The Washington Post has a piece describing how Tom Coburn has come under fire from conservatives for suggesting that Nancy Pelosi is a nice person. Yes, he opposes her on health care (and most other things). He attempted, though, to oppose the policies she advocates while refusing to attack her as a person. Some would say that is simply what decent people do. Cobrun even suggested that Fox News isn’t always fair and balanced. Would Nancy Pelosi get the same treatment from Daily Kos, etc. if she has said the same about Coburn and CNN? Is this just politics as usual? Could it be that we are taking politics too seriously? Does thinking of politics and policy debates in terms of war induce a “destroy the enemy” mentality?
Alasdair MacIntyre argues that we have lost a common moral language rooted in classical virtue. With that loss, all that is left are absolute rights claims, emotivism, and the political tactic of “the protest.” In such a context, there is no room for rational discourse, there is no possibility of compromise, and there is a diminished chance that we can disagree in a way that suggests an underlying commitment to the common good even if we disagree on the means to achieve it. At the very least, an ethic of virtue requires that we grasp the meaning of human excellence. To grasp the meaning of human excellence, we must grasp something about the meaning of the human being.
Wendell Berry gets at this issue by suggesting that one aspect of the problem is a failure of imagination:
In order to survive, a plurality of true communities would require not egalitarianism and tolerance but knowledge, an understanding of the necessity of local differences, and respect. Respect, I think, always implies imagination–the ability to see one another, across our inevitable differences, as living souls.
A hopeless ideal? In the age of cable television, talk radio, and blogs, it surely seems like a long shot. Nevertheless, I’ll throw in my lot with the hopeless idealists.
h/t Jordan Spencer