How to improve political dialogue

2013-01-13 13:44

So, I have complained in the past about the poor tone of political dialogue. But shouldn’t I offer solutions? Yes, yes I should.

Okay. Here is my solution: Admire this glorious picture of an actual vehicle which roams the wilds of Minnesota.

Now, when you see people arguing about politics, and the tone does not strike you as basically respectful and possibly leading to constructive development and discussion that could improve things? Talk about this truck. Talk about the sign on it, and what it means for political dialogue.

It turns out that this sign is sufficiently self-contradictory and insane that even people who absolutely loathe Mr. Obama will generally acknowledge that, really, this is beyond the pale. It is also stupid. And it is a testimony to the importance of maintaining some kind of connection to reality, and awareness of what other people actually believe, and who they actually are.

And what this tends to do is introduce a very powerful moderating influence in discussions, by making people want to distance themselves from the extremism. Now, it doesn’t solve the problem completely, since I haven’t got a correspondingly extreme example in the other direction. On the other hand, that reflects a fundamental asymmetry in the US political factions at the moment. And, in practice, even the fairly extreme left-wing sorts I know will nearly always try to moderate their tone a bit when reminded of how utterly stupid extremism can look.

Peter Seebach