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Epistemic Arrogance in Washington?

November 8, 2010

In Professor Manty’s lecture regarding Burke, he brought up two concepts as they related to the French revolution: epistemic arrogance and turmoil and violence. As I listened, I could not help but think of the recent elections.

As I followed the campaigns, particularly my favorite candidate (a moderate republican), I grew more and more frustrated with the epistemic arrogance that pervaded this election cycle. I would listen to commercials only to hear about the perils of the Obama-Pelosi agenda or the dangers of a return to the Bush-era. Since when can right and wrong be compartmentalized into one party or the other?

Along the same lines, it seemed that turmoil and violence has become more and more prominent in politics today. It become acceptable to shoot down ideas or policies that we don’t agree with on the whole. What happened to negotiation and debate over policies in order to reach a common ground? While political violence would typically incite some form of change, in the American government today it has only hindered any progress.

The American public is equally as frustrated. A Politico Poll taken about a week and a half prior to the election found that nearly three quarters of both the American general population and the Washington elites believed that the political system in D.C. is broken. And the American people spoke on November 2, putting nearly as many Republicans as Democrats in the houses of Congress. The American people staged their own minor revolution on the state of our union’s governance.

What does this mean for the future? I have a sense of optimism. As a recent NPR Article put it,

Nothing will get done in Washington without the two meeting somewhere in the middle. And from there, divides also will have to be bridged in the Senate, which will have nearly as many Republicans as Democrats.

Could this two-party governance force politicians with diametrically opposite viewpoints to find common ground?


I am hopeful that our politicians will put their partisan ways aside, but only time will tell.

One Comment
  1. adamkornbluh permalink
    November 9, 2010 3:10 PM

    I wrote a very similar blog post earlier about Congress and the troubling way that Democrats and Republics act toward each other in what seems a state of nature. I think the epistemic arrogance and violence and turmoil the professor brought up in lecture applies well to the current environment in Washington.

    First, let’s address the epistemic arrogance. Currently, both Republicans and Democrats are entrenched ideologically at opposing ends of issues (taxes, public spending, defense spending, etc.). Each side reacts to the arrogance and lack of cooperation in kind and the two end up farther ideologically than then began. This seemingly endless cycle has made compromise nearly impossible. If a Democrat agrees to negotiate with a Republican, it is seen as a sign of weakness and vice versa. This is especially troubling considering our government was created on compromises and is meant to function with the use of them.

    As for turmoil and violence, this election season has seen harsher rhetoric and more negative advertisements than I can remember (I will admit I am rather young to the political scene). Instead of debating issues, politicians and talk-show hosts now critique the intelligence and character of each other. These distractions hurt the political system and prevent things from getting done. Therefore, I must vote that I believe the system in Washington is broken.

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