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Columns

The Dangers of Contempt

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"How many of you love someone with whom you disagree politically?"

An important speech at the National Prayer Breakfast highlighted the danger of contempt in politics.

Arthur Brooks, speaking right before President Trump, asked for a show of hands as to how many in the crowd actually loved someone with whom they disagreed politically; he acknowledged that the result “rounded out to 100%.”Political cooperation, like a marriage, can survive anger, Brooks argued, but expressions of contempt can be far more damaging. He cited Schopenhauer’s definition of contempt as belief in the “utter worthlessness of a fellow human being.”

That attitude fatally poisons relationships and politics. Brooks’ insight is urgently important at this point in politics, when partisans on the left rip up a presidential address or dismiss his supporters as a “basket of deplorables,” while some on the right insist that administration critics are “sick, evil people.”

The persuasion necessary for electoral victory can only begin when you treat even adversaries as worthy of respect.

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