Thursday, February 23, 2017

Let's Talk

I've started to read, "Conserving America? Thoughts On Present Discontents" by Dr. Patrick Deneen of Notre Dame. I'm not very far in, but I'm going to tell you that you should read it. Setting aside the explosive thesis which I won't share here yet, I still actually believe we can do better in political engagement than we have. I don't think we're too far gone, and that's because little things make a huge difference. One person who takes the time to make an opponent's argument better than they have, or toxic words not spoken improves the climate just a little.

Usually, when a candidate for office says they want to add to the national conversation, that means he or she has no chance of winning that office. And maybe that's still true. But what if candidates saw themselves as caretakers of the civic space? We cannot simply mean a desire to serve the public in some general way; I am aiming for an idea that candidates for office safeguard and de-escalate the "temperature" at which the national debate takes place. It seems few of us are actually skilled at this, but I believe it's something to work toward.

I believe this not for the sake of sentiment and self-image, but to create the intellectual space to think constructively and creatively. I don't think anyone believes we are in a golden age of bold policy.

Leaders can be made by the passions of the moment, but more often they create cultures of engagement, which either benefit or harm the public space.

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