I learned long ago that your opponents can either make you better or make you worse. The outcome is largely your choice.
Over the last decade, we've seen a coarsening of what passes for public discourse and a lack of respect for our opponents coming from both sides. Pres. Obama's practice of engaging people with whom he may disagree may have helped him get elected, but it still runs counter to the prevailing winds in politics — seen most recently in the current impasse over the Minnesota state budget.
Although the legislators I heard today on MPR were conciliatory and talked about how hard and well both parties worked together in committee, when it came to actual votes and legislative outcomes, their respective political positions seemed as polarized than ever.
More than a year ago, Jeff Dege showed up here, attracted by an American Crosscut post about gun rights, and left his first strongly worded comment. Since then, he's stuck around and done more of the same — 124 times in all by my official count.
I've wondered at times why he has stayed a faithful reader, and whether he has been assigned my case by the vast right-wing conspiracy. Either way, I'd put my shadow up against Dave Thul at The Cucking Stool and Angry Clown at Shot in the Dark any day.
Throughout it all, Jeff has been provocative and challenging, but he's also been civil and careful to back up his point of view. (His citation of the Laffer study on rich and poor states will likely inspire a few posts here.) His comments have also done much to promote discussion, force me to sharpen my thinking and to clarify my positions. We don't often agree, and I don't expect we will ever sing Kumbaya together in New Hampshire.
But like my other readers who usually agree with me, he has made this a better, more interesting blog.
The only question is whether he can take a compliment.