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04:18 pm: Part Three: Speaking With the Opposition

Final repost:

In light of the contentious political subjects among us today, I thought it might be helpful to someone if I shared a few thoughts on what to do if you want to talk about the issues and you would prefer a discussion instead of an argument.


Typical portrait of a member of the opposite party (from you) discussing politics.

The key is to remember this one, hard-bought secret: He is not the opposite of you.

Here is what I mean:

Liberals and Conservatives today are both people of great character. Many of them hold convictions requiring tremendous nobility and courage–convictions for which they would willingly die.

But their convictions are not the opposite of each other. In fact, they are seldom related at all.



Conservatives are often for it. Liberals are usually against it. Why is that? Is one good and the other evil?

Conservatives think war is necessary because real bad guys won’t be stopped by nice words, no matter how much we wish they would. However, they also think war is evil and scary. Yet, they are so loyal to the ideals they believe in that they are willing to summon the courage to face this terrible fate. They will go forward because they are brave enough to do so…out of love for that which needs defending.

So, obviously, anyone who does not agree with them must be a coward. Therefore, all Liberals are cowards. Brave men hate cowardice. Therefore, it is very, very difficult not to hate the Liberals.

Liberals look around and they see that war solves nothing. All that fighting, all that killing, all that waste. The net gain is never worth the price. They see this so clearly. Anyone with even a little intelligence could not miss it.

So, obviously, anyone who does not agree with them must be stupid. Therefore, all Conservatives are stupid. Intelligent men despise stupidity…especially the deliberate kind in people who should know better. Therefore, it is very, very difficult not to hate the Conservative.

Health Care.

Conservatives worry about men’s freedom and the logistics of the drawbacks of socialized medicine.

Liberals care about compassion and helping the little guy who is suffering.

The Conservatives are often compassionate, not selfish like Liberals assume. They are willing to die for to protect the freedom of men they will never know.

Liberals often care about freedom. They think the freedom to live is necessary to be able to enjoy the other freedoms. They want to defend this freedom.

If a Conservative wants to convince a Liberal, he has to start by establishing that lack of compassion is not what motivates him. It is because he does feel compassion for his fellow man that he does not want a program that will make things worse for those fellows, not better.

If a Liberal wants to convince a Conservative, he has to start by establishing that he does know how the system works and the many disadvantages of socialized medicine—everything has drawbacks. So, one might as well make oneself familiar with them. He has to make it clear that he understands that some of the good things we have now will go away. And then explain why he believes that the overall gain will be greater than the loss, why those drawbacks are worth the price.

Gay Marriage.

Liberals care about tolerance and fairness. Conservatives care about morality and decency. Many Liberals think those terms don’t mean anything…but if they want to convince Conservatives, they need to understand what they do mean and discuss why gay marriage does or does not offend those concepts.

Conservatives, on the other hand, need to discuss the matter in terms of fairness and toleration and explain how those concepts do or do not figure in to the subject.


Basically, what this comes down to is: If you want to have a real discussion with the other guy, you have to find out what he thinks. Arguing in favor of what you think will only produce a knee jerk reaction from him—because he’s never going to hear what you are really saying.

If you want to convince the opposition, start by finding out what members of their group say on your side. (A pro-gay marriage Conservative or an anti-Obamacare Liberal) Both sides have discussions among themselves, members who don’t agree with the majority. They often have arguments that are couched in the terms that apply to the convictions of their party.

If you argue along these lines, you will be able to hold a civil conversation, even if you do not convince anybody.
And you will come closer to having sympathy for your fellow man, even if he does not convince you.

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)


[User Picture]
From:Earl Wajenberg
Date:August 15th, 2014 12:48 am (UTC)
I am currently reading The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt, which is about moral psychology and specifically about the left/right divide. I recommend it to you because, although Haidt makes it clear he is a liberal and I am reasonably sure you are a conservative, you are both deeply unhappy about the divide, and the fellow has some interesting theories. Short of reading the book, you can find them summarized on Wikipedia under "Moral Foundations Theory."

To summarize the summary, Haidt and his partners claim to discern six "foundations" of moral intuition among people:
All normal people care about all six, but liberals care much more about the first three and conservatives care more equally across the spectrum (except for very extreme conservatives, who care MORE about the last three, according to the graph in the book).

Haidt talks very much as you do about the desirability and the ways of having reasonable and civil talk across the divide.

I notice that the latter three foundations, supported by conservatives, always require the supporter to subordinate himself to something, while the first three do not necessarily do so. This makes historical sense, since liberal movements arose in rebellion against various forms of oppression. It also explains why, when the liberal are religious, it tends to be religion with a very undemanding object as its focus.
[User Picture]
Date:August 15th, 2014 01:27 am (UTC)
Sounds quite interesting.

I am not a conservative, but I am not a Liberal either...or rather I am Liberal on some topics and Conservative on others....depending on how you look at it. ;-)

[User Picture]
Date:August 15th, 2014 01:08 am (UTC)
I have an absolutely lovely friend with whom I frequently disagree (he's `a self-described utilitarian consequentialist atheist, and is intellectually honest enough to have asked himself why he was so discomforted by Ozymandias' actions in Watchmen). He's also one of the few people with whom I can have a really engaging, civil, pleasant dialogue about almost any idea because we both know the other person is coming from a place of good faith. It's absolutely wonderful. I wish everyone in the world had a friend like this guy. Whenever I run into someone else who holds similar opinions but is less pleasant, I can see him in them, and that makes me more able to be charitable. I hope that the reverse is also true--that he's more charitable to socially conservative religious folk because he sees some of me in them. Being kind really does make a tremendous difference.
[User Picture]
Date:August 15th, 2014 01:33 am (UTC)
That is great!

I have that, too...since my mom is on one side and my husband on the other...so I can't despise either side.

I think it's a big help to like someone who thinks differently than we do.
[User Picture]
Date:August 26th, 2014 03:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks for writing this very thoughtful series.

Diana Hsieh, in a podcast I haven't been able to find again, frames political disagreement in terms of somewhat different fundamental values: conservatives see themselves as defending civilization, liberals (progressives?) see themselves as protecting the oppressed, and libertarians see themselves as protecting freedom.
[User Picture]
Date:August 26th, 2014 05:48 pm (UTC)
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