Well that was fun…..
As I have said, I frequent the conservative debates because I find them interesting, entertaining, and often informative.
In a momentary lapse of reason, “yours truly” became the consensus nominee to fill Peter Fletcher’s position as moderator.
Yep, you heard right, Rodney “Left of Lenin” Smith moderating the conservative debate.
I find it amusing to be referred to as a left-winger in this country.
In Australia I hold a “middle ground” position with some sympathetic leanings to the left. My Labor Party friends are decidedly to my left, my Liberal Party (conservative- go figure) friends are decidedly to my right, and I would weigh the issues argument by argument to take my own stance.
The same position here puts me firmly in the left, and many of my democratic friends have positions well to the right of my own. I guess the difference is that I believe firmly in socialized medicine, the necessity of the trade-union movement (though it is often a necessary evil), the integral benefits of a living wage, and a solid social security net.
These are “middle ground” positions where I come from, the left and right arguments determine how these fundamentals should be administered.
Now to another misnomer… the conservative debate is actually not quite so conservative. It is certainly moderated by Peter Fletcher (a well known, and delightfully eloquent conservative in these parts) and it is probably the only regular gathering of conservatives in the (extremely liberal) county. It is true that the conservative position is always represented, but there are some notable liberals in regular attendance, and their voice receives a fair airing.
Politicians from all camps frequent the place, but the part I enjoy most is being able to discuss real issues with real people, some with whom I agree, and some with whom I don’t. There are folks on both sides of the political fence who hold indefensible positions in my opinion.
I won’t name names or quote speeches, because part of the gathering’s charm is that folks can be themselves without having every word scrutinized by the press.
I have earned a modest reputation as a smart-alec heckler in the group. I love to pepper the conversation with apropos (and sometimes non-apropos) “one liners” to keep us from taking ourselves too seriously. I pick and choose the topics I actually weigh in on, and like anyone else, I am heard out and often debated.
I have learned a great deal about American politics by attending these debates, and in a strange way, I have learned a lot about Australian politics as well.
It has become abundantly clear to me how elections are swayed by opinion, rather than by reason, in this country and my own.
You see, it doesn’t matter how defensible a position is. Reason is for those who concern themselves with such things. Political opinion begins with a plausible premise, reinforces it with an overly-simplistic analogy, attaches one of several emotive “catch cries” to it, and then proclaims itself sound reason. I am constantly amazed how little analysis folks do of an opinion before they espouse it, and how many eloquent and notable people dispense such hyperbole on a regular basis for the masses to lap up.
I watch this happen time and again, and well-intended folks rally to a cause that has little base in either fact or sound reason.
My wife and son have come to refer to this meeting as “The Grumpy Old Men”, so if you spot such a reference in the future, you know what I’m talking about.