Archives for: August 2011, 25
There were certain issues in the past that have graduated to non-issues. They are now considered by most of us to be settled questions.
In some cases, it is because the weight of accumulated evidence has pretty much crushed any doubt. Very few of us take seriously any debate on whether the sun goes around the earth. Those who wonder if President Obama was actually born in America seem to be split between those who think he was born in Kenya and those who do not realize that Hawaii is a part of the the United States.
In other cases, settled questions are settled because simple fairness has become obvious over time. Gay rights, in at least some form, has gone a long way toward being a universal view. There are some who simply regard a same sex romantic relationship as a perversion that should be outlawed. But the number of adherents to that view has shrunk to the point of near non-existence. There is still debate over actual equal rights. Equality in marriage is less controversial than it was even a year ago. Even Republicans are beginning to dodge questions they once demagogued.
Racial equality once was controversial. Now the denigration of minorities is distasteful to even die hard conservatives. We have a philosophical objection to discrimination that goes beyond argument. It is a settled question.
Many things that were once open to debate are now settled simply because people thought about them enough to approach them with a very solid point of view. Slavery. Death camps. President Nixon.
But on most issues, those before the public, people are swayed by evidence. My friend John Myste disagrees with me on this, and his view holds up to observation to a point. In a single discussion, in even multiple discussions, most folks do not want to concede an argument. But, over time, evidence does tend to affect enough folks to bend the arc.
The difficulty with the shrinking minority that consider themselves Republican is that the most influential consider the very basic fabric of social organization to be a closed question. Government intervention in the form of public safety, pollution control, employment compensation, a healthy economic environment, even nuclear safety, is rejected.
Those Republicans who reject government activism do not, for the most part, reject government solutions because they believe these problems do not exist. They believe these problems do not exist because they reject government solutions. At least on most things.
There are some issues on which most Republicans favor governmental activism. Sex education is favored as long as it is "abstinence only" sex education. Immigration restriction is favored. But, for most, even these issues are closed questions.
Their point of view is philosophical in nature. When they formulate it that way, this can be quite legitimate. In fact, most of us apply a philosophical conclusion to many of life's situations.
"My mind's made up. Don't confuse me with the facts." That is the caricature, but it is only a caricature to a valid approach. We do not challenge the logic of an argument. We challenge the premise.
Consider a recent viral video of an interview with Texas Governor and recently announced Presidential candidate Rick Perry.
I can’t find a full transcript, but to offer a flavor, the clip shows a reporter passing along a question from the audience to the governor: “Why does Texas continue with abstinence education programs, when they don’t seem to be working? In fact, I think we [in Texas] have the third-highest teen-pregnancy rate in the country right now.” Perry responds, “Abstinence works.”
So, the reporter tries again. “But we have the third-highest teen teen-pregnancy rate among all states in the country. The questioner’s point is, it doesn’t seem to be working.” The governor answers again, “It — it works.” Perry then spends two-and-a-half minutes on a meandering answer that doesn’t really make any sense.
Perry might have answered that statistics are not the only measure, that if it works in just one case, it works. He might have elaborated that what matters more than if it works is whether it is right, that a society should stand for something, that the benefit of a moral stand goes beyond it's immediate utility.
Challenge the premise.
The problem is this: Most Republicans do not seem to have the patience. And so we end up with a reflexive denial of even the most obvious facts. Queen of Hearts reasoning drags at the mind.
Hey, I'm telling you.