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No, Policy Mic, Barack Obama being a good host doesn’t mean that Democrats and Republicans are all the same deep down.

Posted in Editorials on December 13th, 2013

There’s a post by Policy Mic going around, “8 Photos You Didn’t See From Obama’s Trip to South Africa” which shows the Obamas, Clintons and Bushes traveling together to Nelson Mandela’s memorial service and exchanging pleasantries. The article ends,

Perhaps, instead of giving in to the frantic us-or-them discourse proffered by the media (Funeral selfies! Handshakes! Ted Cruz!), it’s time that we acknowledge that conservative and liberal politicians spend more time together, and have more in common with one another, than we’d like to believe.

There is a little bit of truth here. Real life is not an internet chat room. There are layers and nuance to human relationships. I have a few friends that identify as right of center and several conservative family members. While I disagree with their ideas, we can still enjoy spending time together, and some of them even know how to have a political discussion without name calling or taking things personally.

But. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have deep moral differences. And the pictures Policy Mic published might make you feel all warm and fuzzy, but they don’t mean that our differences don’t matter. Barack Obama once said, “These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty.” They are not only that but I believe they are the cause of our liberty. If nothing is up for debate or open to question we are not free.

Being a politician means that you have to be “on” all of the time with everyone – even with people you don’t like. Even in the back bench minor leagues of local politics – I have made some genuine friends, but I have also suffered through many a cocktail party where everyone seemed fake. Just because the Obamas, Clintons and Bushes can pull it off better doesn’t make it any less fake. Having a permanent smile plastered to your face to keep up appearances doesn’t mean there aren’t deep moral disagreements between liberals and conservatives. We aren’t all alike.

I hate to be the one to deliver this reminder, but George W. Bush lied us into a war with Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of people, and instated a policy of torture. Barack Obama later ended both the war and our torture policy. We aren’t all alike in that the Clintons and the Obamas believe that a woman has a right to bodily autonomy and the Bushes do not.

Being charming is a part of the job of being president. But we should not pretend that this charm has any deep significance. It’s a pleasant illusion meant to smooth over how deep our differences really are.

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