Threats to Our Republic: the HHS Mandate and Incivility

Following the debate over the HHS mandate, I am struck by a number of dynamics that have taken shape. First, the brutal lack of respect and civility–on both sides–that has reared itself consistently throughout the debate. It’s embarrassing at best, and pretty scary at worst. Second, it really is striking how this debate over the propriety of the government’s actions regarding the mandate has turned into a debate over whether or not the president is a Christian (how are the two issues related again?). Lastly, and I realize that this is at the heart of the debate–I am distressed over the fact that there seems to be a willingness to make this issue one of women’s reproductive rights instead of one over religious freedom.

My friends on the left side of issue will, of course, object to my last point. I understand that is at the core of this debate. I present two articles, one from Charles Krauthammer and the other from Josh Good. Krauthammer summarizes the implications of the mandate as they relate to the violation of the autonomy of religious institutions, the intrusion of government into free enterprise, and the forcing of individuals to buy insurance. The article from Good points out the lack of civility in the discourse, particularly in the House Committee on Oversight hearing last week (what Martin Bashir recently called a “show trial”). Good further stresses that the threats to religious liberty need to be taken seriously by everyone, conservatives and liberals alike.

I am a conservative. Since 1988, I have never voted for a Democratic candidate for president. Don’t plan to start anytime soon. There, full disclosure for you. Over the years, I’ve been guilty of overstatement, red herrings, straw man arguments, and general bad behavior as I have made my political opinions known. That’s not right. I’m learning to be more civil myself. But witnessing, from both sides, the incredible lack of respect shown during political dialogue is very distressing indeed. Our republic cannot survive on a foundation of mutual suspicion, animosity, and hatred. Historically, when one side demonizes the other in political discourse, the results are never good–loss of liberty, civil war, totalitarianism, anarchy to name a few.

Both sides need to get a grip. Be fair and rational to the other side. Stop shouting and listen to the other side make their point, then you can make your point. That doesn’t mean you have to compromise on your convictions. Do the utmost to persuade, and if you fail, it’s not because you were wrong necessarily. It might be because you did not make a valid or sound argument. Work harder at being intelligent and respectful. Demagoguery will tear our country apart.

Lincoln, in his first inaugural address on March 4, 1861, said on the very eve of the Civil War: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.” His words fell on deaf ears. Behold, the terrible results.

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