When I was younger I tended to choose my side then argue it passionately. Often I did so with little care or understanding of my opponents beliefs. I don’t think I was foolish enough to actually believe that I would change the mind of my opposition, but somehow I didn’t seem to grasp the futility of trying to change someone’s mind when it has already been made up.
As conservatives, we must first understand that it is nearly impossible to convince a big government proponent that the government should be the last line of defense, not the first. However, we must keep in mind that, when we are debating, other people may be watching. Many of whom, may be the “independents.”
Partisans will always vote their party and are rarely swayed, but a majority of Americans are either apolitical or independent. It’s those independents that decide elections. That point cannot be overstated and must be understood if you are to have a discussion with your opposition.
Often, these independents quietly listen to both sides make their respective points, then go to the polls and vote without either side being aware they were even paying attention to them. We’re often ignorant to the fact that those on the fence are the ONLY ones to be swayed by who presents the best argument.
So it is important for conservatives to debate big government liberals every chance we get, but with the knowledge of what we can reasonably achieve doing so. Mark Twain wisely said, “Never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” It is important that we keep this in mind. So let me introduce you to “Gary’s rules about arguing with a big government proponent”:
Rule #1: NEVER DEBATE A BIG GOVERNMENT PROPONENT WHEN THERE ARE NO INDEPENDENTS AROUND.
I love debating politics on Facebook or in person when others are around because I hope to sway a few independents. I have no intention of actually swaying the liberal themselves because I know that’s virtually impossible. Big Government vs small government is often a core belief, just like religion, and it is rare someone lets go of that. I can only hope to present a better argument than my opponent for those who are watching. However, arguing with a big government type by yourself is utterly pointless unless raising your blood pressure was recommended by your doctor. So don’t waste your time even trying.
Rule #2: ALWAYS LET THEM SAY EVERYTHING THEY WANT TO SAY.
Always let them say everything they are trying to say because, more often than not, they will shoot themselves in the foot. Let’s talk about Nancy Pelosi’s famous, “We have to pass the bill to see what’s in it” statement. Had I said to someone prior to that that Nancy Pelosi is not very bright, people might have thought I was just being mean or simply didn’t like her. The more she speaks and makes statements like that, the more she demonstrates it all on her own without me having to come off as mean-spirited. So by all means, if you get one that’s about to spew nonsensical ideas, let them do so without interruption. Independents are smart enough to know insanity when they hear it. So let them hear it without interruption.
Rule #3: MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY’RE SAYING.
This is important because you want to demonstrate you’re the intelligent one in the argument.
I’ll give you an unrelated example that always annoys me. Comedians often joke about those annoying mattress tags and the illegality of removing them. To most, it seems like big government nonsense. However, it is only illegal for the SELLER to remove the tag, not the buyer. This is because the tag outlines the chemical content of the mattress so that a buyer with allergies can know prior to purchase if they’re facing a potential health hazard sleeping on the mattress. Unscrupulous salespeople may have removed such tags because the information on them might cost them a sale. However, the buyer legally has a right to know that stuff before they spend their hard earned money. So if you make such a joke, people who understand why the tag is there will be aware of your ignorance regarding the subject, and to them you’ll look like a dolt.
So in order to dismantle someone’s argument, understanding it is crucial lest you risk looking like the ignorant one.
Rule #4: ACKNOWLEDGE THE GOOD INTENTIONS OF WHAT THEY’RE SAYING, AND THEN TELL THEM WHAT IS WRONG ABOUT THEIR ARGUMENT.
Communism is evil! We conservatives have felt that way since the beginning of time. However, independents that grew up reading the story of Robin Hood are not often as convinced.
Ronald Reagan once joked, “How do you tell a communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin”
He was making a humorous quip as he often did so well, but it demonstrates a valid point. Some independents are that way because they have little interest in learning about politics and the fundamentals between capitalism vs. communism. For many, it’s simply a boring subject. If you tell them robing from the rich and giving to the poor is evil, they’re not going to buy it.
So if I were to argue against socialism, it is important I acknowledge the morality of the notion that if we all pooled our resources and worked hard as a unit, no one would be left behind and no one would live in poverty. Once you acknowledge that, THEN you move on to the how it has historically played out in the real world.
The importance of empathy for your opponent cannot be understated. If you debate that way, independents will get the impression that you gave your opponent’s view serious consideration before deciding it was wrong based on the historical data. It shows objectivity, which is critical to being seen as the most genuine person in the room.
Rule #5: STICK TO HISTORICAL FACT, SCIENCE, LOGIC, AND REASONING. LEAVE THE EMOTIONS AND ATTACKS AT THE DOOR.
When one wants to be entertained, they watch a comedian. When they want to learn something, they ask a scientist. If you’re debating, you’re trying to educate. So leave the personal attacks to the other side. Big government types LOVE to call us small government folks evil, greedy, heartless, etc., and they often use much more colorful language to do so.
DON’T BITE! Stick to the facts and show that you’re above the name calling. While attacks can be entertaining, they’re rarely seen as the work of a genius. If all they do is call me names and tell me I’m an idiot, and all I do is recite historical facts, science, logic and reasoning to counter their argument, who do you think will win the debate in the minds of the viewers?
We all know the cliché that those who profess their innocence the loudest are that much more likely to be guilty. Even if you’ve never heard the cliché, you’ve probably experienced it by watching an episode of Judge Alex. So less passion and more logic in your argument will assure you’re deemed as “the smart one”. Don’t get drawn into a fight. Let your opponents act like schoolyard bullies while you recite facts, make intelligent points, and show objectivity and reason. You can’t help but sway a few independents to your side debating like that.