Ten Commandments For Liberals Who Want to Argue About Politics

Looks like my thoughts about liberals wanting to debate politics, and then once cornered turning on-a-dime and announcing to all within earshot that they’re being hussled, hassled, brow-beaten, fed up, saturated, being held as a captive audience, victimized, et cetera, has struck a nerve with some others who’ve gone through similar experiences.

This makes me feel kinda bad, actually. It wasn’t so long ago I was going to blossom forth with some great ideas about how to argue with liberals. Little lists of rules, rough drafts, on my smart phone, on my thumb drive, on Google Docs…all torn to shreds by experience. I find out my rules aren’t quite right, and then I go back and re-do them and re-do them some more. It’s my nature. Rules are for you; not for the other guy. Because if the other guy doesn’t want to follow the rules, then whaddya do? No, you keep your corrections for yourself. Change what is in your power to change. If something could be your fault, and might not be your fault, the thing to do is make it your fault so you’ve got the power to change it. That’s a good piece of advice right there, and it has served me well.

Except here. My drafts have been revised and revised so many times they are nothing.

The trouble is, I think, that liberals are people…and people are different from one another, predictable as bouncing footballs. The task of figuring out who, exactly, is trying to get into a “friendly discussion” about politics with you becomes so demanding and so energy-consuming, that it becomes everything. Customization is the order of the day. Identifying your colleague/antagonist, his or her motives, phobias, et al, becomes the entire equation.

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And so I’ve been forced to take a different approach.

The rules, now…have to do with what the liberals should & shouldn’t do when arguing politics. The job that falls to the other fella, is to take his marbles and go home if the liberal doesn’t sign on. This is contrary to conservative thinking. But that’s the price of stepping outside of Olympus. Simply negotiating how the “exchange of ideas” is going to take place, brings you in contact with someone who, if they don’t fit the mold of a dedicated agent of destruction, has been sold a bill of goods by someone who does fit that mold. It is a different world. Style over substance, feeling over thinking, and everyone’s a victim. See, that’s the problem right there. Liberals declaring their victim-hood, is like a skunk spraying its ick. And of course you’re the a**hole if they’re the victim. Wherever there’s a victim someone must have been victimizing.

And so this is the only approach that works, I think: Arrange a pact, and if the equivalent of a wet signature isn’t forthcoming then change the subject to who’s going to win American Idol.

This list, I think, has a better chance of doing someone some good. It seems there are quite a few conservatives, or non-liberals, trying to figure out how to have these conversations with left-wingers. Not so much to change minds, but to emerge unscathed. There are more people engaged in this struggle than any of them realize, and we’re all on the same stupid merry-go-round. We’re all Charlie Browns, after Lucy pulled away the football yet again. So this one goes to Lucy…

Ten Commandments For Liberals Who Want to Argue About Politics

1. This is the First Commandment for a reason, because it is the most important: IN, or OUT. Your preference is to argue politics, or not to. One or the other; drop the “nuance.” You aren’t a little girl on the elementary school playground, so you don’t get to punch, bite, hit, kick and then run screaming to the yard-duty teacher when someone returns fire.

2. You get to change your mind later if you’re out and then want in. But not vice-versa. In is in.

3. If you thought it would be a great idea to start a discussion about politics with your conservative friend — as in, you initiated, he responded — remember it that way later. Don’t go spreading gossip about how he “started it,” “always starts it,” “is obsessed with politics,” “creates a hostile work environment,” “doesn’t seem to understand it isn’t suitable for the workplace,” “doesn’t get that some people don’t wanna hear it” or “won’t leave it alone.”

4. If you’ve found some “facts” to bolster your argument and want to use them here, you are almost certainly reciting the same facts somewhere else too. And it shows. Oh, Lord, more than you could possibly imagine, yes it does show. If there are some contrary facts, then, it is to your benefit for you to be told about them. Your conservative colleague/opponent just might involved an effort, as any true friend would, to stop you from making an enormous ass out of yourself. Check the list of Thirty Ignorant Opinions That Are Nevertheless Somehow Popular. If your position appears on this list, be advised that you don’t know some things you should be knowing, if you’re going to be talking about this stuff.

5. Just admit it, because it is almost certainly true: You have selected your political beliefs not as the conclusion of any fact-finding or information-pondering mission, but rather, in an effort to display yourself to various communities as a Really Nice PersonTM. You are to remember that this does not, repeat not, mean that anyone who brings up contrary points is a nasty person.

6. Nor does it mean they’re doubting your nice-ness. Just because this is your chosen method of showing how nice you are, doesn’t mean this is the only way. You might very well have overlooked a lot of other ones. That could very well be all that your opponent is trying to get across to you.

7. You’ve got some facts on your side; your “opponent” might have some on his side. Don’t be too surprised when he gives you some. That’s the whole point to having the discussion, isn’t it? If you are shocked by this, don’t take it out on him. If you find some facts agreeable and others less so, even though they’re all verifiable, that means you’re passionate about this certain issue but receptive to only half of the facts pertinent to it. This next point cannot be stressed enough: This selective sensitivity of yours is your problem. Yours. Not his. Yours.

8. Of course you think the world is a better place if & when your ideas prevail. Just remember, if you think the ends justify the means in whatever you’re saying or doing — your noble goals have metastasized into something that isn’t good. That includes, after the discussion is over, talking about your opponent in unflattering terms to a third party behind his back. You are heading down a steep, slippery road to a very dark place. You. Not him. You.

9. If you really want a civil discourse, stay away from the “the other guy did it too” defense. That isn’t a valid defense and you know it. Also, don’t tell your opponent what he should be reading, what he shouldn’t be reading, what you’ve been avoiding reading. If Malcom Forbes is dead and the National Enquirer says so, that doesn’t bring him back to life; once a fact is verified or verifiable, it really doesn’t matter who bothered to mention it.

10. The Boston Legal Alan Shore technique of “I find such-and-such to be odious therefore you should too” — doesn’t work in real life. It does not change minds. It doesn’t work with juries, or at least, it shouldn’t. It doesn’t work with anyone except people who already agree with you. It won’t work on your conservative opponent. And no, this does not mean your opponent is in favor of dirty air, dirty water, little kids getting shot by gangs, people staying poor, old people dying in heat waves, more people becoming homeless, more troop deaths, more AIDS, more teenage pregnancies, the planet dying out, or anything of the like. Don’t make him clarify this, he shouldn’t have to.

There. NOW you are ready for your friendly, civil, high-minded, reasoned exchange of ideas. And if any liberal friends of yours started reading this, and didn’t make it to the bottom, get this across to them: They need to stay away from arguing politics. Them. Not the other guy. Them. For their own good. Theirs. Not his. For theirs. Their sickness has a lot to do with alcoholism. They need help, they need to acknowledge they have a problem, and the longer they go pretending the problem isn’t there, the worse it’s gonna get.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.

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