January 18, 2023
Make 2023 The Year Of Debate
By: Brian Parsons
“For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.” – Margaret Heffernan
The Socratic method is a form of cooperative dialogue focused on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking. It is based on the works of the early Greek philosopher Plato and is named after Socrates, who developed this method. At the core of the Socratic method is teasing out hypotheses to answer questions and then eliminating those with contradictions. The objective is to reach some truth by way of debate. The great thinkers of civilizations past understood that to reach the truth, you must debate.
A lack of debate has led to much recent consternation. No good thing comes from stifling debate, and an unquestioned consensus is often the tool of tyrants. Some examples of our recent abandonment of debate include our response to COVID-19, the safety of resulting mRNA vaccines, election integrity, the funding of the Ukraine War, climate alarmism, gender ideology, and more. Assuming that you don’t live inside of a vacuum, you’ve no doubt had an encounter with the ministry of truth and its actions to stifle debate. It may have looked like a warning label covering a social media post or an opinion editorial dressed up as investigative fact-check.
Following Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, the public was gifted insight into Twitter’s operation for much of the past half-decade. It should be unquestionably alarming to the public on all sides of the political spectrum that the executives at Twitter not only gave a back door to government and corporate officials to moderate public speech but that it was frequently used to stifle oppositional political thought. It is now apparent why the political left became incensed over Twitter’s acquisition, and it was the imminent end to their bully pulpit. We would be naive to believe that this is only the case with Twitter, and in fact, we know that censorship on Facebook has often come at the urging of government bodies such as the FBI. Suppression of oppositional thought is a tool of tyrants.
One of the most publicized stories of the past few weeks was the battle for Speaker of the US House of Representatives. More often than not, the outcome of these challenges is predetermined and what the public is treated to is lockstep political theater. Much of the conservative punditry defaulted to pearl-clutching at the notion of twenty or so representatives forcing a debate on the issue rather than handing the gavel to California Representative Kevin McCarthy uncontested. This sort of mentality is a shining example of our lack of national debate and a taste of everything that is wrong with politics.
Congress is a deliberative body. The Founders intended that the authority vested in the legislature would be constrained by debate and, in this way, a better steward of the public trust. There is nothing worse than a government that operates in lockstep without deliberation. Operating in lockstep is how you get trillions of dollars in omnibus spending passed in the dead of night with no chance for review. Of late, Americans don’t agree on what a man or a woman is, or better yet, how their money should be spent. The least we can hope for is a debate in the deliberative arm of government.
Perhaps a lack of debate in Congress is only a reflection of the constituencies they represent. Much of the response from the public mirrored the punditry they consumed regarding the optics of deliberation and the lack of a unified front. There is nothing untoward about Congress doing their jobs, but this abashed conservative response is yet another manifestation of conservatives’ tyranny of gentility. They would prefer to fail in unison rather than appear discordant.
Congress did finally elect a Speaker, though it did take several days and fifteen rounds of heated in-person voting. Some wise observers have noted that Congress deliberates over their representation in person while we choose them on machines without the ability to question the result. Debate is a luxury of the elected class but not a luxury of the electing class.
The public doesn’t talk anymore. For recent generations, the axiom was that politics and religion were left at the door so that family and friendships might be preserved. Perhaps this policy of shirking debate created poor friendships and a compliant populace incapable of debate. What is certain is that whether a question of ability or a question of choice, a lack of debate in the public’s personal lives created the expectation of the same in their politics, and resultingly, terrible politics.
Brian Parsons is a paleoconservative opinion columnist in Idaho, a proud husband and father, and saved by Grace. You can follow him at WithdrawConsent.org or find his opinion columns at the American Thinker, in the Idaho State Journal or in other regional publications.