Is there anything worse than a political debate on Facebook?

Nobody changes their mind. Everyone one walks away believing the same things they came in believing. And they’re all angry.

Politics online follow the simple laws of tribalism: My people are good. Your people are bad. If you attack my people, I will attack you.

As this has become the main way we conduct political discourse, some stunning things have happened.

A new study reported by fivethirtyeight reveals that people are changing their identities to suit their politics. Those who begin describing themselves as very conservative subsequently move toward greater religious fundamentalism. The very liberal start describing themselves as nonreligious.

And it’s political affiliation that’s driving changes in religiosity, not the other way around.

That’s a testament to both the power of and the sickness in our political culture, of how far tribalism has come.

There’s a better kind of political debate, and it’s our intention to offer it here.

Michel Foucault made a useful distinction between discussion and polemics — polemics being the sort of attacks that dominate online “debates” today, where it’s sufficient to call your opponent a communist or fascist and wash your hands of them. In a genuine discussion, the participants, though they may disagree sharply, each acknowledge that the other has a right to be in the room. And they agree to seek truth together, through their debate.

“The polemicist, on the other hand, proceeds encased in privileges that he possesses in advance and will never agree to question,” he said. “On principle, he possesses rights authorizing him to wage war and making that struggle a just undertaking; the person he confronts is not a partner in the search for the truth but an adversary, an enemy who is wrong, who is harmful, and whose very existence constitutes a threat.”

If you want polemics, go fight on Facebook. If you want a rigorous but respectful political discussion, read and contribute to this page.

Today, you will find a column by Idaho Freedom Foundation Vice President Fred Birnbaum. On Sunday, we criticized the stance the Foundation had taken on Proposition 2. Though we disagree with Birnbaum’s rejoinder strongly, you will find it on the same page where our view ran. Readers have a right to consider both arguments.

(To further the discussion, it is not a “falsehood” that Milliman found a net savings to taxpayers through Medicaid expansion, along with the elimination of the CAT Fund and local indigent funds. The report states this plainly: “The full phase-down of the CAT and Local Medically Indigent program for [fiscal year] 2022 and beyond will create enough in state and local savings to cover the state costs relating to Medicaid expansion [and] to generate an estimated savings to the state of approximately $150 million.” The figures Birnbaum cites include reduced demand on those programs, but not their outright elimination, which we urged lawmakers to support. And we did not endorse Obamacare — that’s a distraction.)

We intend to have more discussions about Proposition 2 and other important matters of public concern here.

Politics can be something other than “warfare by other means.” It can be an intelligent debate aimed at seeking truth through disagreement, and that’s what we aim to provide on this page.

Voters deserve better than Facebook screeds. If you have an argument, make it here.

Just make them good arguments, and show respect for those who disagree with you. It will be good for all of us.

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