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Pluralists vs. Zealots

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Kerby Andersonnever miss viewpoints

Before Senator Ben Sasse left Congress, he penned an op-ed describing the division in America. He isn’t the first person to talk about our divided country, and he certainly won’t be the last. But he brings a keen understanding to the discussion as a historian and as a member of the US Senate.

He believes the “most important divide in American politics isn’t red versus blue. It’s civic pluralists versus political zealots. This is the truth no one in Washington acknowledges but Americans must realize if we’re going to recover.”

Civil pluralists, he says, “understand that ideas move the world more than power does, which is why pluralists value debate and persuasion.” In a country of 330 million, we aren’t going to agree on everything. The role of government is to provide a framework for ordered liberty.

Political zealots, on the other hand, reject this idea and believe that society starts and ends with power. They seek total victory in the public square. They also believe that Americans “are too weak to solve problems with persuasion. They need the state to do it.” The zealots also thrive in the chaos of the moment.

Modern media has made this problem worse. “As communications become more instantaneous, we’ve become siloed and more lonely.” Screamers on both sides fuel each other. The vast majority of Twitter traffic is driven by less than 2 percent of the public.

This is where he holds the US Senate responsible. Great senators from the 19th and 20th centuries were willing to debate our country’s great challenges. They stood up for ideas, not mere partisanship.

His diagnosis is correct, but sadly he is leaving to become president of the University of Florida. Their gain will be our loss in the US Senate.viewpoints new web version

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