A recent letter to the editor, after projecting placement of more conservative judges on the Supreme Court, was unsatisfied with the solid majority conservative jurists would secure in that august body. Rather, the author hoped for the time when all “progressives” are removed from all courts, deeming progressives to be “politically irrelevant.”
Such “my way or the highway” thinking is not new. Some “progressives” have voiced similar exclusionary, dismissive attitudes towards those challenging their views, too. But adhering to such a tribal worldview, where only those sharing one’s views are worthy, and all others are discounted as virtual non-entities, violates core principles of our democracy, not to mention the moral codes of most contemporary religions.
Generally, our republic has thrived on differences of opinion — the Civil War being a notable exception. Competing schools of thought, often incorporated into positions advocated by political parties, have counterbalanced each other, protecting our country from extremist “solutions” that diminish the status of those with opposing attitudes.
Consideration of critiques from “the other side” fosters more just outcomes. Open and — one might hope — respectful exchanges of opinions help keep America moving forward, rather than being mired in an unquestioning inertia.
Rejecting opportunities for advancement presented through the interchange afforded by openly debated viewpoints means accepting “that’s the way things have always been done” as a valid policy justification. Such resistance to change is self-defeating, as change inevitably occurs, whether through proactive, constructive and, ideally, collaborative design or through being forced upon us by forces beyond our effective control.
Suppressing competing views threatens our nation’s interest. A government that prohibits dissent is “totalitarian;” one synonym is “undemocratic.” Restricting opposing viewpoints, obviously, violates the first-expressed of our enumerated constitutional rights, the freedom of speech. Further, denigrating another’s beliefs and opinions too often leads to devaluing the person that holds them.
This subverts the premise, the very core of our national ethos, that “all men are created equal,” and betrays such moral injunctions as the “Golden Rule” and “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
An homogenous Supreme Court results in no written “minority opinions,” which opinions further the rigorous, ongoing self-examination of how well our laws are serving us, so necessary to a vibrant democracy. If the Supreme Court should not have minority opinions, what rights of the “undeserving” others with differing views might stand forfeit? The right to vote? Employment opportunities? Access to “public” services (that their taxes help pay for)? Their very citizenship? We’re talking about some of our friends, neighbors, and family members here, not faceless strangers living somewhere else.
Advocating an uncontested political ideology suggests a basic insecurity, as though one fears the result of diligent inquiry into that dogma’s logical underpinnings. Adapting a saying attributed to Socrates, “An unexamined belief is not worth believing.”
That said, develop your own opinions, express them, let them guide you at the polls. But don’t deny your fellow Americans the respect we all deserve by squelching their ability to express their own views.