Politics is a complicated entity comprised of infinite shades of gray dotted with infrequent black and white decision points. A good friend recently suggested that politics and values go hand in hand. In a sort of epiphany, I now realize that people who disagree on political views also must fundamentally feel that the other party has differing values.
I believe that nothing could be further from the truth for the vast majority of us. In fact, I think the usual political discussion, pick an issue, revolves around differing ways to solve a problem with the same basic underlying values at play.
Examples abound but here are a few:
Abortion: For years I have listened to the debate from the pro-choice and the pro life groups. It amazes me that the views are notoriously rigid and unyielding on both sides. Do their values differ? Or is the debate not even about the same topics? Pro-choice viewpoint is one of freedom. Pro-life viewpoint is one of rights. But to suggest that either group values life more or less would be to lack understanding of the basic underlying values that each group holds. Both groups value life similarly I would argue.
Minimum wage: If a politician votes to raise the minimum wage, are his/her fundamental values about helping people in need diametrically opposed to the politician who voted against raising wages? Or is the opposing viewpoint simply a matter of understanding the ramifications of the economic decision?
Immigration: If one politician votes not to the deport illegal immigrants who have committed crimes and the other politician votes do do so, does that imply that one politician values the safety of Americans more or less than the other? Do their positions imply that one of them is racist while the other is caring?
With each of these examples, and I could go on, I feel strongly that the values underlying each person's decision are not the main focus of disagreements. But what I have also realized just recently, is that perhaps the perception of differing values is exactly why there is so much difficulty discussing politics between people.
Perhaps if we understood and accepted the probability that we each have similar values but differing opinions about how to solve real-world problems then we might better be able to hear one another and solve the issues at hand.