December 19, 2008

What if I were a liberal?

I was thinking the other day whether it was possible for me to have turned out as a liberal, in stead of the staunch fiscal, national security and to a lesser, but still solid extent social conservative that I am. There are certainly enough external influences in media, society and educational institutions to push the uncommitted or non-interested person in that direction. I don't think I could have turned out a liberal. But I can see how many liberals are 'made, not born', as a result of a loose coalition of indoctrinators.

The whole mental exercise got me thinking about a more interesting question. What if I had become a liberal? How would I think? How would I get my news? How would I react to conservative viewpoints? I'm not going to take my basis of opinion on this from how the crazies at HuffPo or Kos act. I can only realistically take my own world view and how I react and extrapolate from their.

Let me add a couple of other basic assumptions into the mix.

1) My main source of 'impartial' news would be CNN.
2) I would likely watch the 'documentary' efforts of Michael Moore and Al Gore, and anything reinforcing those world views.
3) I would also likely watch a lot of PBS, and Discovery Channel. I already do that but my current focus tends to be on history, economics, technology, I'm sure it would lean more to biology, climate change, social responsibility etc.
4) I would probably be more insulated from alternative viewpoints since the media would do a good job of protecting me from too much exposure to that.

Ewww, I'm already getting douche-chills just thinking about it.

Let's consider a single scenario for the sake of...uh...something. I'm at an Earth in the Balance eco-rally, standing near the edge of the event where the eco-friendly biological waste facilities are located. I come across someone who disagrees with my viewpoint and is there just to check out what's going on.

Not being the screaming maniac in-your-face type, but rather someone who wants to discuss (not even debate) the differing viewpoints in the hopes of intelligently convincing someone that they might not be right, or at least my view is worth consideration, I'd engage them in conversation.

They'd site a number of sources of opinion that global warming is not a serious threat, nor is it man-made. I of course would counter with Al Gore and a couple of other circular-referencing authorities. And I might consider them an uncaring and unfeeling monster who is out to pollute the planet deliberately, or more likely, an uneducated soul who needs to be enlightened (I'm the glass half-full type).

I would be frustrated by my inability to persuade them, but the real question is, would I be driven to investigate his viewpoint? Probably yes, if only to better debunk claims such as his in the future. But I'm the type with a thirst for knowledge, so I might be open to considering the viewpoint as I researched it.

I have to confess, that while I've always been very conservative, early on in the global warming hysteria I started buying into the Chicken Little perspective. Thankfully, because I listened to Rush, and more importantly because I like to research things for myself, I began to see the light.

So, I'd probably be one of the persuadable liberals. But it wouldn't be something that happened overnight. In fact, it'd take months to get the preponderance of evidence to support the change in my worldview. My point is that as a conservative, when you are talking to someone who is a liberal, you have to keep in mind there are two types of people (regardless of political slant). There are those open to new evidence and those who are close-minded.

The same is true for conservatives. There happens to be more supporting evidence that we are right in most every case, but it does not mean that when evidence contradicts our viewpoint we should discount it, or it's meaning. You can't grow if you aren't willing to look at things from different perspectives. It may help reinforce what you already know, but don't close your mind to anything.

Of course we mostly know that already, the 'open-minded' liberals continually reinforce the image that we have of them - that they are the intolerant ones. Christian tolerance, conservative tolerance typically gets no fair shake. Even those among us who can be considered close-minded are at least of the opinion that everyone has the right to their own opinion. I can't say that is as evident on the left.

I had hoped that by trying to analyze how I would think, I could see if there were some way, some path to get them to see the light. Unfortunately it's a square peg and round hole situation. But that doesn't mean that persuasion won't work, it just means that the path to persuading liberals to think more than just feel, is a harder to figure out.

But I am a firm believer that everyone can eventually be brought into the light of understanding. My advice is this, be sure that when you are talking to a liberal, you are trying enlighten them, not argue, not preach but raise their awareness. People will listen to reason if you can find a path from their viewpoint to yours, not if you try to start them at the finish line.


  1. To paraphrase jonathan Swift: "You cannot reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into."

    In other words, there is a deep emotional commitment at work in our positions.

    The best we can do--and here conservatives are far more reflective than liberals--is to be aware of, and try to allow for, those subjective foundations.

  2. You realize that you are choosing to listen to Rush, who left college after two semesters and flunked everything, over "external influences [such as] educational institutions."

    That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

  3. I choose to listen to a myriad of sources. You missed the point on a number of levels.


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