I normally would have a problem quoting an obscure Midwestern senator that last served almost 30 years ago, but considering Eli Manning just made the Super Bowl, normalcy has pretty much been thrown out the window.
Given the applicability of the quote, and considering the political nature of this school, I’m not too concerned that someone is going to mistake former U.S. Sen. Dick Clark of Iowa for being the same guy that throws those Rockin’ New Year’s Eve parties. The governmental Clark once said, “The principal value of debate lies in the development of logical thought processes, and the ability to articulate your positions publicly.”
Unfortunately, we have entered a period in time where debate is not at all about logic or articulation. Instead it is about sensationalism, yelling, extreme positions, a lack of compromise and blind faith in your beliefs. I laud Sergio Gor, president of GW’s Young America’s Foundation, for trying to expand the minds of students on our campus by looking to bring in conservative speakers, but I cannot endorse the decision to bring Ann Coulter to campus.
Her role as a conservative icon serves to weaken our political debate nationally, and will do the same here. Labeling others with profanities and speaking ill of those with different views are not values we should be honoring. If Coulter comes to campus and treats liberals with respect while forthrightly pointing out what she sees as logical flaws in their thinking, then, by all means, come enrich us academically. Plenty of conservative thinkers could come to our campus, and perhaps YAF should take a look at figures that aim to advance their ideologies without extreme language and disrespect.
In fact, this has been a general trend on both sides of the aisle. Instead of treating our opponents with respect while looking for common ground, we eye each other with skepticism. Whether we are supporters of terrorist “ragheads” – as Coulter sometimes defines liberals for their stances on civil liberties – or elitist “racists” for proposing plans to tighten border security, we throw around general, misleading and oftentimes inappropriate labels too often. Progressive thinkers are to blame as well.
Even well-respected thinkers such as Paul Krugman seem to have lost the respect for valuable debate in our political arenas. Krugman wrote a piece online at Slate Magazine on why progressives “should forget the middle ground.” He explains that the Bush administration has left a great sense of disappointment among voters that progressives can exploit by pushing their agenda through. Now my question would be whether blind faith in liberalism is more important than the ideas rooted within the earliest liberal thinkers – that people of different beliefs can coexist as a nation.
Instead of ignoring the other side, or screaming lies and exaggerations at it, we should sit down with our adversaries and actually listen to their ideas. In fact, that is probably a great idea for the next YAF event. In the opposite vein of Crossfire or Hannity and Colmes, perhaps they can find a speaker or two to sit down with a selection of candidates from a progressive organization, and debate the issues civilly while trying to find a logical middle ground or solution.
In the meantime, I hope Coulter treats our students and the rest of America with respect when she speaks here in a few days. Similarly, I hope GW students treat her nicely – yelling outside her event in loud protest will only add fuel to the fire. While I would rather hear a substantive discussion, Coulter does have something to bring to the table, and if she could ditch any possibly inflammatory rhetoric she may use, and then boil down and synthesize her viewpoints, we may have a good starting point for fulfilling debate.
Of course, if we ignore the substance of her speech and focus on her insults and put downs, we’ll be more misguided than a couple of partygoers who, looking for a good time, end up at Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve party.
The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.
This article appeared in the January 28, 2008 issue of the Hatchet.