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During Tuesday’s debate, Democrats were asked which enemy they were most proud of making. Lincoln Chaffee claimed the coal lobby; Martin O’Malley cited the NRA; Hillary Clinton agreed with O’Malley, but added “the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the Iranians, probably the Republicans;” Senator Bernie Sanders claimed Wall Street and the pharmaceutical Industry as being “at the top of my list;” and Jim Webb said it was the man who threw a grenade that would have killed a US Marine were it not for Webb’s heroism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t48MyL5QdAc
Naturally, Webb’s answer was unwelcome in a Democratic Party that often seems ashamed of Western Civilization, and of any efforts spent defending (or worse, expanding) it. Webb is the candidate for the people whom the Democratic party left. Another good answer would have been to reject the question.
I’m not proud of any enemy I’ve made. My goal is to work with people who have different ideas, different world views, and different goals, and to try to find the areas where we agree and can work together.
Sure, there are extreme cases where you have to shun somebody — say a rapist or mass-murderer — but the coal industry? The NRA? The other party? Civil society requires recognizing that most people with whom we disagree are good people trying to do something good.
On the abortion issue, for example, we should not think of it as an argument between those who like to kill babies and those who like to dominate women. Rather, it’s an argument between those focused on a woman’s right to her own body and those focused on saving the unborn baby inside it.
If we respected the other side and understood their concerns, we’d have a better chance of influencing them, and of advancing our cause. We’ll save more babies when we acknowledge that pro-choice activists have real concerns about women being coerced to go through long and painful procedures. They’ll have a better chance of helping women when they acknowledge that you don’t have to hate them in order to want to protect unborn babies from being killed and their organs harvested and sold.
Henry Adams said that “Politics, as a practise, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.” But President Obama was elected largely because he promised to move beyond partisan politics. If we hope to do the same, we should not be proud of making enemies.