One of the most misunderstood differences between the ideologies is on the communication frontier. For both practical and psychological reasons, conservatives may not see the need to reach out to liberals aggressively. They may shun us, even. The public forum is often littered with the internal notes of the conservative movement’s struggle with this tendency, especially after a beating at the polls. There are intermittent writings of both moderate conservatives (Douthat, for instance) and those further right (Coulter) that bemoan a tendency to be combative rather than inclusive, or that advocate for reframing or tweaking conservative ideas for minorities or moderates, or that even suggest giving up on lesser principles so more people can be attracted to voting for more important ones. Conservatives need to have this internal discussion more than liberals do because conservatives have a tougher psychological task when it comes to persuasion: preserving principles and institutions as a highest priority makes it naturally more difficult, or even wrong, to bend and compromise with those who don’t share their respect for those principles or institutions. Theirs is a world more black-and-white than the one that greets me when I wake, shrouded as I am in a horde of grays from morning ’til night.
Shaming people into doing good is a classic conservative technique, so common among them that it’s assumed to be important, or even a given. I personally react negatively to this assumption, just because I see where the cost of using shaming as a social tool can be so high- how it can be used to manipulate people to do what you want, without considering well what might be best for them. This manipulative potential doesn’t trouble conservatives as much as it does me, for several reasons: More
I talk both sides of arguments. One indication of maturity around a perspective is the ability to do that- when you see yourself doing that a lot, it will be the beginning of wisdom. Libertarians are typically completely terrible at this skill, the worst of the three, actually, so be aware you’ve got a cultural predilection you should be consciously fighting: to reframe everything as about liberty, and to be careless about arguments that are not explicitly centered on liberty, or that have deeply opposing liberty characteristics embedded. More
Jeffrey Sachs is an expert on poverty and government policy who jets around the world helping various countries get a leg up on severe problems. I’d call him a foam-at-the-mouth liberal, and you probably would, too. But Jeffrey Sachs hates the famous liberal economist Paul Krugman’s economic ideas because, as conservatives have said all along, the ideas don’t completely work, and they’re very expensive. More
This article was written by the founder of the company Seventh Generation, and provides one of the very best summations of how possible it is now to get products created that are not just sustainable, but that benefit the natural world. This seems really tough to do, but the article makes the wonderful point that the most important steps are around policy, not some kind of spiritual, vague movement toward health, or any somesuch. Best of all, these steps are essentially absent of any taint of ideology: More
We usually paint our moral choices as a pure form of good, especially for people who disagree with us. In reality, like any other choice we make in life, there are almost always positive and negative consequences of moral choices. That’s especially true when we look at things statistically, at large numbers of people making the same choices. Even seemingly no-brainer moral choices have costs. More
In the Navy, I had a captain who was the worst ship driver imaginable. He banged into almost every pier we tied up to. More
This Washington Post article looks into how we are beginning to gain a little traction against lies and deceptions in national politics with fact checking groups. More
This online game is a great nonpartisan tool that clues you in to how corrupt and manipulative our system is. Out of hundreds of funny-looking stmts by President Obama and the Republican presidential candidates that were checked by investigative journalists, More
A liberal thinker I follow online, Benjamin David Steele, recently said “Sometimes stating and restating the obvious is the best one can offer in defense of truth and morality.”
There is a great deal to this statement, for two reasons. One, because we should feel obligated to do the best we can to further a moral impetus, and if all we can do is state and restate, we should do it. The other reason is more important: kind, creative, fervent, and responsive repetition has an impact with conservatives, even when it doesn’t seem to. More
This simple yet brilliant analysis by Jonathan Chiat lays out how liberals have come to completely dominate the entertainment industry. Toward the end, it also has a convincing and bizarre explanation for why wide swaths of the 3rd world have drastically reduced reproduction rates of late.
I was sent this article by a right-wing source I subscribe to. It makes the simple point that cutting entitlements for the poor doesn’t make enough of a dent in our fiscal problems to be worth emphasizing- Medicare and Social Security benefits to middle and upper class Americans are the main fiscal problem. More
Partisanship is the way we get the disparate needs of society addressed best- specialists, if you will, who care most about each side of somewhat-competing, valid interests. People forget how frustrated America was in the late ’50′s/early ’60′s with parties that provided little diversity for the voters- similar cries of inefficiency and stagnation came up back then, but for an opposite reason. More
The below is a post from a conservative I’ve been talking to for a few weeks online. Gordon keeps a nice blog at theindependentwhig.com (I call him TIW). I respond here, below his entry. I warn you that neither of us are kind to a particular kind of liberal. This bit is taken, a little out of context, from his original review of “The Righteous Mind” at amazon.com. More
I’ve been trying to rep for Dr. Jon Haidt (pronounced “height”), a sensitive, intelligent psychologist, ever since I was struck amidship with the moral info that he and his partners have had online for years at yourmorals.org. More
Constancy should be paired as much as possible with empathy. More
Dr. Jon Haidt recently posted a quote from Mark Twain that every ideology’s insanity can only be seen by those who believe other ideologies. More
In an upcoming work (The Liberal’s Guide To Conservatives: Understanding and Working with the other America), I’ve used neurology and brain-related metaphors to explain ideological differences, mostly based on a model of brain hemisphere influence on behavior invented by the neurologist V.S. Ramachandran. One simple part provides oodles of elegant explanations for why people see things differently, and also helps guide our tactics for dealing with one another. I also interviewed the neuropsychiatrist Iain McGilchrist and used information from his “The Master and His Emissary“, a work that uses a startling set of evidence from neurology, psychology, philosophy, and cultural anthropology to explain how techniques and perceptions associated with left hemisphere capabilities of our brain can exert unhealthy influence in peoples’ lives, and even in Western culture in general. I find both these perspectives very powerful in a wide variety of settings, yet I use almost no neurology to explain them. Below is an explanation of my position that McGilchrist’s hypotheses about the brain hemispheres’ influence on behavior ultimately have very little to do with neurology, even though he has made a powerful case that the high-level ideas are embedded and expressed through our hemispheric brain structure. We discuss why I think framing his work as neurological makes unnecessary enemies, and how it’s deceptive. At the end, I recommend modest practical steps to highlight for non-neurologists the cool unintuitive examples and patterns of the cultural effects McGilchrist hypothesizes, and suggest a way of analyzing his points usefully and positioning them in the marketplace of ideas.
In a discussion with me and others of Iain McGilchrist’s impressive work, Jonathan Rowson of the Social Brain Centre used the term “distal” to describe a probabilistic or partial cause, and used climate change as an example of a distal effect on a specific weather disaster (a detailed treatment of what distal means by David Roberts is here). Distal causes are not necessarily “proximate”, or immediately responsible- like the difference between climate change and a careless campfire- both caused a forest fire during a drought, but one is easy to link to the fire (proximate) and the other is not (distal). Anything distal is tough for human minds to deal with well. As Roberts wisely said, a big job we humans have is “…finding ways of making distal causes visceral, giving them a bigger role in our thinking and institutions.” Dr. Rowson and I believe that McGilchrist has hit upon an important distal reason for society’s ills through his research- brain structure- but the idea is having a tough time getting a hearing in the world, despite the ideas being intuitive and well-grounded in neuroscience. The reasons for that silence have to do with how the ideas were birthed, and who they’re really for. More
Many Christians bear a special burden when it comes to politics in America, one the rest of us don’t share. Knowing about it helps tremendously in communication with them. More
Simple, exciting ideas from a philosopher you can actually comprehend, ideas that put the goofy to our terrible normal way of communicating. Do the video or written version. More
Here’s the order I suggest working on the various challenges you face before becoming a great communicator. More
What is the goal of political conversation- is it solely to convince? A discussion on how important it is to have a standard of excellence in political conversation. More
General video explanation of the Reach the Right approach to political communication, and a little update on my tour of the south and midwest. Making my way back- Colorado and Wyoming interviews remaining.
A case study of an excellent liberal attack ad. The great stuff liberals get from using these ads- and what it costs us. More
The weird, wacky way our political arguments are win-win for our subconscious minds, and annoying for our conscious ones. More