A great starting point for discussion ‚ÄĒ real discussion ‚ÄĒ between the left and right is to stop misrepresenting what the other side believes. That‚Äôs what‚Äôs preventing real discussion about what to do about illegal immigration, as children from other countries flood the border.
It‚Äôs also what‚Äôs stopping real debate about how to help the poor who are already among us.
President Obama is leading the way on this, as he claims that Republicans who want a secure border are heartless. Obama says Republicans are ‚Äúusing the situation with unaccompanied children as their newest excuse to do nothing.‚ÄĚ
What he means, of course, is that they aren‚Äôt doing what he wants. The GOP clearly wants immigration reform, but its idea of reform and the president‚Äôs idea are have some significant differences.
Another issue where we see nothing but straw men being put up and shot down is poverty. Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, a Democrat, has written a piece for Realclearpolitics.com that misrepresents how the GOP sees poverty, and government efforts to alleviate it.
‚ÄúIn 1854, Abraham Lincoln wrote that the ‚Äėobject of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Yarmuth notes. ‚ÄúLincoln believed, in other words, that government is how we organize our responsibilities to each other. Today, Republicans have a different view.‚ÄĚ
Let‚Äôs take that statement one sentence at a time.
The Lincoln quote is spot-on. It explains the need for government in doing things such as building roads and defending the homeland.
Where Yarmuth goes wrong is his summation of Lincoln‚Äôs words. He claims Lincoln believed that ‚Äúgovernment is how we organize our responsibilities to each other.‚ÄĚ
But that‚Äôs only partly true. Government is one way we organize our responsibilities to each other. There are many, many other ways, and often they‚Äôre far more effective.
Republicans don‚Äôt have a ‚Äúdifferent view;‚ÄĚ they have a larger view. Republicans see a bigger role for the private sector, for families, for faith communities, and for individual philanthropy.
Why doesn‚Äôt the left respect these other ways to help? It was just a few weeks ago we reported on the objections many on the left raised about Starbucks helping its workers earn college degrees.
‚ÄúThough admirable in spirit, the danger of this social enthusiasm rests in its private implementation,‚ÄĚ writes Margaret Mattes for The Century Foundation. ‚ÄúSocial movements and community awareness should be driven by groups, not individual billionaires such as Schultz and Bill Gates.‚ÄĚ
In other words, private sector solutions aren‚Äôt solutions at all. Democrats see the government as the engine of all social change; Republicans see government as just a part (often a faulty part) of such change.
The real point here is that neither side is properly representing the other side‚Äôs perspective. That‚Äôs why the debate often devolves into name-calling and worse.
A more honest assessment of the other side‚Äôs positions is a starting point for real discussion.