There is a fantastic article in the latest New Yorker called Central Casting. It talks about what some feel the Democrats need to do in order to win in 2008. I found the article to be extremely informative, almost uncomfortably so. It made me realize that I am guilty of thinking they way many people are guilty of thinking: that if someone doesn’t want to embrace a certain way of life, they just need to be educated to do so.
Now, this isn’t solely what the article is about. I’m merely simplifying its message and, ironically, making it personal. I know of many like-minded liberals and progressives who believe that instead of trying to meet halfway with someone on the opposite side, they feel that the answer lies in educating them.
Conservatives do the same thing. Someone pro-gun will explain why he or she is and why you should be. We’ve all had someone else preach to us about religion even if we don’t believe in his or her God at all, or any God for that matter (God forbid. Heh). I have found that the religious zealot doesn’t bring much logic or science when it comes to a discussion. While I don’t bring much faith. But all the prayer in the world isn’t going to convince someone that abortion is bad. All the logic won’t tell them choice is good as long as they still see it as murder.
The article explores HOW the Democratic Party should talk to the moderates and swing voters during the next campaign; there were some superb points.
(From the article)
” ‘Every time a pro-state income-tax candidate runs in New Hampshire, they get their butt kicked,’ Kathleen Sullivan told me. ‘And then what you have is Democrats who say, “Well, we just have to educate people more.” Well, no, that’s not what we have to do. We have to not nominate someone who is for a state income tax. The voters don’t need to be educated on this. They know what they believe.’ Sean Wilentz, the Princeton historian, said, ‘The impulse behind the people who run the party is humanitarian, the humanitarians have a problem in American history – they’re always trying to perfect you, make you better.’ Wilentz added, ‘Acceptance of human imperfection would do a lot to help the Democratic Party.’ “
This moved me greatly. I am very passionate about animal rights and how we (carelessly) treat our environment. I have felt this way since I was a child. The thought of someone abusing an animal shakes me to my core. I simply can’t understand how it is I live in a world where someone can abuse a dog or a cat. (My compassion toward animals doesn’t stop with just cats and dogs, but for the sake of receiving some understanding, this time, I will.) My mother doesn’t understand how a woman can abort a baby. Period. Some people don’t understand how we can put our prisoners to death. Others can’t believe we let them live through a trial.
What stuck with me having read the article in the New Yorker was how guilty I am of being totally unable to understand another point of view some of the time. For example, I am unable to comprehend why someone simply MUST drive an SUV, own a gun, or disagree with distributing a 100% cure for cancer caused by HPV. I believe that I don’t even speak their language. I decide they simply must be educated to see the light. (Whose light? My own?) I am even more closed off toward those who live their lives blinded by religion. (See? I used the word “blind” obviously, I have a problem understanding the Religious Right.)
Numerous times, I have run into people who simply aren’t willing to rationally discuss with me how poorly I feel we treat our animals and our environment. I am shut down with a, “I like to eat cow. It’s cheaper at McDonalds. Don’t tell me what I should and shouldn’t eat.” At no point do they wish to talk about options born from sustainable agriculture, something I feel I know at least a little about. If the person isn’t a member of my family and the discussion doesn’t end up in an explosive fight, we simply stop talking. I write them off as “the other side” they do the same to me. We end up more naive because of it.
Perhaps I need to accept a bit more human imperfection, as Wilentz put it. (Although, I’m not sure I’d call it an imperfection as that assumes that the side I’m pardoning is in fact imperfect, allowing me to come at an angle of perfection, which is never a good solution for a decent discussion.) Either way, I think I agree with this assessment of the Democratic Party. If most of us are, in fact, moderates, certainly there is a language out there that can be used to help us unify and accomplish greatness.
(P.S. I am and always will be right about lessening America’s desire for driving SUVs and eating crap. heh)