Thursday, September 3, 2009

Uh oh! IPOPA and Jon Elrod Get Experimental on You!

Let's be honest. American political discourse is more acidic than ever. The public sphere seldom showcases respectful disagreement based on honest differences of opinion. Instead, we are bombarded with increasingly divisive rhetoric undergirded by a "gotcha" mentality that preys on isolated words from opponents to morph them into caricatures of the dimwitted and "dangerous." Those who disagrees get accused of harboring sinister motives.

IPOPA thinks we deserve better. I'm not alone.

Several months ago, I began communicating with (more appropriately, arguing with) former Republican Indiana State House Representative Jon Elrod. I have come to appreciate Jon's keen intellect, expansive knowledge base, and idealism, and despite our inability to agree on seemingly anything, never have we exchanged cross words. I say this though Jon knows I worked for my current state representative (Mary Ann Sullivan) to defeat him, and I would do it again. How can he not take our arguments personally against this backdrop?

Because he joins me in realizing that all public policy decisions, even value-based ones, are laden with tradeoffs and arbitrary line-drawing that can strain philosophical purity and even intellectual honesty. In such an environment, how can we be mad at someone who draws a line five or even five hundred feet further left or right of us?

In an effort that will hopefully raise the bar on how we discuss the pressing issues of the day, IPOPA will be hosting periodic commentaries from Mr. Elrod and then responding to the same.

Will we always get it right? Probably not. Some zingers are just too "fish-in-a-barrel" to let pass. But if nothing else, I hope all IPOPA readers will admire that we felt it worth aspiring to something more high-minded.

Be sure to come by tomorrow for Jon's piece on the virtues of "American Exceptionalism" and how President Obama is parting ways with it. Thereafter, I will kindly alert Jon to some flaws and contradictions in his argument and give him the chance to return the favor.

I hope you find our exchanges thought-provoking.

Thanks for reading!




Wilson46201 said...

What about an essay on Tunisian exceptionalism? Every country can boast about how different it is from other countries...every country is unique. The U.S.A. is no different.

Chris Worden said...

Wilson, Wilson, patient! You're going to burn up all my powder!

Russell said...

Fantastic idea! I think the problems of this County, City, State, and Country need all the debate from all angles that we can get and especially when it's intellectual debate, which I know Jon will bring to the table to match yours. I can't wait to see what you guys come up with!

Wilson46201 said...

I am dubious about Elrod's policy and wonkish credentials. During his ill-fated Congressional campaign, his website proclaimed (as one of his two main issues) he'd protect Senior Citizens Social Security and Medicaid. MEDICAID??? HUH? Less than 1/6 of Medicaid goes to senior citizens.

He obviously meant Medicare, the single-payer government-run health insurance plan for seniors. But what a mistake for an allegedly serious "intellectual" candidate to make. Nobody on his campaign staff caught the error either - that shows poor managerial skills too.

Yes, I understand that it's a common mistake, confusing Medicare and Medicaid. However, when you're a serious political candidate making such egregiously incorrect mistakes about basic policy shows a certain lack of seriousness!

By the way, that mistake on Elrod's website showed me early-on during the campaign that Jon was going to be a weak candidate. That, and doing his campaign kickoff with an all-white group of surrounding friends for the TV cameras!

Chris Worden said...


You will always be my dude, and we'll be in the same camp on probably 90% of "the issues," but this is precisely what I'm talking about.

You acknowledge that Jon knows the difference between Medicaid and Medicare, but because of this typo, you question his policy knowledge? What I question is his staff's proofreading skills.

I am constantly updating my blog posts because when I go back through and re-read them, I discover typos. I did that in a piece I wrote honoring the political astuteness of Andre Carson. Can someone completely discount me because I put "there" instead of "their?" While I think we all cringe when we see a message like, "Barka Obama is a socilist diktator" (and we might rightly question the author's intellect), I'm here to illuminate with a REAL debate; I'm not here to win an editing contest, my friend.

The issue about the complexion of Jon's crowd is a fairer point because it suggests that either his message, personality, or party affiliation (or some combination of those) was not resonating with a large segment of the district. But that doesn't suggest somebody isn't well-informed. I could know everything there is to know on healthcare and still reach the wrong policy conclusion based on my values hierarchy. My point is....hear the man out and respond to what he says. If we are right on our issues, we don't need to be afraid.


Wilson46201 said...

MediCare/MediAid ain't no typo -- that's a profound (yet common) error reflecting basic policy ignorance. Yes, his staff should have caught it but when the candidate's principal campaign message contains such a profound mistake, it doesn't instill confidence. Elrod himself should have caught it and corrected it quickly. He didn't.

I'm sure Jon is charming and personable. He's no dummy either - it takes a certain amount of smarts (or endurance) to slog through law school.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Mom

Anonymous said...

It is amusing that Elrod sees value in participting in talks with you but supported a president [W] who not only refused to talk with countries we had disagreements with but also pissed off most of the countries that were our friends. I didn't have a problem with his intellect. My problem was this "I'm not running for reelection as state rep." "I am running for congress". "I resign from the ticket for congress" " I am going to run for state rep after all". WHEW!! In the end, he lost. I think it would have been better to have been a failed congressional candidate than a failed state rep candidate.....but it's a free country.