LeBrun’s Rules for Political Debate September 5, 2012 by Chris LeBrun

Over the last few years I have remained mostly quiet about my political views, despite a love discussing policies and strategies. I’ve talked about politics some on my weekly Internet radio show, The Sideliners Show, but not on my blog or other social media sites.

This has been due, in part, to the emerging political environment that has devolved to attacking opponents rather than addressing the issues.  This is evidenced by biased bloggers who care more about getting the story first rather than actually getting the story right and the popularity of social networks where anybody can parrot biased talking points and post divisive Internet memes that have no basis in reality.  I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but apparently the new approach to people who have a different opinion than you is to insult them with as much hate and vitriol as possible because, obviously, if they don’t agree with you they MUST be wrong!

Up until now, my strategy has been “better to just stay out of it all than to get caught up in the craziness!” With that said, I am going to take a few tepid steps back into the pool in an attempt to stimulate meaningful discussion relating to actual issues and policies facing the candidates.  I’m not going to blast with my opinions, but rather, pose questions and thoughts to stimulate discussion.   I’m not saying I’ll always be the moderator, delicately trying to do a balancing act between the two parties.  When it’s all said and done you’ll know where I stand and I’ll know where you stand and hopefully we’ll still be friends!

I have never understood or supported the idea of alienating or eliminating friends (i.e. deleting them on Facebook) who don’t share the exact same political views as me.  As narcissistic as some people claim I am,  I would never want the entire world to think like me, “walk, talk and act like me!” (yes I did just quote Eminem right here!)

However, I do believe that on my Facebook timeline or on my personal blog I have the ability to request and enforce that comments are productive and factual, further the conversation at hand, and are not hateful, decisive or off topic.

So here are my 5 rules for political debate, which I will abide by and expect others to abide by as well if they wish to engage in conversation with me.  I’m not trying to take away your freedom of speech, I’m merely trying to limit the amount of ignorance I have to put up with on my Facebook page or blog! (My house, my rules!)

And it’s as simple as this — if you don’t like these rules, don’t comment on my political posts.  But if you do comment, understand that if you choose not to follow the rules for political debate, you will be subject to ridicule, scorn, and a thousand lashes with a wet noodle.

In all seriousness, I’ll give warnings and opportunity to correct or change your post, but after that I WILL delete posts from anyone who does not follow the rules of political debate  If that happens I will make it clear that I have done so and why. There will be no mysteriously vanishing comments without an explanation of what happened. The name of the game will be transparency!

My goal with this experiment is to restore my faith in the future of America by proving that even in a small (and completely meaningless in the real world of politics) subsection of this great country we still can have true and honest discussions that are not underscored with hated and partisanship (don’t all laugh at once)!

LeBrun’s Rules for Political Debate:

No Generalizations

Posts that make generalizations about either political party insult you just as much (if not more) than the party you make generalizations about. Not everyone any particular political party shares the same beliefs as everyone else in that party.  Whether it’s abortion for the Republicans or the Keystone Pipeline for the Democrats, I’m sure you can find a wide array of both support for both issues from the parties that are generally thought to oppose these two issues and vice versa.  Also, in apparently breaking news, Democrats are not all communists and Republicans are not all racists! Don’t put people or parties in boxes!

Provide References

Believe it or not, not everything on the world wide inter-web is the truth!  I don’t want you to tell me about some wacky “birther” website that says Obama stole someone’s Social Security Number nor do I want to hear liberal talking points spun straight from the mouths of MSNBC anchors.  If you are talking about “the facts,” be prepared to tell us where those “facts” come from.  Ideally, you’ll get your information from non-partisan and unbiased sources but if that’s not possible, news organizations that don’t slant one direction or the other are preferred.  And remember, Wikipedia and Huffington Post are not  primary sources!

Stay on Topic

If the conversation is about ducks on a pond, don’t talk about emerging weather patterns — unless those weather patterns have a direct impact on the wellbeing of the ducks on a pond.  So often, rather than answering a question people will change the topic all together.  It’s a great tactic to use when you don’t have an answer to the question or you do have an answer, but being truthful would also be incriminating.  Of course, providing context to the conversation is important sometimes but a total topic shift or flat-out refusal to answer the question is not productive.

Be Careful with Opinions

As Miss South Carolina famously said, “I personally believe…”  Look, I want conversations that include personal opinions along with a discussion of the facts, but this can be problematic.  It’s fine if you feel Mitt Romney’s is not in touch with your average American voter, but be sure to give the reasons that led you to feel this way.  I’m not going to get into the business of telling you that your “gut feeling” is wrong but pointing to examples that justify your opinion are always appreciated!

No Insults or Divisiveness

Two examples of something that absolutely drives  me up the wall:  when Sean Hannity uses pejorative nicknames for the Democrats and Bob Beckle (and scores of others on the Left) refer to the Tea Party by using a sexual slang word.  When are we going to realize that insults do not help us get a particular point across — they just make us look pathetic.  The same with Internet memes.  Anyone with Photoshop can take a picture and make it say something but that doesn’t mean it’s the truth. You owe it to yourself not to get tricked by some moron with Photoshop and a warped sense of humor!

So those are the rules!  Refer back to them as often as necessary and see if we can’t rise above this petty partisanship that has divided this great country!

God bless you and God bless the United States of America!

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