Larsen Financial is a full-service investment center that has all the products and services of the major brokerages, but without the high costs.

Learn more.

Political Debate Should Not Devolve Into Personal Attacks

  • Political Debate Should Not Devolve Into Personal Attacks

  • 21 September 2006 by 0 Comments

Political Debate Should Not Devolve Into Personal Attacks
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 09/21/06

It is a wonder to behold how degraded political discourse can be at times. On national TV shows we see bitter, acerbic attacks leveled at those of opposing positions. We hear debates degenerate into nothing more than name-calling sessions. And even right here in Pocatello, participants on the Journal’s web logs referring euphemistically to human anatomical parts in such a way as to belittle those who would attempt to communicate an opposing perspective, all the while thinking they’re so clever and cute for having done so.

There can be several reasons for this type of behavior. Perhaps they think ethnocentrically that everyone should see things the same way they do. And if you don’t happen to concur, you are deemed subhuman since you don’t subscribe to their way of thinking.

Some may be just so brain-washed they can’t conceive of any perspective or data that may even in the slightest manner conflict with their world view.

Or perhaps they’re just too immature to converse in a civil, yet intellectually engaged fashion. They possess just enough knowledge to make them dangerous, but wo to the man or woman who attempts to inform them a little more! In these cases, they don’t warrant a response, since their mental prepubescence would preclude a rational examination of the facts.

There is an arrogance from extreme political ideologies that often disallows any meaningful dialogue. They’re right, they know they’re right, and everyone else is wrong. If you think differently, they perceive you as from another planet and of such obvious erroneous thinking that it is beneath them to even condescend to a courteous dialogue. Doing so would itself lend legitimacy to a countering view.

Oft-times they are just so convinced they’re right but lacking the factual verification for their position, the only way they can force home their position is by engaging in such counter-productive diatribes, name calling, and euphemistic references to body parts, as before mentioned.

Maybe they’re just down-right mean. The world is full of mean people these days: those who cut you off on the highway without signaling, those who have their car amps cranked up so high your vehicle literally vibrates to the gyrations of their “music; those who’s only way of waving is with only one finger extended, and those who think the world exists only to satisfy their respective needs and wants.

The only comforting aspect to this conundrum is the realization that we can choose not to participate. We can turn off the TV, change channels, walk away from confrontational egocentric and self-consumed people, and turn off the computer or change web sites to disengage ourselves from such undesirable and demeaning confrontations.

For those of us in the realm of public discourse and dialogue, to borrow from the liberal mantra, “Can’t we all just get along?” One’s position can be much more persuasively presented without condescending, vindictive, and downright nasty language. Nothing can be more persuasive than a well conceived, and well documented argument, whether in nascent stages, or as rebuttal. If we are seeking to be understood and to enlighten others, the intent should be to do so as rationally as possible. No followers are won through caustic, acrid, or demeaning speech or demeanor.

Perhaps that presumes too much, however. Many thus engaged might be well beyond the parameters of rational thought. In which case, they win no arguments and they win no followers or adherents, and they win no respect. All they earn is consternation from a rational public, and isolation from those seeking meaningful engagement in the realm of ideas.

Several years ago my father served as Speaker of the House in Boise representing District 27 from Blackfoot. The minority leader at the time was Patricia McDermott of Pocatello. The two were poles apart ideologically. When the two were selected by their peers to serve in their respective capacities, everyone in the House thought the sparks would fly. To the contrary, they had a very respectful relationship based on honesty. They agreed at the outset that they would always be honest with each other, and put the interests of Idahoans ahead of all others.

Two years ago after my father’s passing, I had an opportunity to visit with Patty about her years of service in the Idaho Legislature with my father. She confirmed what my father had said about their professional relationship. Patty said that they both abstained from “petty barking and sniping, and that anything mean spirited or nasty was not to be engaged in.” She further stated that politics should never be engaged in on a personal level, and that if we are intellectually honest in our positions, we can communicate accordingly and civilly.

It seems to me that if Allan Larsen and Patty McDermott could overcome their expansive ideological chasm so efficaciously for so many years in the Idaho House of Representatives, the rest of us can as well .

Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at

About the

More than anything, I want my readers to think. We're told what to think by the education establishment, which is then parroted by politicians from the left, and then reinforced by the mainstream media. Steeped in classical liberalism, my ideological roots are based in the Constitution and our founding documents. Armed with facts, data, and correct principles, today's conservatives can see through the liberal haze and bring clarity to any political discussion.

Related Posts