Op-Ed: Now Is The Time To Encourage Debate, Not Stifle It

The ability to gather peacefully and express our beliefs and ideas isn’t only good for the body politic - it’s distinctly American.

By Ryan Fournier

“I love argument, I love debate,” Margaret Thatcher once famously said. “I don’t expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that’s not their job.” Thatcher said those words in 1980, but it may as well have been 300 years ago with how far society has deviated from those sentiments.

With the way many on the left are acting right now, it would seem that agreeing with the conventional wisdom or token party line is exactly our job. Anything less is unacceptable. In fact, I’d argue that in the last few years we’ve gone from a country that was able to have good, healthy, political discourse to one that screams “My opinions are right and your’s are automatically wrong!”.

That, of course, benefits no one. Remember: Our country was founded on certain basic freedoms - among them the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The ability to gather peacefully and express our beliefs and ideas isn’t only good for the body politic - it’s distinctly American.

Let’s also remember that our Founding Fathers didn’t always agree with one another. History teaches us that they regularly disagreed and engaged in passionate debates with each other. I believe we ended up a better country for it.

As modern Americans, we’re taught that talking about our problems leads to a healthier outcome. Why can’t the same be true for politics? Spoiler: It can.

Personally, I love it when a college professor expresses a different point of view or political belief, as long as they aren’t attacking students who disagree (and vice versa). But all too often our college campuses devolve into bubbles devoid of any original thought or healthy debate.

Remember when conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s visit to U.C. Berkeley cost the school more than half a million dollars for extra security because of student protestors? (Shapiro was also disinvited from DePaul University in 2016). Or when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was pressured into backing out of giving the commencement address at Rutgers University because of student outcry?

The list goes on. But it’s not just the students who resist conservative viewpoints. A new study published this past April by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) surveyed nearly 9,000 tenure-track, Ph.D.-holding professors at 51 of the top liberal arts colleges in America.

The survey found that “78.2 percent of the academic departments...have either zero Republicans, or so few as to make no difference.” Wow. Talk about being in a bubble.

Even off college campuses, the left has grown more intolerant to conservative ideas. Just look at how White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out of a restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. Or how Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson was booed at a restaurant in D.C.

The hostility on display against conservatives is troubling - and it’s growing by the day. And unfortunately, it’s a trend that I see affecting a lot of young people because they're learning from it. Some people are learning those methods and going off and doing it on their own and it's not healthy at all. Is this the kind of example we want to set for younger generations?

So to those wondering if this is what discourse in America is supposed to look like, I say this: Not. At. All.

Don’t let your ideas get shouted down. At the same time, it’s up to all of us to get informed and arm ourselves with the facts. We need to engage with ideas and learn from them, whether or not we accept them as our own. All Americans - Republican and Democrat - should be able to agree that debate is a good thing.

Ryan Fournier is a political commentator, analyst, and Chairman of Students for Trump.