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Ideology and Character

In his recent column Why I Don't Like Bill Maher Leonard Pitts succinctly describes what is wrong with American politics today:

Indeed, to a great degree, political identity now serves the same function in the public mind as racial identity — namely, as a fundamental and immutable marker of character and worth. To put that another way: Would you want your daughter to marry one? Twenty-three percent of consistent liberals say no, they would not want to see an immediate family member marry a Republican. Thirty percent of consistent conservatives feel the same about the idea of a Democrat in the family.

Pitts takes a different view:

I persist in believing party does not equal character, nor ideology, identity. I feel no imperative to like you because I agree with you. Or to dislike you because I don’t.

Granted, that is an outdated and minority view, but I hold to it, largely because I can’t see how the alternative solves anything except the need to argue. If a political opponent is defined as unalterably misanthropic and irredeemably evil, then all politics is doomed to fail. Politics, after all, is the art of compromise. You don’t compromise with monsters.

No, you compromise with people like yourself, who have wants, needs and fears like yourself, though they see the world through a different lens. That’s a truth lost to this loud and polarized time. As is this:

Disagreement is not a reason to stop talking. Truth to tell, it’s a reason to start.

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