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An open letter to Jonathan Haidt

On Friday, March 29, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appeared on MSNBC for an hour-long town hall to discuss her Green New Deal proposal, which entails extensive environmental reform measures to address the issue of climate change. During one debate, an audience member called former Republican South Carolina congressman Bob Inglis a “moron.” 

Inglis was simply stating his thoughts on the Green New Deal, specifically how he does not believe that one congress could get it all done in the two years that they are in session. 

“I worry that what we do is if we have basically the mirror image of a Trump rally on climate change that we drive all the people away that could come our way and solve this thing now,” Inglis said. “You can’t do it in a single congress¬ – the entire Green New Deal. It is literally impossible.” After he finished talking it was evident that many audience members did not care for what he had to say. This was shown by loud groans and one audience member even yelling, “You moron!” Due to this reaction, we can presume that the audience members sided with Ocasio-Cortez’s views. Despite this, it was still rude that this audience member felt the need to berate Inglis. Inglis actually lost his seat in Congress due to his views on how to combat climate change, which means he and Ocasio-Cortez are both on the green side.

Ocasio-Cortez then pointed at the audience member and responded, “Hey! Hey! Hey! That’s unacceptable.” This was a great moment of interaction between Republicans and Democrats. This is how all debates should be regardless of who you are speaking to and their race, gender, political affiliation and more. 

It would have been an even greater moment in debate history if she had just stopped there. 

But alas, instead she decided to pointedly look at Inglis and say, “And that’s the difference between me and Trump.” Dang. All of the goodness that came with her sticking up for her debate partner washed away by one sentence. People always say that when you do a random act of kindness, or something good for someone else is general, that you should keep it to yourself because boasting about it takes away all of the random goodness of it. This was just like that. 

People should always stick up for people who are getting put down no matter what the scenario, and what she did was excellent. But since she decided to point out the difference between her and Trump, it makes me question her intentions now. Did she stick up for Inglis because she believed it was the right thing to do, or did she do it because she saw a moment to distinguish herself from Trump and decided to run with it? She made me question so much with just one sentence. Personally, and after much thought, I believe she stuck up for him because it was the right thing to do. The bottom line is, though, that she would have looked so much better and more like the bigger person without drawing attention to it. 

“Let’s debate, not debase,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that night after the town hall had concluded. What a great way to put it, and what an important thing to remember. Debating is about hearing what the other side has to say, not berating them for not agreeing with you. More people, politicians or not, should keep that in mind.

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