Tuesday, December 31, 2013

If you think your opponent is evil...

Rick Esenberg on understandings that would help return civility to politics:
  • If you think that your political opponent is evil, you are probably wrong. Most liberals are not fanatical communists or amoral libertines. Most conservatives are not heartless and greedy or censorious  prudes. People differ in the priority that they place on often competing, but commonly shared, values—say liberty v. equality—and in their judgments on the way that the world works and what must be done to serve those values. Beware of responding to a cartoon that you have created, as opposed to real people and the arguments that they make.
  • If you think that your political opponent is corrupt, you are probably wrong. .... What motivates them is a sincere belief that certain policies will harm, while others will help, their country. I'll assume—until I'm shown otherwise—that the other side is similarly sincere.
  • Resist the desire to destroy your political opponent.  One of the most treacherous developments in our politics is the irresponsibility with which certain people have attempted to criminalize political differences. ....  Another is to place the most uncharitable—and often unreasonable—interpretation on something that a person [has] said in order to label them as "racist," "homophobic," "un-American" or "pro-criminal."  Most of us are none of these things. Cut it out.
  • Acknowledge when the other side has a point.  ....
  • Understand why these things are hard. ....
  • Take things in stride.  ....
  • Be realistic.  I don't expect to dislike lawyers on the other side or carry our battles outside the litigation. But I do expect to have a battle. Just as clients really have opposing interests, our political battles reflect real differences of opinion about things that matter and cannot be dismissed as mere "partisanship." Respect does not imply agreement. It is simply not the case that, if we put "politics" aside, we'll magically agree on things. .... [more]