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Why We Need Political Enemies 

Robert Talisse (Vanderbilt University)

When engaged in democratic politics, it often strikes us that our opponents are not only wrong, but in the wrong.  We tend to see them as not merely mistaken, but ignorant,  corrupt, and on the side of injustice.  Most accounts of responsible citizenship contend that we must nonetheless uphold civil relations with them.  But why?  When the stakes are high, why not just dismiss our opponents and work with our allies to overcome them?  Why bother trying to maintain civil relations with them?  In this talk, I draw on empirical work concerning belief polarization to argue that we must uphold civil relations with our political enemies, not because we are required to regard them as reasonable, but because in the absence of those relations our political alliances crumble.