Can we have a Political Debates forum?

I posted this question in IMHO, since it was a sort of poll, but maybe ATMB is a better place to ask the question.

So, can we have a Political Debates forum?

With the exception of Cafe Society, which has a particular and unusual justification, it’s not been the policy of this board to create subject matter forums, but rather to divide threads on the basis of their characteristics – a question about Cannabis sativa, for example, might constitute a Great Debate (relative advantages and dangers of legalization), a General Question (what precisely is the physiological mechanism by which smoking pot gets you high?), a Pit thread (rant on some aspect of marijuana laws, for example), IMHO (what do you think ought to be government policy about it), CCC (someone taking issue on what Cecil said about it in a column), or CSR (someone taking issue with a comment i in a staff report).

However, I think that Polerius’s suggestion does have merit – since 2000 a great part of both GD and the Pit, with occasional excursions into the other forums, has been devoted to American politics, with occasional discussions of Canadian, British, and Australian politics.

I’d conceive of it as being a politics-centric GD forum with rants against specific politicians, parties, and ideologies permitted (but not against individual Dopers). Threads that broke out into a political argument would be moved there from the other forums, and those who wanted to explore serious topics regarding political issues would start their threads there.

I’d urge staff to give it serious consideration, to correct the overdominance of GD and the Pit by those issues that has happened of late. It’s a major change from established policy, but it may be the appropriate one to make at this point in time.

I don’t think it would contribute anything towards cleaning up The Pit. People don’t want to discuss politics on here unless they can call someone else a pigfucker* while doing it. Also, how would you seperate borderline debates? A thread on gun control, gay marriage, or abortion could easily be a Great Debate, a Politcal Debate, or even a Pit thread.

I think we would just end up with three forums full of Political BS instead of two.
*substitute any other appropriate word (asshole, moron, nazi, cockmaster, jerk, bigot, republican, democrat, etc) for someone who doesn’t share your beliefs, or who might disagree with you.

People currently discuss politics in GD where they can’t call someone else a pigfucker, so I don’t see that as a problem.

A general thread about whether gun control is beneficial should go into GD.
A thread about the expiration of a gun law should go into PD.

A thread about the effects of abortion on society should go into GD.
A thread about a senator who just voted against some abortion-related law should go into PD.

A thread about whether society should recognize gay marriage should go into GD.
A thread discussing the fact that several states passed an anti-gay-marriage ban should go into PD.

All the ranting and observations about the latest election should go into PD.

Like all the other cries for more topic-specific forums, can’t really see a need large enough to do this. I think what we have currently in place is sufficient for the needs of the community.

This is especially true considering that we just finished off a major election in the United States. Sure, there’s going to be a lot to talk about in the wake of the second Bush term, but it pales in the wake of a major election cycle.

We’ve had many requests for this sort of thing, just put in the topic of your choice (and everyone has a different one, too!) and gee, wouldn’t it be great if there was a forum just for that! All my favorite thing all the time! But that’s not how this board operates.

For most people, “won’t clutter up the board with this topic” usually translates into “removes from my sight all the stuff I don’t want to get into.” And I have had people write me and say exactly that. “I want a forum with just the stuff I want to talk about, so why can’t we have _______? I don’t want to bother with the rest and it irritates me to page through it to get to what I care about.” I also routinely get email with the suggestion that to improve board performance we eliminate certain areas entirely. MPSIMS and The Pit are most often pointed out by these people as the best ones to jettison. That’s not going to happen either.

your humble TubaDiva

Name one other topic that dominates GD and the Pit.

I can’t think of any other specific topic that swamps out all other discussions in these forums.

So, political threads are not “just another topic of choice”, but the only topic that is impeding the purpose of GD.

IMHO, of course.

I was addressing Polycarp’s comment that it would help in The Pit.

While it’s easy to come up with a few example threads that are easy to define, it would never work in practice. Threads wander too much. Do you think you could have a gay marriage debate in GD that wouldn’t somehow involve politics? How would you enforce it? Would you warn users that make political comments in GD threads, or would you just move the thread to PD?

The line between GD and PD would be too thin. Threads would constantly be crossing that line, and in the end you would be better off just having it all in one forum anyway.

I would love to have a politics-free GD, but I can’t see it happening.

As a small example of how this is affecting the SDMB, **Lobsang ** started a thread “Wake me up when the Straight Dope Message Board is back”, in which he said

The problem is that it may never be “back to normal” given the bitter polarization of the American electorate.

And another quote from Finagle:

What other specific subject makes people react like this?

Doesn’t this sort of thing happen today with the GD/Pit distinctions?
That is, a thread starts in GD, but when the tone gets ugly, it gets moved to the Pit.
So, how is this a problem only with PD?

That’s just the point: Political debate is like any other debate around here, or should be.

Re Lobsang’s comment: If someone chooses not to participate, that’s okay too. You don’t like the content? Do better, put up other stuff, get involved in something YOU like here. This place is what you make it. At the same time, you can’t deny others the right to pursue that which is meaningful to them. You don’t have to play, but you do need to be respectful of others, just as you would ask them to be respectful of you.

your humble TubaDiva

I hear that, but the entire time I’ve been here, which is somewhere in the vicinity of a year, politics has by far dominated GD and it’s certainly been the biggest topic in the Pit, even if it’s only a plurality, not a majority, of threads. Now, this whole year has been one of political campaigning, but I’m betting both forums are dominated by politics even during the off season - after all, the US has a major election in 2006 as well - won’t there be posts about the makeup of the House and Senate? About gubernatorial races?

It’s not necessarily about avoiding what we find distasteful (though, if so many of us do find it distasteful, isn’t that worth something?) It’s about being able to have Great Debates that don’t revolve around politics. These threads aren’t just irritating - they push other, also relevant threads off the screen and into obscurity. I basically consider GD to be the “politics” forum as it is, since it’s so hard to find any other content there.

There’s already a forum for discussing pop culture; why not one for politics?

There isn’t a forum for discussing pop culture. There’s a forum for discussing culture, but you can get threads in there about Shakespeare, Beowulf, the Iliad, and Gilgamesh, which aren’t exactly pop.

And if so much of GD is political, one must wonder what would be left, if all political questions were moved elsewhere? Sure, you’d still have the odd discussion of philoso-logical analyses of ontological arguments, but really, how many of those are there? If political questions were close to half of the content of GD, then you might have an argument to separate them out, but as it is, you’d end up with a new forum almost identical to GD but with a different name, and a ghost town that retains the GD name without most of the content.

As a former inventory manager for a wholesale distributor of industrial supplies, I can testify that classification is 1% science, 9% art, and 90% percent frustration. One man prefers “cutting tools”, and another prefers “drill accessories”. To top it all off, there inevitably has to be a “miscellaneous” category where, eventually, almost everything is thrown once the system’s novelty has worn off. Where, for example, would we debate libertarianism? True, it is a political philosophy, but it is also a philosophical ethic (noncoercion).

Let’s not have any forums then. Since classification is impossible, why have Cafe Society, IMHO, MPSIMS, etc?

This is easy: it should be debated in GD.

Actually, a quick sorting of the current threads in GD shows that roughly half qualify for PD, so GD would still have half of its current threads and won’t turn into a “ghost town”

Here are the results of some quick sorting into GD and PD of the current threads in GD:

  Is paying off your home early a good investment 
  To those opposed to gay marriage: Why?  
  Is there anyone here against gay marriage AND civil unions?  
  Driving under the speed limit  
  Social Conservatism Explained  
  Let's debate vouchers.  
  Why is the metric system better than the imperial system?  
  USA: being wealthy is ok... intelligent  bad ? 
  Free will, Christianity and The Law 
  Miles Per Gallon is a Silly Way to Measure Fuel Efficiency 
  Buried or Cremated: Convince me I should be one, but not the other 
  Osama: Mastermind or Figurehead 
  Homosexuality a choice = heterosexuality a choice? 
  Do we need a stable consistent focus derived from a holistic rendering? 
  Return of the Scopes Monkey Trial 
  Wetback, how offensive was this useage? 
  A Payroll Tax Reform Proposal 
  Gay Dopers, if you could take a pill and be straight. . .  
  Why does the great majority of Jews vote democratic? 
  How can people be legally oppossed to gay marriage? 
  Would the US negotiate with terrorists if the POTUS was kidnapped? 
  What are the signs of the apocalypse and coming rapture?  
  Polls: Trust those with something to lose. 
  Does science have any obligations regarding God? 
  Micah 5:2 Messianic Prophecy?  
  Howard Dean for Chairman of the DNC? 
  Resolved: The Democratic party has moved too far to the left 
  Does have hard evidence fraud took place in Tuesday's election?  
  How do I join the resistance?  
  Thoughts on the 2004 election 
  Tinfoil Hat Time 
  The Democratic Party should drop the gun control issue  
  So what's with New Hampshire? 
  Lessons Learned [by the Democrats from the 2004 elections]  
  Election questions for Bush supporters  
  Why the left alienates voters  
  Various kinds of Tax reform: Bush's 2nd term 
  Is Larry Kramer right? 
  Who's Vulnerable in 2006? 
  Political partisans: do you value the opposition? 
  2008 Presidential Race: Who vs. Who?  
  Who will the US send to Arafat's funeral? 
  Has Schwartzenegger won special favor for California from Bush 
  Why is Indiana so pro-Bush? 
  Meanwhile in Kansas.. (Anti-evolution is back, thanks to the election too!) 
  Even with Lawrence vs Texas, we should work to take sodomy laws off the books. 
  We're in the home stretch: Election predictions  
  Bush's Second Term Economic Plan 
  George Will: Watergate of 1980? 

Just because there are areas of grey, doesn’t mean there isn’t black and white. There are some questions that fit very neatly into one category or 'tother, and there are some questions where classification is ambiguous.

When we initially went to set things up, we thought of going by topic – politics, arts, social sciences, physical science, etc. We then looked at some of the questions that Cecil typically gets, and it was pretty clear that they don’t fit those traditional categories. So we categorized by style of question rather than content – General Questions for questions that can probably be answerd, Great Debates for debates (questions that probably can’t be answered), Comments on… for comments, IMHO for opinions, the Pit for flames, &c. The only exceptions were About This Message Board, because we felt the need for such. And then Cafe Society was added as the significant exception to our general categorization, since that’s really a topic-related forum.

I don’t think we feel any particular need to subdivide one forum into separate topics. It’s an interesting idea, and if/when we get significantly larger, we might reconsider it.

The last year has been exceptional in terms of political threads because of the U.S. political scene. My suggestion is that you wait another month or so, and see if the political discussions don’t abate considerably.

That’s the understanding I had and therefore the approach that I took in responding to this thread, Dex. Given your last paragraph, though, may I respectfully ask that staff adopt the same advice – and review the question in a month or so if political discussions don’t “abate considerably”?

Sounds fine to me.

But I’m curious about the following:

Why was a “significant exception” made for this topic?

Ike needed a job. :smiley:

What’s the standard for “political”, here, Polerius? Looking at your list, ten of your “Great Debates” threads look awfully political to me. Opposition to gay marriage? It’s the issue that swung the latest election. Voting tendancies among Jews? You can’t get much more political than voting. Social Conservatism? That’s a political philosophy, isn’t it? I’m not seeing the distinction, here.

By the way, in case anyone doubts samclem’s reason why we created Cafe Society, know this: The creation of the forum was delayed by two months because the moderators couldn’t think of a good name for it.