August 07, 2008


Elena did try to offer constructive advice in her comment on this post: "What are the positive things that Republicans are doing? Do you have any that you can keep on hand to turn a conversation around?" It's not a terrible idea.

But I agree with Blueshift (awww, a reader who's been with me since the beginning, and whose rare comment always makes me smile) that it might not exactly work:

What I would consider to be a positive thing like reducing the size of government, most liberals would consider a bad thing, so its not a matter of talking about positives of each party.

A bare positive for republicans is that they have staunchly defended the 2nd amendment as an individual right, and that has paid off in the SCOTUS Heller decision. This would also not be viewed as a positive to most liberals.

The problem is trying to come at things with Common Ground. I've written about this before.

I have no problem disagreeing on the details with someone as long as our basic assumptions are similar. Maybe you don't think we should stay in Iraq for longer than necessary, or maybe you think heath care issues are just as important as national security, or maybe you think that WMDs are a big deal and shouldn't have been overemphasized in the context for war, but as long as we're on the same page that 1) Bush is not Hitler and 2) we are engaged in a world war against terrorism, then I feel perfectly happy hashing out the details with you. I need what Lileks calls middle ground.

The problem is that, where's the middle ground in saying that Republicans are against interracial marriage? We could go back and forth with yes-they-are, no-they're-not all day, but when we're approaching life with such different basic assumptions, it's hard to have a real conversation.

And, this seems to keep coming up, this strawman that I think liberals are a caricature. I don't really think so. I hate hippies with a Cartman passion, but in my life, hippies are not the face of liberalism. I don't even know any hippies anymore; this is the Army, for pete's sake. Every liberal I meet wears the same uniform as my husband, so they're not easily identifiable by patchouli or a Che shirt. Honestly, I think they're just regular people who happen to hold vastly different underlying assumptions than I do. I feel like Republicans end up as the caricature in society: The rich fat white man stuff. The racist stuff. The Bible-thumping stuff. I am none of those things. And I get sick and tired of hearing that everyone like me hates gays and minorities.

Deskmerc (also a long-timer, also a smile-inducer) commented:

Elena: Ah! I see what you are saying. "Keep a mental list of good Republican accomplishments and things they stand for in case of political discussion".

That wouldn't work too well, in my cynical opinion. (I'm neither Republican or Democrat, I'm told my political stances are "confused", even by libertarians)

The problem, as I see it, is too many people operate their daily lives with preconceptions and assumptions about themselves, other people, and the world in general, and view things through a rather rigid lens, all the time, except in very narrow instances. (These instances are usually within their profession or area of expertise) In my opinion, this rigidity of thought limits discourse greatly, because something that challenges these preconceptions would require that they set aside something they cherish, and the first reflex is to disregard the conflicting information and just move on. You can't have a coherent conversation that way.

If you're talking to someone who already thinks that all Republicans are racists, I'm not sure you're going to make much headway. Or if, like Emily, someone tells you that "there are 'only a few countries in the 20th century that have invaded unilaterally; Nazi Germany and us in Iraq, twice,'" well, where do you go with that?

Lileks always says it better than anyone:

we live in an era of non-contiguous information streams. I believe one thing; someone else believes another Ė and the bedrock assumptions are utterly contradictory. This is what drives me nuts about discussing current events with some people. Itís like discussing the Apollo program with people who think it was all faked, or discussing archeology with those who believe the world is six thousand years old. I think the Iraq Campaign was part of a broad war against Islamicist fascism and the states that enable it; others think itís all about oil and Halliburton jerking the strings of a Jeebus puppet. No. Middle. Ground.

Which brings me meandering back to Elena. It's a good idea, to have Talking Points about why I'm a Republican, but I'm afraid it would be useless. (And, for the record, like Deskmerc and others, I don't really squarely fit into the Republican Party. I mostly fall Libertarian too. I agree far more often with Neal Boortz and Penn Jillette than I do with Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly. But, I choose to label myself Republican because I refuse to let it remain the dirty word that it is. I self-identify so I can try to help rub the stink off, what little effect I may have. Also, I get annoyed when people try too hard to pretend that we don't have a two-party system. I scoff at douchy Dems who must point out that they're actually Independents™, and I often feel the same way about people who doth protest too much that they're not Republicans.)

My mother thinks that my new-found gun love is because of the Army. It's not. All things being equal, if my husband weren't in the Army and I had found Bill Whittle's essay on Freedom, I would still feel the same way. It just resonated with me, as a Self-Evident Truth. But if you don't feel that way, if you don't believe that the Second Amendment is in many ways more important than the First, then you're never going to come to Middle Ground on a discussion of gun laws. And you'll get the discord and disconnect I got with my friend on this very issue. While I feel my heart soar when I talk about the Second Amendment, if someone else's reaction is the idea that, as my college Political Science professor said, the Second Amendment was a huge mistake, then all the Talking Points in the world about the great things I think the Republicans have done and stand for are useless.

And that's reciprocal, mind you. Democrat Talking Points leave me scratching my head too. But I feel like they get a fairer shake because they get to have all the "nice" positions. Free health care for everyone and a helping hand for minorities and the right to choose and all sorts of things that sound good and friendly. Despite the fact that they often don't actually work. But who needs results when you can sound "nice"? Republican positions of personal responsibility and a level playing field for everyone and trickle-down economics, those don't have the "nice" ring to them. The life-ain't-fair and suck-it-up stuff may be true, but people seem to like "nice" over "true." Which is why no Democrat I'm talking to will ever get warm and fuzzy to hear me say that affirmative action is outdated, that it's not doing minorities any favors to rig the system, and that the world should be every man for himself based on the content of his character. Even though that's Martin Luther freaking King's position. It still doesn't come off sounding nice.

But just exactly how is it that the party that does sound most like MLK on the issue -- that jobs should be given based on content of character instead of the color of skin -- is the party always labeled as racist?

So what does the Right have going for itself? Responsibility. Personal responsibility is probably the defining feature of why I find myself on the Right and the most important compass for my life. But, you know, Whittle said, "Freedom is the Platinum Visa card. We all want one. Responsibility is the credit rating." I just don't know if that Talking Point is going to win me any converts.

Posted by Sarah at August 7, 2008 01:41 PM | TrackBack

Oh, how many ways can I say, "AMEN" to that?!?! There's a whole trust factor in liberal vs. conservative reactions to "the world isn't like it should be" - liberals actually trust government to get it fixed. You know, because it's worked so well in the past? ;-) And I can see their argument, in an ideal world - a committee isn't likely to (knowingly) let one person take advantage of the others. But when the committee is corrupt - either whole or in sufficient part (human nature, anyone?) - we're screwed if they have enough power to "fix" things.

Posted by: kannie at August 7, 2008 03:11 PM

'they get a fairer shake because they get to have all the "nice" positions.'

I would clarify that by saying they have all the 'nice sounding' positions. Some of those nice sounding positions have very pernicious consequences, ones that those who promote them refuse to acknowledge exist.

'Free Health Care'...... TAANSTAFL
Health Care is paid for somewhere, always. And its paid for by the consumer one way or another.

In discussions I've had with honest and serious co-workers about this subject, we've found our middle ground in the fact that we agree there should be a safety net for those that are unable to provide quality care for themselves and family. Where we disagree is when that is then extrapolated to everyone. I can provide for myself, and if I can, should there not be opt-out option, not only on care, but funding of the program?

I'm not so hard core libertarian that I would refuse a program to help those in need, where I draw the line is the point where you make everyone dependant on a central controlling authority. The worst thing you can do is put the DMV in charge of your health.

The list of possible things under government control with bad unintended consequences is long......

BTW, *blushing* from the comment highlight.

Your post on being at the vanguard got me thinking I should speak up more. I told ya a long time ago why I stopped the old blog, that I wasn't saying anything others weren't saying better. But, the vanguard thing made me think about how I was doing that in the real world as well, no need to keep quiet here.

Posted by: Blueshift at August 7, 2008 03:20 PM

Middle ground is hard to find when you are trying to have an inteligent discussion with someone and they are talking in sound bites.

There are few ideas that I am married too that I'm unwilling to hear another's perspective. I always listen. If things get too wacky I just politely change the subject.

Posted by: Mare at August 7, 2008 03:50 PM

I see what you're saying now. It's funny to think that there is such a division into 2, but I guess there's technically the grey areas between extreme Republican and extreme Democrat, with the middle probably being the ones that don't care and don't vote. I don't like the Bush = Hitler comments that I hear and read, since it really belittles just how much of a monster Hitler and the Nazis were. My grandfather fought in WWII (alongside the Brits), if he was still alive today I'm sure he'd have serious issues with the comparison between that and the War on Terror. There are tragic things going on in Afghanistan, sure, but honestly. There is no comparison. These people need to read about Auschwitz or the Diary of Anne Frank.

When you travel to other countries, you're just bombarded with this anti-US talk. Here in Canada, there are many people who try to promote the US as our neighbours who we like (and, often along the border, are related to) as I do, but there are so many who will just talk crap about the US, and Bush, and his influence on/with Harper (our PM).

Ugh, I spent too long writing this, I have to go. If something doesn't make sense, it's because I didn't get to go back and edit it. I think I said what I mean, though. :D

(it wouldn't accept hotmail, so I wrote gmail this time)

Posted by: Elena at August 7, 2008 04:33 PM

Responsibility is your credit rating is a good one. Unfortunately, telling someone to take the consequences for their actions usually doesn't go over well. I can't imagine why.

My personal idea of what more government intervention in ANYTHING looks like is Social Services. No oversight, and way too much power.

so they're not easily identifiable by patchouli
No, that's me. HAH!

Posted by: airforcewife at August 7, 2008 06:26 PM

From everything I've read from you so far, I think you and I are pretty much in the same place, politics-wise. Somewhere between conservative and libertarian, with an emphasis on small government and personal responsibility. Yep, I'm so there.

Posted by: Emily at August 7, 2008 10:46 PM