Monday, May 23, 2011

Ad hominem--(spoiler alert! The Anarchist Soccer Mom is actually a Libertarian)

Ad Hominem
In the Sandbox of History, Mudslinging Won’t Win Points for Either Side

Conservative bellwether Andrew Breitbart looks like the Hollywood liberals he loves to hate. With his wrinkled khakis, long greying hair, and addiction to name-dropping ("Would you believe Rob Lowe is a Conservative? What about Gary Sinise?"), he would fit right in at a Hollywood liberal function--until he opens his mouth. To hear Breitbart talk, you’d think conservatives are waging some kind of holy war for the hearts, minds, and souls of Americans. At stake, he says, is our very concept of freedom. And besides, it's fun to make fun of liberals.

Andrew Breitbart is an asshole.

The worst thing is, he’s on my side. And this essay is about why a rude comment like the one I just made should never, ever be part of a meaningful political dialogue.

I have a bit of a confession to make: I'm a closet conservative with strong sympathies toward libertarian political views (yes, rumors that I sang the National Anthem at Raul Labrador’s Tea Party Endorsement Rally are entirely true). When it comes to questions like the role of government, income taxes, choice in education, and the environment, Breitbart and I probably agree on just about everything. But after hearing him speak at an Idaho Freedom Foundation celebration last week, I found myself more than a little uncomfortable with his methodology—if only because it’s so lazy.

Of course, conservatives aren’t the only ones resorting to ad hominem attacks (though the six-year old bully in me wants to point out that we are better at it, thanks to a long tradition of knife-tongued commentators like Rush and Ann Coulter). In fact, Breitbart and his liberal name calling counterparts personify what is wrong with the political climate in America today, where ridiculous sideshows about the President’s birth certificate take precedence over serious matters, like, say, national security.

I’m willing to bet that most Americans, like me, are sick and tired of all the mudslinging in the political sandbox. It's no wonder people on both the left and the right have left the playground in disgust. People like Breitbart are not debating—they’re demagoguing.  

Here’s a thought for Mr. Breitbart and others like him: maybe the people you’re calling stupid have thought hard about their erroneous opinions. Maybe they care as much about America as you do—they just have different solutions. I have several close friends who are ardent supporters of President Obama’s agenda. They point to the success of Scandinavian socialism as a role model for what America could become if we successfully balance a social safety net with the incentives-based regulated capitalism. These are not “stupid” opinions and observations. I trust that my liberal friends have thought about their political positions as hard as I have thought about mine.

What characterizes political discussions with these friends is the positive energy that comes from sincere, respectful people who value diversity and appreciate that the problems facing our nation are complex, with no simple solutions. I think listening to liberals and considering their opinions is way more fun than baiting and eviscerating them. We tacitly agree to disagree about issues, but we share a sense of respect, mutual ethics, and appreciation for diversity. Sometimes we even learn something!

I think Breitbart and his friends may be on the wrong side of rhetoric, but they are on the right side of history. A big federal government will not solve our dependency on foreign oil—companies like Dynamis Energy will. The government cannot fix healthcare, they appear to be unwilling to reign in the national debt (the single biggest threat to our national security), and they refuse to enact meaningful immigration reform laws.

But we have forgotten that most liberals and conservatives want the same thing: life, liberty, and happiness. That we disagree about how to attain those worthy goals should not be hijacked by pointless ad hominem attacks. One thing I really admired about President Reagan was the way he treated other people. Reagan-loving Conservatives should take a page out of that leader’s book. Stop using “liberal” like it’s a dirty word and start listening to what liberals actually have to say. We might be able to share a sandbox again—and forge compromises that will lead to meaningful change.


simplulo said...

You would enjoy Jonathan Haidt's book The Righteous Mind. If you only have 20 minutes, watch his latest TED talk.

Unknown said...

I'm a little curious here: if you're a conservative, why the Sacco and Vanzetti reference and commie kitsch?

Azuliterman123 said...

Anarchist? I'm confused as well, are you intending to be misleading? Anarchism and libertarianism are quit different. First of all Anarchism is usually considered left-wing, such as anarcho-communism . Although there is anarcho-capitalism which is considered right-wing but it is a much more recent phenomenon and most other anarchists (including this one) don't consider it to be in the anarchist tradition. Further anarcho-capitalism is similar but also very different from contemporary American libertarianism.While libertarians recognize the need for at least a small state to provide military defense, courts, law enforcement etc... anarcho-capitalists reject even this. They think the aforementioned services should be provided by the free market and that the state should be abolished, hence the prefix anarcho. So I don't know if your confused or if it's just me, so please enlighten me.