Ronnie Abbott – Whatever Happened to the Art of Debate?

The year is 2008, I’m 19-years-old and attending school at night because I’m working 60 hours a week, and raising kids but I also wanted to ensure I get my diploma. The student body surrounding me are from every race, religion, sexual orientation, and political platform. Laconia Adult Education joined the push to get people out to vote, even offering an “earned life experience” credit to those willing to vote. So, I think to myself “Heck yea! free credit, right?”

A classmate, who is now a prominent name in the local political scene, named Carlos was very outspoken about the responsibilities of the voter, and how it should not just be used as a free credit but instead that people should do the work and get informed. This led me to my first delve into the political arena, attempting to get Ron Paul elected in the 2008 Presidential primary. When I would talk to people about why I wanted Ron Paul to be the next president, I could sit down with Democrats and McCain supporters and debate all the policies that each of the candidates wanted to see pushed. Even though Ron Paul at the time was considered a far-right, fringe candidate, I could still sit down with far-left people and debate the policies without worry of personal attacks or disrespect. At the end of the debate, we could shake hands and still be friends.

Local Republican Activist, passionately speaks to a crowd – Photo by Ronnie Abbott

Jump forward to 2016, suddenly my child is coming home from school saying “Dad, my teacher told me if you vote for Trump, you’re a racist!” Nowadays, attempting to debate anyone on federal politics goes out the window, and within seconds someone’s calling names, and someone’s making threats. For the most part local politics are less invasive, you’re still able to shake each other’s hands and have a conversation, just with more trash slinging than normal. It’s even still possible to be civil, and maybe even sit down and have a coffee with the other side after a debate. Jump forward again to 2020, federal politics is now a fight-causing issue. People are now throwing hands in the streets over Presidential choices. Local politics are being filled with smear campaigns and hatred, but still allowing some room for debates with cordial outcomes. Though you probably wouldn’t be willing to go out for dinner with the opposition afterwards.

Now it’s present day, 2022, whether it’s federal or local politics no longer matters anymore. Most of the population will now fight the other side simply just to fight them. If I, as a Republican, decide to attempt to enter a debate on a left-leaning post I’m instantly met with disrespect from the very first comment. If I dare mention to them that their disrespect is unwarranted, I’m told that I’m fragile. There is zero respect in these debates these days, and I even sometimes find myself jumping the gun at times and being rude to people before they are rude to me because I’m so used to the constant disrespect coming my way. Not that I’m any different than most people, but I believe in giving back the same energy I’m given, so I always strive to not throw stones unless they’re thrown at me.

Doug Lambert of the Gunstock Commission deals with vitriol from local blogger on a rampage – Photo by Ronnie Abbott

This political climate we are currently in has thrown all respect and all hope for cordial debate out the window. So, how do we fix this? How do we return to a state of respectful civil discourse? I pose these as questions because I do not have the answers, but I understand the importance of figuring it out. There are so many things that one side will never be able to solve alone, from climate change to the drug epidemic. It’s going to take all of us working as one to solve these issues.

So, I implore everyone reading this to start doing your part today by trying to have some manners when involved in a political discourse. If we all start making these changes on a personal level, maybe together we can change the political climate.

Ronnie Abbott

Ronnie Abbott is a local photographer, admin of the local facebook group Laconia is Really Talking, and man about town. Ronnie is the founder of FYP Media –

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