David Iwinski (top photo) has never met a debate he didn’t like. Bruce MacKenzie draws on elements of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address to explain why continued debate is not just nice to have, but essential to help forge a better union.
Says Iwinski, a vocal Red: “If we don’t have disagreements, we’re doing it wrong.” Adds MacKenzie, a passionate Blue: “America is constantly testing its dedication to ‘the proposition that all men are created equal.’ How we realize that ideal is extremely difficult; David and I will sometimes be at loggerheads over how to achieve it.”
So they’re well suited to their primary roles as national debate recruiter (Iwinski) and debate chair for both state and national debates (MacKenzie.) Although they’ve never met in person – Iwinski is in Pittsburgh, MacKenzie in Minneapolis – the two get on very well together. “In David, I found someone I can trust to talk to,” says MacKenzie. “He’ll give me his unvarnished view, and I’m not going to be offended.”
He and Iwinski work together on the National Braver Angels Debate committee; the two meet virtually once a month with the national debate team. But to peg them only as debate leaders is to understate all they do for the organization.
MacKenzie, who joined in 2017, has organized workshops and moderated many in Minnesota and in other states. He’s also on the Minnesota Braver Angels Steering Committee. Locally, he wants to help ensure four solid debates a year. Currently, issues on Braver Angels’ table in Minnesota include gerrymandering, the teaching of critical race theory, and the Second Amendment as mass shootings rage across the U.S.
Iwinski joined last year. He’s also associate director for community debates, an active member of Braver Angels’ Red Caucus and a planner for and session leader at the recent Red Caucus Retreat. He’s a regular with 1:1 Conversations, too. “People want to give me a piece of their mind,” he jokes. “Thanks! I need all the “mind” I can get! ”
But he’s super-serious when he talks about Braver Angels raising more conservative voices. He vehemently rejects a sentiment he has observed among fellow Reds. “Stop with this sad refrain about not being welcome in Braver Angels,” he declares. “Yes, Reds may be under-represented, but this is a place where we can be free to speak our passions – with courtesy. It’s our diverse ideas that give us our strength.”
MacKenzie extrapolates on Iwinski’s point. “Reds are not joiners in the same way Blues are,” he says. “They need something meaningful to do.” He adds that liberals “are very good at lecturing” [“Bluesplaining”, as it’s been labeled], which is why he works hard to discuss with Blues how they alienate Reds. He invokes the section of the peace prayer of St. Francis that asks for help with seeking to understand rather than to be understood. “I need more Reds to help me learn,” he says.
The two believe the white-hot issue of election integrity is where Braver Angels can achieve breakout status. It’s a theme each man cares deeply about. “If we could say we’ve crafted a policy with equal input from Reds and Blues, that would be powerful,” says Iwinski. “The worst thing that could happen is that we come up with valuable methods for unifying the country but they’re perceived to be a bunch of recommendations from a bunch of liberals.”
Well put, gentlemen.