The Other Side (OR Dangerous Assumptions)

Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has filled Matt Yglesias’ spot at The Atlantic, said something that made me think about Sen. Obama, and the political environment in Washington, DC.

My strength is in […] assuming that the people on the other side have their reasons also.

Sen. Obama has often talked about his willingness to listen to opposing opinions, perspectives, and thoughts. On it’s own, that sounds well and good, and I’m sure it appeals to conservative voters. But, I wonder how it will play in Washington, where Republicans seem to be more interested in uniformity than independent thought.

I certainly believe in the value of open dialog and discussion, but I just don’t see Republicans acting in good faith. You can see it in how they blindly adhere to President Bush’s policies, in how they constantly revert to the politics of fear and baseless personality attacks. I just don’t see the value in engaging with people whose positions seem to be based in ideology. It’s impossible to negotiate with them.

Discussion, dialog, conversation, negotiation, and compromise are all good things, and should all be part of politics. But we need our representatives to represent us in those proceedings in good faith, not as blind followers to a political ideology.
This, I think, is one of my larger concerns in an Obama administration. That, by committing to working “across the aisle” he’ll end up being pulled much further to the right than necessary. That, by assuming Republican politicians are operating in good faith, that he’ll willing cede ground towards a compromise that will not be reciprocated, and we’ll end up with half-ass solutions to the challenges we face.

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