A lot of people don't like lawyers, me included (to get in on the joke, realize that I am a lawyer). A lot of people don't like lobbyists, me included. But I feel like they (or we) play an important role in democracy. This isn't a post about lawyers or lobbyists, though, it is a post about advocacy.
As lawyers we are taught to zealously represent the interests of our client. There is no requirement that we actually agree with our clients non-criminal or fraudulent position, we are to advocate for them regardless. This, on the surface, may seem to indicate an ethical compass with no true north. We are also programmed to give nothing unnecessarily to the opposition, instead making them earn every point in painstaking fashion. This, on the surface, may seem to indicate extreme obstinacy and an unwillingness to see the other side of the equation.
What all of this means to me, however, is that every person or business has the absolute right to full representation and that no charges or actions can be brought against them without the accuser having the onus of fully proving their case. This avoids situations where frivolous claims or charges are brought against a person, or where only people or entities with popular opinions have access to legitimate justice.
Politically I think we tend to fall into these same patterns. Most Americans prefer one political party to exclusion of the others. The intelligent ones on both sides don't agree with everything in the party's platform, but that party more or less represents their world view. So what happens, I think, is that in order to feel like an integral part of a group, and in order to justify their beliefs, people will defend their party to the fullest, criticize the other party to the fullest, and overlook the flaws in their own and the virtues in the other.
This is partisanship. And while we have stated many times that it is dangerous to blindly follow any party or ideology, I think partisanship is very, very good for democracy. It allows for full debate of the issues, it allows for minority point of view to be expressed and disseminated, it requires anyone who makes a charge or takes a public policy position to have to prove it to the public because the other side isn't going to just give it to you.
But what it also often requires is for the partisan to take a more extreme view than what she might be exactly comfortable with because democracy is also about negotiation and compromise. Which leads partisans having to take sides, sometimes, with extreme factions of their party in the hopes that the political compromise will be more to their liking, which is often the case. Do I agree with every position that the Sierra Club or Green Peace or the ACLU or gay rights groups take? Of course not. Do conservatives agree with every position that Limbaugh or Hannity or Coulter take? Of course not.
But we play along because if we start from a moderated position and the other side starts from a more extreme position we end up with a compromise skewed against us instead of comfortably in the middle.
The side effect of all of this, of course, is that emotions tend to take over where we intend only rational and reasonable debate. This, again, isn't necessarily a bad thing. We cannot, no matter how hard we try, free ourselves of our emotions. Nor should we, but we shouldn't allow them to take over. I think the best advocates are those that color their reasonable arguments with well-placed emotion.
So this blog will keep going forward with our liberal stances. We'll take positions that will shock some, cause others to roll their eyes, and cause some to throw their hands up in the air and give up. We can certain improve in some areas, like our tone (you may not realize this, but SO and I tend to have sarcastic personalities, which is fun for us, but annoying for others, especially because sarcasm is hard to convey in writing). In doing so it is never our intention to offend or belittle, nor to imply that opposing points of view are stupid or uneducated, nor to unfairly generalize based on group identification. We don't think all conservatives are dumb rednecks and we don't disillusion ourselves that all liberals are educated and tolerant.
We are proud Mormons and proud liberals, though, and we don't see a conflict, and we are going to keep advocating and explaining our positions. And no amount of uneducated conservative thought is going to change that.*
*Did that sarcasm come through? I can honestly never tell. If you could have seen me wink and smile after that last line, you'd have gotten it.