I am not a conservative. This means that I will disagree with conservatives on many things. Many. But it is possible for me to *respectfully* disagree with someone. If someone speaks in sentences that involve words with actual meanings, and that express thoughtful arguments and conclusions, I might disagree with those thoughts, and find those arguments uncompelling, but that wouldn't mean my interlocutor was speaking gibberish. She could have a critically engaged set of beliefs and opinions, and the fact that they differed from my critically engaged beliefs and opinions would not render them senseless. (Not necessarily, at least.)
The tragedy for the types of conservatives that I can respectfully disagree with -- and who might be able to respectfully disagree with me, in return -- is that America's conservative party has stopped speaking in sentences that involve words with actual meanings, and that express thoughtful arguments and conclusions. The party's public persona is one of assertions that are either willfully ignorant, counter-factual, or totally disconnected from any engagement with reality. Mitt Romney's recently publicized comments grossly misrepresenting 47% of Americans are another reminder that his campaign isn't even trying to offer reasoned (or even reasonable) beliefs or arguments that demonstrate critical engagement with the world as it actually is. They have long since stopped being people I can respectfully disagree with, and I'm confused about how anyone can even (self)respectfully agree with them at this stage. They have become senseless --not shaped by reason, showing poor judgement, lacking in awareness and understanding -- and even other conservatives are having to admit this now.
The tragedy for all of us is that we can't really count on America's voting public to care as much as I do (or even as much as David Brooks seems to) about reason, discernment, or reality. And there's nothing funny about that.
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