On the Importance of Civil and Intelligent Political Conversation

Chapin Lenthall-Cleary

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The Wednesday before last, Radnor High School Junior State of America held a debate between representatives from Young Democrats and representatives from Young Republicans on abortion. Approximately 100 students attended.

Abortion is an iconically polarizing issue. We need only look to the rhetoric surrounding it to see this. Hillary Clinton said “We’re always going to argue about abortion.” Chris Christie said that “Hillary Clinton… believes in the systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts”, a statement, that, true or false, obviously demonstrates polarization.

Depending upon which side you ask, either life or liberty, both of which are important American values, is at stake. This means, notably, that this issue is both difficult to intelligently debate and imperative to intelligently debate. Put simply, it’s difficult for us, as a society, to make the right decision, but we can’t afford to make the wrong decision (except practically).

Both of these facts demonstrate why conversations like the one on Wednesday are nothing less than necessary. While no one upon that stage was less than excellent and the conversation was productive, such a conversation is disappointingly rare amongst even the best of us.

While a twenty-five minute community period isn’t long enough to reach any sort of resolution, both sides were able to civilly express their points and respond to the others’ points. Rather than simply talking past each other, the representatives were generally able to have a coherent dialogue, addressing the opposition’s arguments.

This dialogue was an example of the conversation that we have to have on important political issues. These conversations may be difficult to have. It may be difficult to argue logically and not spout emotion or rhetoric. It may easy to make a craven retreat into a hope that one can demagogue a political issue and win a vote. If, however, we value the principles upon which we found our beliefs, we cannot afford to place our trust into blind democracy without debate. We cannot afford to argue feelings rather than facts. We cannot afford to agree to disagree. We cannot for a second afford to run from important political conversations, no matter how difficult, personal, or polarizing they may be.