Something Important is Dying: Reclaiming Democratic Virtues

Amy Walter, David Brooks, Michael Gerson, and Peter Wehner talk about democratic virtues at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Beneath the tumble of day-to-day politics — the anger and crude attacks, the polarization and zero-sum thinking — vital democratic legacies in America are being squandered. How do we rebuild the moral and intellectual infrastructure of democracy and repair the ethical fabric of our humanity?
David Brooks, author and New York Times columnist, put forth a set of virtues elected leaders, and the public, are losing. First on the list is courage, or “the ability to have an unpopular opinion,” he says. Next is rigor, or the ability to work through your opinion. Then, firmness or “holding to your opinion with some tenacity, but then being able to be persuaded by an opposing stance.” Brooks says the core virtue conservatives have lost is epistemological modesty. “The whole idea of conservatism is that the world is complicated and we have to be cautious about what we think we understand...and we have to respect tradition,” he says. And Brooks points to the lost virtue of solidarity as liberals’ core weakness. He thinks divisions between minority groups and social classes have “eroded the concept that ‘we’re all in this together.’”
Below Brooks explains why we need to be cautious about where politics fit in our lives. Politics matter a lot, he says, “but our relationships, belief systems, and homes matter more.”


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