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Reflections on Hearing the Other Side, in Theory and in Practice

THE AUTHOR OF "HEARING THE OTHER SIDE" REFLECTS: In response to my book’s finding that there is a tradeoff between two apparently desirable traits—a propensity to participate in politics, on the one hand, and to expose oneself to disagreeable political ideas, on the other—symposium participants suggest a number of reasons why this tradeoff should not trouble participatory democratic theorists. One argument is that electoral advocacy (the type of participation I measure) is not an important form of participation anyway, so we are better off without it. However, those people who do not vote also tend not to participate in politics in other ways, so electoral advocacy is the lowest possible bar for defining participation. Partisans are also more likely to be well informed and to offer coherent reasons for their political preferences. A second argument suggests that deliberative theorists have somewhat contradictory views of social influence, encouraging it in the context of deliberative encounters but perceiving it as pernicious when members of political parties influence their members. A third response is to posit a division of labor between closed-minded partisan advocates and open-minded people who are exposed to cross-cutting debate. However, it is difficult to see how the benefits of cross-cutting exposure will be conveyed to the advocates who participate in meaningful ways.