My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Making An Argument

I did something risky tonight: I talked politics with a friend and neighbor who I knew was a Democrat.

We had them over to dinner because they're going to be watching the house while we go on vacation in the next few weeks, and we had to show them around. I had no intention of bringing it up, because I remembered the "Mike Feeley for Congress" sign in their front yard two years ago. However, the she of them started railing haphazardly against Bush and "all Republicans", to which my wife answered "where does that leave us, because we're both Republicans" and the conversation started.

I was, all the while, cognizant of being a good-natured debater while not letting plain facts slip by. For instance, she lauded the relative peace and prosperity of the Clinton years, and longed for that time, but had no answer for the fact that Clinton let bin Laden slip away on at least three occasions. She also went on a tangent about how the rich (Kobe Bryant) get away with lying and rape because they have wealth and power, but was willing to ignore that Bill Clinton lied under oath. She voiced concerns about Americans dying all over the middle east, but was unwilling to deal with the reality that the choice is between trained and equiped American soldiers dying in the middle east or women and children dying in the streets of Denver.

Ultimately, she got around to her big point, which is health care (she works in a hospital). She cited a case of one abdominal surgery--necessary--for which the bill was almost $20,000. A steep price, to be sure. She used that as evidence that the health care system needs dramatic reform, and that as long as Republicans are beholden to HMOs there will never be adequate health care in this country. I asked a simple question: how much of that $20k actually goes to the doctor and the facility? She said very little. Where does it all go? Damned insurance companies. And where from there? Lawyers.

Do you think we're ever going to have adequate health care in this country until we get serious tort reform? And who is talking about that? It sure as hell isn't the Democrats.

That seemed to be the end of the conversation. Her husband, for his part, is pretty reasonable--he has objections to the President, but understands that this is wartime, that things are pretty serious, and this is a pretty good team to be dealing with the world right now.

And, for her part, she was very happy to agree to disagree, and we had a very pleasant evening after that. I know that I probably did not break through to pursuade her to my point of view, but I feel that I argued fairly and accurately with respect to facts, but pleasantly and in a way that wasn't "mean-spirited" or "rancorous." That was my goal. I know I didn't reach her, but maybe I made enough points to get her husband thinking seriously, and that struck me as a victory.

I don't know. I think the battle of ideas can be won pleasantly and without making enemies of adversaries. That's what I'm going to strive to do in the next five months, and I hope it has some positive effect.

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