Commentary: Mike Pence and passing the time of day

By John Krull
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – The other day, Mike Pence and I happened to enter the Statehouse at the same time.

The governor and I shook hands, then took a couple of minutes to chat. Because it was a conversation and not an interview, I’m not going to report it here.

John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com

John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com

Column by John KrullAnd there really wouldn’t be much to report even if I chose to. It really was just a couple of guys who are the same age and have been around politics, public policy and media for more years than we care to count passing the time of day for a minute or two.

There are many things about which Mike Pence and I do not agree. I think he’s made some serious mistakes as governor. And I have no doubt he believes my commentary often leaves quite a bit to be desired.

Even so, I like the guy. Always have, in fact.

The fact that we disagree occasionally – okay, more than occasionally – doesn’t change that. Nor does the fact that the things about which we disagree often are important ones.

Aside from his title and office, Mike Pence is just a guy. And, aside from the platform my work as a journalist allows me, I, too, am just a guy.

And we’re both doing the best we can.

One of the most discouraging things about our current political culture is the tendency to demonize and dehumanize other people just because we disagree with them or they happen to disagree with us. Forgetting that the folks on the other side of the question are people like us makes it a lot easier for partisans and ideologues on both the left and right to fight not just hard but mean.

When we stop thinking of the people who differ with us as being just as human as we are, we turn disagreements into arguments and arguments into blood sport.

Before we know it, we’re at each other’s throats – even farther from a solution to the problem that prompted our disagreement in the first place than we were when we started.

That’s the way far too many of our disagreements play out these days.

At different times, Richard Lugar, Evan Bayh and William Hudnut – each of whom managed, in varied ways, to lead from the center – have told me that part of the problem with our political system now is that our leaders don’t take the time to get to know each other.

Bayh even said a lot of problems would be solved if Republicans and Democrats had regular lunches together or found other ways to socialize.

It’s hard to see someone as an enemy, he said, if you’re breaking bread together and know about each other’s families.

There’s wisdom in that.

In addition to removing a lot of the venom from our debates, it also might help us arrive at much better solutions.

It always intrigues me to hear people, on the left or right, rail against our government as if it were some impersonal, inhuman force.

It isn’t.

Our government is made up of human beings, each one of whom is just as prone to error, short-sightedness and carelessness as the next person. Part of the reason we place so many checks on government power is we know it is made up of fallible human beings, not divine creatures.

If we start from an acceptance of the fact that we occasionally might be wrong and the other person sometimes might have a valid point, then we’re more likely to catch and fix mistakes. We’re more likely to drop bad ideas and turn good ideas into better ones. We have a better chance of making the right decision.

In the next few days, Mike Pence is going to roll out a large part of his agenda for Indiana in the coming year.

Most likely, there will be some plans he has with which I’ll disagree.

And it’s just as likely that he won’t agree with at least some of what I write about those plans.

But that’s okay.

We’ll still be two guys just trying to do the best we can.

And I’ll still be glad to pass the time of day with him when I see him.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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