We have a few guests lined up at the moment, and here’s one of them.  We’re chuffed to welcome back Marcus Warner, a frequent contributor to Wales Home, who agrees with Malc’s thoughts about democracy.  But that’s not the only reason we’re publishing it, honest.  Think of this post as part of the ‘mini-series’ on democracy we’ve accidentally ended up doing…

I had planned to do this piece prior, but Malc’s post yesterday made me nod in agreement and spur me on some more. The issue I wanted to add is one of straw men and the tendency for us all to imagine cartoonish cardboard cut outs of our political opponents.

I have been a member of two political parties, a social democrat always and a nationalist as I got further into my political journey. It was surprising, but had I not made a journey from one party to the other, I would have probably would still have the cartoon version Plaid Cymru as standard. I encounter less, but still visible occasions when my Plaid comrades do the same towards Labour. I have noticed as well that often the people with the closest viewpoints on the political compass as it were are the most likely to paint these caricatures of each other.

But more widely than that, would we all not benefit from being a bit more gracious about the other side’s motives, strengths and weaknesses?

From a purely tactical point of view, knowing your enemy is often central to defeating them. Understanding them is crucial in seeking to beat them, but this takes a certain healthy respect and not to indulge in straw men versions of them.

I sit rather clearly and strong on the left of politics, but I  think as I have got older I feel that I have got to understand the right’s motivations more. Too many of us on the left refuse to accept that many on the right believe in lower taxes because they believe people should have more money to spend on how they want to.

They believe in a smaller state because they don’t feel the state can solve everything. They believe in personal responsibility around getting a job or choosing private sector services because they believe people themselves can do it better than the man in Whitehall.

Do I agree with the right’s ideas on how to organise society? No. But one thing we all need to start looking to do is making this about a battle of ideas and about creating a better society, not painting the other side as baby eaters who only have evil motives for putting forward their ideas. It takes certain aloofness to believe that and I point the finger at us all. We might believe we have better ideas on the issues that matter, but no one party, group or wing has the moral high ground from the get-go.

Too much of the political debate focuses on the person suggesting it, rather than the idea itself. Too often ideas are owned by the left/right/nationalists (Welsh, Scots or British) and then they shout ‘bagsy’.

The thing is and I accept this is my anecdotally evidence opinion, but most ordinary punters don’t think like those of us who read this website. They don’t think left, right, nationalist, trot, Friedman etc, they see an idea in the context it is presented to them (context is vital too) and take it at face value. Of course the context may present it falsely – in the positive or the negative – but the point is that voters don’t necessarily have a default setting that many of us in politics do.

This is not some paean to mushy consensus politics. I believe in my ideas and want to test them against other ideas in a vibrant democracy. But I think it would benefit politics, the strength and depth of all our ideas and the public at large if we were willing to understand the counter argument better. Let us not just assume that we only have our ideas out of deep thinking and genuinely held purpose, while everybody else is just a cynical, evil carpetbagger who just wants to lie their way to absolute power before bringing forth the apocalypse.

Next time you see your political foe, perhaps the time has come to buy him or her a pint. Let’s understand more and judge less.