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Liberals Hold the Moral High Ground

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  • A Declaration of American Morality

    Melissa Harris-Perry invokes the Founding Fathers, and the Declaration of Independence, to set a standard for American morality: human freedom, meaningful equality, the cultivation of human flourishing, and substantive popular governance.

  • A Competition of Partial Truths

    New York Times columnist David Brooks argues that politics is often a competition between partial truths and that neither party can claim the upper hand. Rather, both sides serve to balance each other.

  • Liberals & Racial Justice

    Do liberal policies like affirmative action promote a more fair and just society? Our debaters weigh in.

  • Morality & Marriage

    Does promoting a traditional view of marriage, that between one man and one woman, foster a more prosperous and stable society for children and families? Top political scholars Robert George and Melissa Harris-Perry debate.

  • The Social Safety Net: A Force For Good?

    One of IQ2’s youngest fans asks the debaters whether liberal policies designed to prevent poverty and uplift the underprivileged actually yield positive results.

  • Foreign Policy & The Partisan Divide

    Howard Dean and Robert George discuss which party best represents America’s interests, and ideals, abroad.

  • Liberal Hope vs. Conservative Fear

    Former DNC chairman Howard Dean argues that liberals, unlike conservatives, base their partisan policies on a hope for a better future rather than fear of the unknown.

  • Ideological Humility: An American Virtue

    Princeton University scholar Robert George discusses the virtue of ideological humility and of embracing moral achievements on both sides of America’s partisan divide.

Debate Details

Do conservative or liberal philosophies lead to more just outcomes? Opposing moral philosophies have long fueled debate about America’s policy goals and national identity. For conservatives, morality is grounded in ideals such as patriotism, including a respect for order and authority; fairness and liberty in the sense that an individual’s actions yield just rewards, or consequences; and reverence for the sanctity of religious and moral tradition. Liberals place moral emphasis on caring: for the poor, the disadvantaged, and the marginalized; on fairness in the sense of redressing both historic wrongs and current inequalities of outcome; and on generosity extending beyond the bounds of nations or cultures. In today’s divisive political arena, which side best embodies the nation’s most cherished virtues? Morally speaking, is the left right?

The Debaters

For the motion

Howard Dean

Former DNC Chairman & Governor of Vermont

Gov. Howard Dean is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, presidential candidate, six term governor, and physician. During his tenure... Read More

Melissa Harris-Perry

Melissa Harris-Perry

Maya Angelou Presidential Chair, Wake Forest University

Melissa Harris-Perry is the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University. There she is the founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper... Read More

Against the motion

David Brooks

Op-Ed Columnist, New York Times

David Brooks has been an Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times since 2003. He has been a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, a contributing editor... Read More

Robert George

Robert George

Political Philosopher & Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

Robert P. George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Through their support of LGBT rights, diversity initiatives, and multiculturalism, liberals foster a more tolerant and inclusive society that benefits all.
  • As champions of social justice, liberals seek to correct historic wrongs – including systemic inequality – through social and economic policies that level the playing field for the underprivileged and disadvantaged.
  • Liberals champion human rights and environmental protections around the world by building alliances across borders and prioritizing moral and humanitarian causes on the international stage. 
Against The Motion
  • As defenders of religious liberties and family values, conservatives preserve American moral and social tradition.
  • Rather than creating a culture of government dependency, conservatives seek justice by rewarding hard work, entrepreneurialism, and self-determination.
  • By emphasizing patriotism, including reverence for those who serve to keep the nation safe, and recognizing America’s unique role as a global power, conservatives ensure order both at home and abroad.    

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The Research

The Research

Blue States Practice the Family Values Red States Preach

Nicholas Kristof
November 18, 2017

As we watch Roy Moore thumping his Bible to defend himself from accusations of child molestation, let me toss out a verbal hand grenade: To some degree, liberals practice the values that conservatives preach.

Why Liberals Aren’t as Tolerant as They Think

Matthew Hutson
May 9, 2017

The political left might consider itself more open-minded than the right. But research shows that liberals are just as prejudiced against conservatives as conservatives are against liberals.

The Moral Roots of Liberals and Conservatives

Jonathan Haidt
February 1, 2008

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we're left, right or center. In this eye-opening talk, he pinpoints the moral values that liberals and conservatives tend to honor most.

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