the life and safety of loved ones. People are passionate about these things. People disagree about how best we as a society should order our lives, and set limits upon personal and corporate behavior. These disagreements very often involve organized interests who represent collective interests with stakes in various debates.

There's nothing wrong with this. There's nothing unusual about this. In a country as physically large and diverse as ours, politics obviously is going to involve a whole lot of passionate debate and even the occasional violent altercation. This doesn't mean politics is bad. It means, rather, that the things about which we do politics matter. If they didn't matter, we wouldn't disagree about them.

The hand-wringing over ideological tribalism on the political internet misses this central facet of political life: people aren't interested in hearing or reading opposed viewpoints. This, too, isn't surprising, or even very interesting. The only reason anyone on the internet takes the time to read opposed view points can usually be reduced to making fun of them. This, too, isn't really a big deal. There aren't any points of contact between folks on the right and left; neither grants legitimacy to the premises or conclusions of the other.

The point of all this is that politics is a nasty business because the stuff of politics is stuff that matters. Different people feel it matters in different ways, or believe that there is evidence that shows the folks who find that it matters are in error. People need to lighten up about all this heavy stuff.

Virtual Tin Cup

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