Segments in this Video

Debate "Housekeeping" (04:53)


John Donvan introduces the panelists and explains the debate format. Audience members record their preliminary votes and include five words they associate with liberals. Panelists describe America's defining virtue.

Opening Statements For: Melissa Harris-Perry (06:33)

Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University, Harris-Perry explains that demonstrating that there is an immoral liberal or conservative is not grounds for winning the debate. She describes how liberal leaders in the government lead to more moral outcomes. The Declaration of Independence provides a standard for American civic morality.

Opening Statements Against: David Brooks (06:23)

Columnist for the New York Times Brooks describes how conservatives give 30% more to charity. He explains his belief that politics is a competition between partial truths. The resolution claims that liberals not liberal ideals are more superior.

Opening Statements For: Howard Dean (06:46)

Democratic National Committee and governor of Vermont, Dean agrees that if liberals who believe they are morally superior, are condescending to the opposition. Conservatives are willing to sacrifice individuals who have been harmed for long-term gain. People who possess power can delude themselves into believing they are moral.

Opening Statements Against: Robert George (06:19)

Political philosopher and professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, George agrees the end does not justify the means and recalls how liberals wanted to disregard President Bill Clinton's behavior. Neither side achieves the moral high ground because both succumbed to dogmatism, ideological tribalism, and show contempt for opposition.

Pursuing Human Freedom (10:00)

Donvan summarizes the opening statements. Harris-Perry explains the repercussions of Republican's controlling state legislatures. Brooks counters that change needs to be incremental, gradual, and slow to succeed.

Social Policies (04:31)

Dean describes how public response from Moore and Clinton's acts were different. Hypocrisy exists on both political sides. George explains how social policy can undermine personal responsibility, creating dependency.

Roe V. Wade (05:35)

George explains that he can respect Dean's position on abortion because he accepts that he could be wrong. Harris-Perry explains that the false choices regarding Cabrini-Green were made by wealthy white people who did not live there. Brooks counters that a liberal program tore down social capital that had been built for years

Fairness and Liberty (06:17)

Dean explains that there is more opportunity with liberal governments. George counters that liberals tend to view things in terms of equality of outcomes and wealth while conservatives think about equality of opportunity and social mobility. Harris-Perry argues that if colleges admitted based solely on merit 65% of incoming classes would be female.

Same Sex Marriage (05:19)

George explains his position that same sex marriages is not morally correct. Harris-Perry counters the state should not make a distinction between religious and state marriage. Dean argues that republicans are afraid of changing the institution.

Results from Survey (01:25)

Those who were for the motion chose "kind, diverse, accepting, charitable, and community" to describes liberals. Those who voted against the motion selected "unrealistic, intolerant, condescending, snowflake, and uninformed." People on both sides chose "fair, open, progressive, caring, and equality."

QA: Today's Group of Politicians (05:23)

George explains how there are few heroes in Washington, DC. Brooks describes how the Republican party has transformed into a reactionary party. Harris-Perry counters that the party is still culpable for the change.

QA: Explosion of Illiberalism (06:35)

Dean describes first amendment complications with radicalized groups. George explains how the "alt-right" seeks to replace an old-fashioned American conservatism with a radicalized manifestation.

QA: Social Aid Programs (06:29)

Dean explains that neither pure liberalism nor pure conservatism works effectively. George believes that situations should be resolved by the private sector whenever possible. Harris-Perry explains how liberals also endorse bills like raising the minimum wage and ensure equal opportunity in obtaining home loans.

QA: Foreign Policy (03:13)

George describes how the Cold War united liberal and conservative parties against Russia. Dean capitulates that both parties have made mistakes, citing the Iraq and Vietnam wars.

Concluding Statement For: Dean (02:35)

Dean describes how liberals look forward, have hope for the future, and do not cling to the past. Both parties have made big mistakes. Forty years ago, electing a black president seemed impossible.

Concluding Statement Against: Brooks (02:20)

Brooks explains that one party believing that they hold the moral high ground is a pernicious act that can endanger the country. Both parties are equal. President Abraham Lincoln gave a speech that the entire country was to blame for the Civil War.

Concluding Statement For: Harris-Perry (02:24)

Harris-Perry describes how her great-great-grandmother was sold on a street corner in Richmond, VA. Liberals give the poorest people a voice in democracy.

Concluding Statement Against: George (02:30)

George describes how the civil rights moment helped liberal thought while eugenics hindered it. Republicans and Democrats have descended into dogmatism, ideological partnership, and tribalism. Adopting a position of moral superiority means you do not possess it.

Time to Vote (01:09)

Donvan compliments the panelists on their conduct and instructs the audience to vote.

Audience Vote Results (00:48)

Pre-Debate - For: 48% - Against: 22% - Undecided: 30% Post-Debate - For: 43% - Against: 39% - Undecided: 18%

Credits: Liberals Hold the Moral High Ground: A Debate (00:09)

Credits: Liberals Hold the Moral High Ground: A Debate

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Liberals Hold the Moral High Ground: A Debate

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Do conservative or liberal philosophies lead to more just outcomes? Opposing definitions of morality have long fueled debate over America’s policy goals and national identity. For conservatives, morality is often 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 ethical traditions. For liberals, morality is often grounded in ideals such as compassion and 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—if either—best embodies the nation’s most cherished virtues? Do liberals hold the moral high ground?

Length: 98 minutes

Item#: BVL145753

ISBN: 978-1-64347-024-5

Copyright date: ©2017

Closed Captioned

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