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Politics is a Tough Subject

I recently hosted a dinner party with some new friends.  It was a great evening and we all connected so well on many levels.  At the end of the evening one of our guests steered the discussion towards presidential politics and then things somehow became awkward and heated.  I was asked if I would be interested in supporting a specific candidate and I replied that I have a generally unfavorable view of most politicians and have a policy of only supporting friends and those that I know personally, or people whose specific agendas I understand.  I continued that I believe that we citizens have for too long turned over control to leaders who never lay down specific agendas for helping our society, and are thus completely unaccountable in office.  Perhaps I made a few poor choices of words inasmuch as this is a passionate subject for me, however, the theme of my message was entirely non-partisan.  In fact, knowing that my guest was a committed liberal Democrat, during the course of our exchange I made a point of embracing certain views of Elizabeth Warren that I actually believed to be merit worthy.

In the end, my guest was deeply apologetic for having even raised the subject of politics at our dinner party, explaining that she was embarrassed for having done so and telling me “Politics is a tough subject.”  I really disagree with this approach.  Politics is the very serious decision by a society as to how it wishes to be governed and in which direction.  It is the determination as to which philosophies will be embraced and which action steps will be taken accordingly.  These decisions will inevitably have profound impact upon many millions, and even billions of human lives.  And, importantly, no one knows with any real certainty which path, or philosophies, or action steps are the right ones in any given moment.  No one has a crystal ball to understand clearly what the results of certain actions will be.  When a bi-partisan Congressional vote authorized the invasion of Iraq in 2001 the messy outcome was surely not known.  When our President and his former Secretary of State chose the path of friendship with Russia, pressing the metaphorical “Reset Button,” they obviously did not know that would lead to the current mess in Ukraine.  When our last President and his Treasury Secretary rescued the large banks from their own mistakes, and two senators wrote a bill specifically designed to reduce the systemic risks we were exposed to by having too great a concentration of banking in too few banks, they had know idea that not a decade later the size of those banks would have grown still larger and our systemic risk to them even greater.  The arrogance of partisanship, and of pretending that one knows with certainty, or that their way is the only way and that those who embrace competing ideas are either dumb or mean-spirited is foolish and harmful.

Avoiding the topic of politics in our discussions, or only engaging with those who are of the same mindset does little to improve our chances of finding the best outcomes for our society.  Each political party is founded upon certain philosophical ideas that deserve to be considered.  As my guest pointed out to me, free trade with nations who can underprice U.S. production because of its willingness to treat its worker class horribly has the dual effect of undermining the cause of global human rights as well as bringing down our own working class, who are forced to work for slave-labor wages or lose their jobs outright to foreign production.  As a person committed deeply to freedom, this point has stuck with me very much and has made me reconsider my views on free trade.  I wonder if in this case free trade is actually something that perpetuates a lack of freedom.  On the other hand, I do know that while the pay in certain foreign countries is indeed very low, and the work conditions poor, for many of those workers the alternatives are even worse.  Then, I also wonder if the leaders of our country are supposed to be considering the world’s population when making policy decisions, or just the best interests of the United States.  This too is a very complex issue inasmuch as choosing the latter might bring short-term benefits to our citizens but can sometimes cause very bad long-term consequences.

Every political decision impacts lives, and the decision to support any politician is among the most serious ones we face.  I would love to be able to have free and open dialogue so that people can benefit from each other’s perspectives and insights, and so well thought out ideas and solutions can be embraced.  I believe that this politics a topic that we must discuss, and especially with people who challenge our beliefs.

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