Augsburg Liberals, U of M Conservatives Debate


It is all too easy to get wrapped up in our liberal echo chambers at Augsburg. As part of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, I found myself, for the first time, having a respectful and constructive conversation with an unlikely group: people who do not agree with me on almost anything, or so I thought. By taking part in the Red/Blue Dialogue (hosted by Better Angels), I found myself at a roundtable with three Conservatives and with four Liberals, myself the latter. Once we all introduced ourselves, we were split up and we separately came up with a list of common stereotypes for our own political affiliation.

This in itself was a good look in the mirror. The Liberal kneejerk reaction can often be to seek a moral high ground, shutting down all debate from the right. For being hypocritical entitled sensitive snowflakes, we Liberals realized how much easier it was for the Conservatives to come up with stereotypes for themselves. In fact, they finished fifteen minutes before we did. It was no challenge for these college-age Conservatives to come up with the facts that people assume they are homophobic, racist and gun- and God-loving bigots.

After debriefing about our lists together, we discussed where these stereotypes come from. This gave all of us the opportunity to admit the failings of our respective parties, but also to bring up what policies and ideas each group was bringing to the table.

Here is what I learned: on an individual level, we are not the whole of the ideas that we represent. I do not agree with everything all Democrats do, nor did these Conservatives agree with everything that Republicans do. For those of us sitting at that table, we were all trying to solve the same problems, but we just have different ways of solving them. We all brought preconceived notions about the others before sitting down, but all of us agreed that we were put at ease by how respectful, calm and informed we all were.

Organic conversations like this can be hard to come by, especially at Augsburg. The Conservatives came from the U of M because there were no Conservatives at Augsburg who were willing to have this conversation publicly. That, to me, is a shame. Once we put aside our biases, we can discuss ideas with other people instead of attempting to hurt others for their way of trying to solve problems.

This article first appeared in the Friday, September 29, 2017, Edition of The Echo.