Transpartisan Note #14

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

The State of Political Debate

Powerful factors influence Transpartisan realities. Among them the state of debate plays an important but often ignored role.

Take race relations. The same week, September 4 to 11 2016, San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem conservative radio host Glenn Beck wrote “Empathy for Black Lives Matter” a powerful Transpartisan op ed column for the New York Times.

In our previous note we described a Transpartisan context for Kaepernick’s important statement that he hoped to kick off a conversation about race in America. Beck himself sets out such a context for his view of how he can address race saying:

“I consider myself a ‘classical liberal‘— a.k.a. ‘constitutional conservative’ — and I believe the greatness of our country lies in our founders’ creation of a system that allows and encourages all voices to be heard. The only way for our society to work is for each of us to respect the views of others, and even understand and empathize with one another. I have always tried to work toward this goal, even though I have often been guilty of conflating the individual with the whole.”

When a contrarian, conservative, combatant like Glenn Beck uses these words we believe it makes sense to listen. What he said next underscored our belief:

“After the massacre [of Dallas police officers], I invited several Black Lives Matter believers on my show. I got to know them as people — on and off air — and invited them back again. These individuals are decent, hardworking, patriotic Americans. We don’t agree on everything, certainly not on politics; but are we not more than politics? …they are black Americans who feel disenfranchised and aggrieved; they are believers; they are my neighbors and my fellow citizens.

“We need to listen to one another, as human beings, and try to understand one another’s pain. Empathy is not acknowledging or conceding that the pain and anger others feel is justified. Empathy is acknowledging someone else’s pain and anger while feeling for them as human beings — even, and maybe especially, when we don’t necessarily agree [with] or understand them.”

Read the Glenn Beck article here and experience a breadth of possibility that often goes unnoticed in this year of our divided national election. The conversation grows.

(Photo of microphone by user “drestwn” found here and licensed CC BY 2.0.)

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