Aristotle said, “The law is reason free from passion.”

That’d be nice, right?

We see overtly emotional responses in the news (and in the comments sections of online articles) every day. Ranging from smarmy to outraged, people can’t seem to get enough
of the keyboard warring.

So how do we get the conversation where it needs to be? In the realm of rationality and focused on everybody, not just “my camp” or “your camp.”

First, we have to practice what we preach.

Anyone who keeps up with the Mackinac Center on social media has undoubtedly observed how fraught with tension the topic of teacher evaluations is. Recently, Michigan Capitol Confidential reported that Grand Rapids Public Schools will be using an evaluation system for their teachers that takes performance, rather than seniority, into account. The evaluations will take more than straight test scores — it will measure student improvement, first and foremost. 

The responses were almost entirely defensive and rife with epithets such as “If you believe that the Mackinac Center is nonpartisan, then I have oceanfront property for sale in New Mexico.”

Our response was consistently educational and nonaggressive, but we have a long way to go toward changing the tone of these conversations. Our goal isn’t to be push-overs, but rather proselytizers for freedom.

One method we’re using to reach people resistant to messages of liberty and freedom in public policy is personalizing the issue. This means starting from the assumption that stories are a great way to get people to see things from a different perspective than their own.

An example of this would be our “Policy Changes Lives” videos (which we feature on the Mackinac Center’s new Medicaid expansion home page: www.mackinac.org/Medicaid_Expansion). Our concerted effort is to find people who normally would be silenced or whose stories go unreported, and bring them to the forefront. This includes a public school in Detroit that emphasizes respect for teachers so that the focus can be education, to two sisters waiting outside the ICU for their sister, whose Medicaid insurance doesn’t cover routine dental care but only emergency care. Since that’s where she’ll receive medical care, she allowed her illness to worsen and the cost was astronomic compared to the basic care she could have received earlier. It’s harder for people to become apoplectic and partisan when they’re presented with real stories and real people. 

Part of what makes right-to-work so powerful is the sheer number of union members who have come out of the woodwork, demanding their union represent them again or they will abandon the union. This is a triumph for the individual voice over the collective one.

As always, we remain optimistic. As Winston Churchill said, “It does not seem to be much use to be anything else.” So onward we strive, bearing you, our supporters, in mind every step of the way.