Saturday, August 18, 2012

What's important

Below is a remarkable video of an interview with a voter in New Hampshire named David Cantagallo, part of a series done by PBS. The first question is "what is the most important issue to you this election season?" The response we expect to a question like that is something like the economy or jobs or foreign wars or taxes or education or crime or whatever. We also expect that each voter is going to have their own particular policy agenda. We all have one. Probably David Cantagallo does too.

But sometimes we are able to rise above our own particular agenda and consider whether we can identify more fundamental issues. Cantagallo takes the discussion to a higher level, by identifying four important goals for our political system. The first is participation, or as Cantagallo says, everyone feeling a sense that their voice is heard. No one should feel entitled to enactment of their particular policy preferences. But we should feel entitled to be heard, that our views will be fairly considered. If we stop expecting that the system is supposed to produce exactly the result each of us might prefer, and instead simply ask our system to take account of all legitimate views in making decisions, then we should be more satisfied with the results. 

Second, Cantagallo identifes opportunity as a goal of the political system. How we get there is a matter of controversy, but this is a goal everyone should be able to agree on.

Third, tolerance. Or as Cantagallo puts it, we need to remove all types of discrimination from the system. Another goal we should all be able to agree on.

And finally and most interestingly, what this wise voter defines as a sense of equanimity. We need to get along better. "Everything seems to be so distant now," Cantagallo says. Others would say we are highly polarized, or that we lack civility. But I like the term distant, because it suggests that what we need is more closeness. Maybe a "we're all in the same boat" feeling is what Cantagallo is talking about.

Cantagallo also gives a nice response to the second question, about whether he has hope for the future. "I'm alive," he says, so there is always hope. And we have been through much worse times before, and survived.

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