Fighting the Good Fight: Why Argue About Politics?

“You’ll never win, so what’s the point?” Classic apolitical skeptic. Arguing isn’t for everyone, and I get that. Some are born into it (my family argues for sport), others are drawn into debate by passion for certain issues, others feels it is their duty either as Americans or as members of the intelligentsia. The political bug came to bite us, we’re all here and there are consequences to that. Anyone who plans to dedicate their life to politics and debate will encounter the existential sinkhole of “why am I doing this?” a number of times. In fact, it’s perfectly understandable that one would become fatalistic about a career playing tug-of-war, but then again, consider the alternative.

No singular person has the knowledge, experience or physical faculty to be an autocrat. If you or I or Paul Ryan or Elizabeth Warren were made a wholly powerful hegemon tomorrow – objections to that on the basis of governmental philosophy notwithstanding – we would all get some things horribly wrong. What’s more, if a government is comprised of a bunch of people who ubiquitously agree with one another, everyone else in the polity is, for lack of a better word, screwed. We fight about politics because to neglect to do so is to accept failure. Wanting to “win” a debate is human and laudable but wanting to win without opposition is dangerous. Therefore, the solution to the aforementioned sinkhole is to ask yourself, what would happen if the other side won out? If your side of the argument dropped the rope and went home, what would the world look like? I imagine part of the reason you got into the game in the first place is that you find that reality unacceptable, so make your voice heard and change the outcome by doing so.

Essentially, what I’m saying is that the proper approach to the political life is to enjoy a certain amount of losing because it means the system is working and in the end we’re all winning. Is this an argument for partisanship? Actually, yes. Typically, a more codified battle of the wills produces more efficient results, and having a “group” behind you on a binary issue makes sense. But only on the first order level of debate. Really the titles “Democrat” and “Republican” are only meant to denote groups that hold certain policy preferences. They usually correspond to certain larger philosophies but they aren’t supposed to dictate that part of it; philosophy informs party, not the other way around. To tie your metaphysical beliefs to a party that is really only designed for normative questions is as academically dishonest as it is misguided. 

We all have to go home at the end of the day and make decisions that have absolutely nothing to do with our arguments about tax policy, health care or forms of government. Basing who you love, where you live or how you spend your money off of the way you vote is cheap; basing how you vote off of how you do those things is necessary. I know plenty of people who see the world much like I do yet have arrived at totally different policy preferences and that’s great. It means we can argue about the government all we like but can come to the agreement that what we’re doing is good. Never stop fighting the good fight, never think the impossibility of a decisive win is cause for giving up. When addressing questions of legislation, pick a side and pull as hard as you can. That being said, know there is a reason the other side is doing what they’re doing, and do not sacrifice your intellectual integrity for partisan politics; they simply aren’t worth that much.