The video below shows Republican Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana speaking at the Values Voter Summit on the weekend. Since by my own admission my political views generally lean towards being conservative, I guess I’m ‘supposed to’ be impressed. But… I’m just not.
I’m sure Pence is a nice guy and we probably agree on some things, but the problem I have (and it’s by no means unique to him or to conservatives – I just happened to stumble across this particular video) is that I don’t really get the point of giving speeches filled with ideas that you know your audience already agrees with – and it’s very clear from both the style of his delivery and the response of the audience that that is the case.
Ok I take it back – I do get the point. I just don’t find it especially worthwhile – he wants to let the people in the room know that he’s one of them. Well that’s fine, but this is at a time when the urgent need of the country is to take decisive action to overcome some incredibly difficult challenges and lay the foundations for prosperity and security that will be robust enough to last for years, if not decades. Yet it is rightly the nature of a sound democracy that decisive action cannot easily be taken without the consent of a majority of the electorate and it’s even more desirable for that action to be based on a broad consensus.
Within the confines of the Values Voter Summit, Pence may enjoy the illusion of consensus. But the reality is that the country is deeply divided. In this environment, preaching to people you know already agree with you doesn’t strike me as a particularly effective way to move the country forward. I am much more impressed by someone who does the much harder work of engaging in honest, respectful dialogue with people who are yet to be convinced.