The Return of Rationality in Political Discourse


In my non-journalistic life, I judge, and sometimes coach, competitive college debate. While it's likely many would consider spending one's free time in basement lecture halls listening to endless speeches insufferably dull, it isn't. When done well, debate is fascinating, thrilling and every bit as entertaining and dramatic as a well-staged piece of theater. It's not always done well, but I was lucky enough to spend this last weekend at University of Denver, judging some amazing competitors at the U.S. Universities National Championships.

Boise State didn't send any students this year—which is a shame because they've got some good competitors—but Portland State, my alma mater, went all the way to the finals against Stanford and Yale.

Not only was a it a lot of fun, but considering the rancorous absurdity of modern political discourse, in which every social policy decision will not pass go and lead immediately to tyranny, in which tea is served over death threats, in which complex issues are distorted with bumper sticker slogans to whip up populist opposition, it gave me hope to see future leaders discussing issues in a rational, civil fashion, and not trying to dumb them down to the point of being false.

The final round, which can be seen below, on the topic of whether or not terrorists should be tried in civil courts, was a far more substantive discussion on the topic than has yet to come out of Congress. If you're worried about the state of political discourse in this country, you'll feel definitely better afterwards.

Debate - WUDC - Terror Suspects Get Civilian Trials - USU 2!010 Final from Alfred Snider on Vimeo.