With the political temperature rising again as we move towards crucial mid-term elections, a new book by political science professor David Coates aims to raise the quality of public debate on key issues, and to help progressive candidates avoid the fate of Martha Coakley in Massachusetts.
Coates’ book, “Answering Back: Liberal Responses to Conservative Arguments” (Continuum Books) presents both conservative and liberal arguments on eight key policy issues: trickledown economics and the role of public spending; welfare reform; the future of social security; health care; comprehensive immigration control; religious issues and the social agenda; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and the causes of the financial meltdown.
Each chapter begins with a brief introduction, followed by conservative views and a point-by-point progressive response. Each stage of each argument is labeled for easy memorization, and the language used is deliberately jargon free, to make the material as accessible as possible. The sources of both conservative and progressive arguments are cited to open the door to further research.
In addition to the book, there is also a blog site, regularly updated, where the arguments are linked to what is currently going on in Washington. “This is what we are calling a living book, a way of combining old and new ways of reaching a wide audience,” Coates said.
“We are trying to create a ‘one stop shop’ for people interested in politics, people too busy doing other things to hunt out all the arguments and the data they need. They can use the book as the basic manual, but stay on top of its current relevance by using the blog.”
As a committed progressive, Coates has been disturbed by the tone, as well as by the content, of much of the political debate of late.
“I wanted to give liberals a guide to counter the crudest of conservative arguments as well as the most sophisticated,” says Coates, who holds the Worrell Chair of Anglo-American Studies in the Department of Political Science. “To save people having to spend hours listening to conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, or poring over Republican Party policy statements, I have done the listening and the reading for them. I believe that the only way liberals can win over undecided voters is if they understand their opponents’ arguments — both the strong ones and the weak ones — and can counter both. Because of course, if they can’t, they don’t deserve to win over undecided voters.”
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