When Aristotle said that “man is a political animal” he meant that politics is an inherent part of the human experience. He didn’t mean to imply that political men should behave like animals. Sometimes we lose sight of that and politics gets nasty.
Politics is the civil discussion about the kind of people we want to be and the kind of nation we want to live in. The key word is civil. Many people get turned off of politics because of the shouting, righteousness, and exclusivity that seems rampant on talk radio and television. Make no mistake. Partisanship is not a sin. It’s okay to believe the other side is wrong. That said, it’s not okay to be nasty about it. Trying to convince people to think your way works much better if you treat them with kindness and respect. Empathy is as much the skill of a good politician as rhetoric.
The conflict between liberals and conservatives stems mainly from the disparate ways in which they view the world – in terms of both the problems and the solutions. As in all facets of life, a healthy understanding of your opponent’s worldview is a good debate strategy and it facilitates civil discourse. To that end, I propose a national program requiring all 535 members of Congress to read the following two books: