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Winning or democracy?

| Thursday, September 9, 2004

I rushed to finish a paper before 5:00 on Wednesday so I could attend the College Democrats vs. College Republicans debate. As I stood outside Stonehenge, I heard well-versed people deliver representations of their candidates’ platforms. I heard arguments about Iraq, Al-Qaeda and the economy. And I heard Democrats around me scoffing when a Republican took stage, Republicans laughing under their breath at the arguments of the Democrats and people proudly clapping when they heard something with which they agreed.

I left after 15 minutes, and not because the pizza ran out. Rather, I couldn’t take the debate any more.

Dialogue is about compromise, not winning. Wednesday’s debate, like any debate, was about the rah-rah spirit that produces alliances mirroring those we have for sports teams. When we watch Notre Dame play football against Michigan this weekend, for example, we’re not at all interested in the reasons why Michigan fans like Michigan. No, we just hate Michigan. Why? Because they are Michigan. It doesn’t matter why they’re Michigan fans; they’re just utterly, inexplicably, undoubtedly wrong.

That makes sense when it comes to sports; they’re all in fun. But treating politics like sports is as preposterous as asking Michigan fans why they are Michigan fans. When we lose interest in the reasons people are voting for Bush or Kerry, when we start to hate the Bush supporters and the Kerry supporters, we kill democracy. Should we come from polarized ends, or should we come from the middle, acknowledging that we don’t have all of the information and recognizing that our purported opponents could have something valuable to say? Should we attack the candidates or discuss the logic behind their ideas?

Over 200 years ago in Philadelphia, a group of middle-aged men struggled bitterly, compromising on various issues, and they came up with our Constitution. Dialogue is at the core of democracy. Mudslinging isn’t revolutionary, and it doesn’t inspire change. We deserve better than to turn politics into sport.

Catherine McGeeney



Sept. 8