On Provoking Your FriendsBy
The other night Rachel Maddow commented on “how weak the political and rhetorical muscles get when they`re allowed to atrophy.” She was talking about the insular conservative media bubble, but well, a little Socratic method never hurt anyone:
…when Sharron Angle`s political career ended last night on local television in Nevada, it was a perfect case study in what happens if you don`t ever talk to people with whom you disagree. Because here is the thing when your positions are never questioned, you`re never forced to develop strong logic to back them up. When your arguments are never challenged, you don`t ever have to improve them. You don`t ever have to cast out arguments of yours that don`t make sense or learn how to deal with evidence that appears to contradict your conclusions. That`s why I regret that we don`t have more conservatives on this show. Because I do have a point of view, of course, but I like talking with people with whom I disagree, both because it is fun and selfishly because it makes my arguments better.
The other day on this blog I road tested some ideas around a theme I’ve been working on: leadership on the left. A discussion of wind and solar energy provided the opportunity. I have grown frustrated watching liberals decry leaders in Washington for having no spines when so few seem capable themselves of making decisions when the choices aren’t widely popular or downside-free. But damn, if we don’t have the courage to boldly choose between vanilla and chocolate.
If we expect to get the country out of the mess it’s in, we’d better get better at being leaders capable of more than assenting to the obvious. Leaders need to make and execute plans. Not everyone can. Almost anybody can have a good idea. And ideas often improve when tested.