It’s Not Real
Remember that time you won that huge political argument with a family member? You were trading vicious insults and challenging each other’s patriotism, and suddenly she or he finally said, “You know what, you’re right”. Remember that? Of course you don’t – because it never happened, and never will. Families and friendships have fractured over slights, actual and perceived, far less severe than the accusations routinely leveled by and between “liberals” and “conservatives”. It is literally ignorant to believe that persuasion can be achieved through denigration; it is a mindset that ignores human nature and life experience.
We handle our national issues by retreating into a deranged fantasyland, where the things we know to be true in our own lives magically disappear, replaced by hopeless campaigns in pursuit of impossible outcomes. When making truly important decisions in our own lives, we never even consider the type of useless theoretical arguments made in the context of national issues.
If we have too much debt, we take the steps to fix it. For most of us, that means cutting your expenses and increasing our income. We downgrade cable packages; we take a second job. We don’t limit our own options by engaging in the delusion that we must choose between reducing costs and increasing revenue. We don’t legitimize the self deception of a false-choice fallacy, because doing so automatically increases the duration of the problem.
Why then, do we abandon our time-tested beliefs when viewing similar issues in the context of our nation’s policies? We have a national debt of roughly $18 trillion. This figure represents the combined decisions of presidents and congresses, as well as the performance of our economy, over the last 35 years. Mathematically, the solution is obvious. The most expedient way to reduce debt is to increase revenue and decrease expenses.
But we don’t discuss our national financial issues mathematically, or even logically. They are couched in terms of ideologically. The beauty of ideology is that it’s not real. At its core, an ideological argument is about what “could happen”, or how things “should be”. Moreover, policies anchored in ideology require complete commitment by all involved, and that will never be the case in a government whose representative makeup is modified every two, four and six years. Reagan changed Carter’s economic policies. Clinton changed Reagan’s. Bush changed Clinton’s. Obama changed Bush’s. When is the last time you heard a candidate for president or congress tell you of his or her two-year plan to right the ship? And when is the last time a candidate was confronted with the implicit flaw in a multi-year plan that requires the complete cooperation of people who will be elected years down the road?
We don’t run our lives according to ideology. We confront our personal issues by applying what we’ve learned to what we’re facing. The jagged disconnect between the practical approaches we apply to our own lives, and the ideological arguments we endorse in the context of broader national issues, renders this country doomed to something far worse than division. We are on the verge of irrelevance.
Liberal and conservative theorists specialize in articulating, in the purest of terms, the “proper role” of government. What ideologues fail to understand is that the first role of government is to govern, and that requires decisions to be made. We are a nation that cannot govern itself. With each passing legislative stalemate rooted in non-negotiable ideology, we implicitly weaken the argument that our representative democracy is “exceptional”.
Rob Kilmer, the President of You Defend It, Inc. is a lawyer with a litigation practice in upstate New York. He hosted the “You Defend It with Rob Kilmer” radio show until 2009 and since then has produced You Defend It debates.. He worked as a guest commentator for CBS4 in Miami during the 2012 Presidential debates, and Pulitzer Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote a piece on him called: “A Solution for Loud, Empty Talk”.
Mr. Kilmer’s initiative focuses on current, divisive issues, and provides members of the public with an opportunity to witness a dignified debate, the purpose of which is to identify how people’s lives will actually be affected by the outcome of the issue being debate. Towards that end, You Defend It debates are governed by two, simple rules: 1) each debater must directly answer the question asked; and 2) each must do so without a single reference to his or her opponent’s argument, party or (presumed) political philosophy. In other words, each debater is expected to show up at the debate with his or her own solution – and defend it.
You Defend It
“If you say it, prove it – because we live with the consequences.”