How to deal with liberals
How to deal with liberals. Part one: Learn to distinguish between open-minded liberals and lost causes.
Figuring out the difference between which liberals to befriend and which ones to manage will save a lot of valuable resources, notably time. You wouldn’t date anyone immune to your charms, so why would you talk politics with someone who’s demonstrated no inclination to respect your beliefs? To keep from speaking in vain, learn how to distinguish liberals who may be receptive to conservatism’s message from those who won’t budge. At first, we might assume that includes all of them, if only because our personalities are shaped by an extraordinary range of variables. That may be true, but refusing to recognize the difference between generally tolerant individualists and stubborn idealists will help make real dialogue with the left possible, as opposed to an interpersonal quagmire.
Weeding through the left’s ranks, we can immediately rule out reaching out to people who are afflicted with psychological disorders, not only to avoid cruel exploitation, but also to protect us from their unpredictability. I don’t know who Charlie Manson would vote for, but he would make a terrible political acquaintance. After he carves an elephant into his forehead, the G.O.P. would immediately lose a hundred years of progress.
Those without a conscience should also be vetted out. Develop the ability to spot liberals with a reasonable capacity for empathy. For example, when talking to potential liberal subjects, see if their eyes light up when someone artfully explains what “neo-conservatism” actually is. If they respond by yawning or turning away, they’ve probably made up their minds about “neo-cons,” which makes political conversations with them pretty much useless. But if you suspect curiosity on their part, you may be sensing an opportunity to delight them.
Through example (I’ll expand on this in the future) Ann Coulter teaches a lesson about peering into the hearts of liberals. Because so many Americans are polite, middle-class, and conventional (right down to their political activism, which is manufactured by movies such as An Inconvenient Truth) it can be difficult to tell whether or not the liberal you are talking to is an everyday Joe or a deep blue activist. We can test them by saying something ambiguous, something which can be read in several ways. Float a bland opinion towards your target. Say that Ronald Reagan was a wonderful President. Moderates will either politely disagree or not care. Left-wing activists, on the other hand, will spout off about Reagan’s alleged assault on school lunch menus, Iran-Contra, and even AIDS. We know we’re talking to an unmovable object if they include snide remarks about Alzheimer’s disease.
If the historian Robert Greene is correct when he says “a perfectly satisfied person cannot be seduced,” then the third group of liberals to forget about includes those whose comfortable lives make change seem threatening. Professors who make six figures a year, committed family men, and rich entertainers are stubborn precisely because they don’t want to risk challenging their comfortable status quo. One reason leftist radicals hate happy, traditional families is because someone whose ultimate obligation is to their family likely won’t leap at the opportunity to be obligated to an ideology instead. This cuts both ways. If your anti-conservative subject has established a day to day routine, consider another target. They have no incentive open themselves to us. Their families, friends, and occupations compete with politics to fill their emotional voids. The hard work it would take to reexamine their liberalism could veer them away from the sheltered American life they’re accustomed to. Better to focus on more vulnerable demographs, such as students, fumbling young adults, and political independents.
When surveying potential mates, remember that what a person says about their beliefs doesn’t necessarily indicate their willingness to accept change. When given a strict choice between the two, look your target’s capacity to consider your viewpoint, rather than their demeanor. The most polite liberals in the world can also be the most hardened. The civil PBS crowd is one of the last places a conservative should expect to receive a fair hearing. Conversely, loud, demonstrative liberals are not necessarily the most difficult to exchange ideas with. Ward Churchill has debated David Horowitz in good faith. Rosie O’Donnell has given a thoughtful interview to Bill O’Reilly. Bill Mahler is friendly with Ann Coulter (not that way, I think). In more general terms, someone who shouts through a microphone that they support amnesty for illegal aliens may not have any real justification for their beliefs. They may even agree with all the reasons people oppose amnesty (such as that it rewards people who hold America’s immigration laws in contempt)! To put it another way: “No on proposition 19” doesn’t always mean “No on proposition 19.”
One of my best friends, we’ll call him “Silent Bob,” leans noticeably to the left. How left? He enjoys books by Barbara Ehrenreich. At face value, that alone could make him a lost cause. Socialist literature doesn’t exactly engender an easy-going attitude.
The first time we ever hung out, we argued politics for hours. He would invariably posit the liberal side of issues such as the Iraq War, and I would defend conservatism on whatever front he attacked. He didn’t hold back, calling G.W. a “f**king idiot” and the like. At times, he sounded more like Keith Olbermann than a normal person. Usually these things end like a western marriage—with murder-suicide, but my initial discussion with Silent Bob defied our meaningless philosophical differences.
He passionately presented his beliefs, yet this didn’t keep him from digesting mine, even if he didn’t always like how they tasted. To this day still don’t agree on a whole lot; he probably still votes for everyone I vote against. None of that matters. What’s meaningful is that he doesn’t view conservatives as lesser people than anyone else. I’m not aiming low; this is a success story: subverting irrational devotion to the left will make us more friends than demanding any kind of allegiance to the right. On a face-to-face basis, liberal confrontation on the meaning of conservatism is always preferable to liberal indifference.
In summary, the first step to dealing with liberals involves identifying the open-minded ones. The best way to do this is to look past how outspoken they are, and instead concentrate on how much they’re willing to listen to conservative discourse. If someone refuses to empathize with you, despite a good faith attempt on your part to do the same, you have enough of a moral high ground to dismiss them.
How to deal with liberals (Introduction)
This begins with a nagging question. “What can conservatives do to relate to liberals”? This isn’t a frivolous intellectual exercise. To paraphrase Dennis Miller, America is turning left like a shopping cart with a bad wheel. We elected another Jimmy Carter to the White House, the millennial generation is starting to resemble a cornier version of the radical baby boomers, and the natives are clamoring for handouts in lieu of self-sufficiency. The more I think about it, the more I want to move to Western Canada once it becomes a sovereign nation.
Conservatives have traditionally been good at approaching this question from a macro perspective. The first canon of conservative thought is that all political problems are essentially religious and moral problems. Modern conservatives have added “cultural” to the mix, but the idea is the same: win the culture, and the people will follow. But the culture wars are just as much a bottom-up struggle as they are a top-down slobber-knocker. So we can’t escape the annoying truth: we must a find a way to relate to liberals. If we don’t, we’ll continue to cede an important front in the culture war, and the unique and wonderful ideals of American conservatism will still be threatened by extinction.
It’s a discouraging prospect. Even in boom times, conservative philosophy doesn’t lend itself to polite, comforting, dinner party banter. Ostensibly insensitive notions are what make us conservative. Ideals such as limited governance and assumption of risk will always seem callous to the young, whom Robert Bork correctly notes are prone to moral absolutism, and they turn off shallow individuals whom are more impressed by the symbols of goodness than the real thing. Being a right-winger means forever risking scorn by pointing out that throwing money at schools/social programs/housing won’t necessarily improve those things.
Being a heartless conservative can make relating to people difficult, which is depressing—loneliness is misery. Not “fitting in” to certain circles because of one’s political alignment is silly, but nevertheless stinging. Let’s assume that you’re having a tough time establishing rapport with some of your more artistic, progressive friends because you don’t like the current President of the United States. You could change that by wearing an Obama t-shirt and whining about “neocons,” but what if you value the same parts of your identity that keep you from being accepted by the groups you always come in contact with? What if you enjoy being the kid with the purple hair?
You could just saying “whatever,” and ignore everyone who disagrees with you, but then you would be submitting to mediocre defeatism. Besides, a capacity to relate to people somewhat different than us distinguishes successful human beings from forty-year old adolescents. Not a lot of CEO’s write memoirs titled “F**k It.” Besides, what if the liberals you don’t share anything in common with are related to you; what if they live with you? Will you simply cut Mom, Dad, your boss or your children out of your life every time you unearth incompatible fragments of their personalities? What if they’re co-workers you can’t run away from, people you need to build at least a professional level of trust in order to perform your job? Does it make more sense to quit your job than to find a way to deal with their quirks? Everyday life requires us to develop a flair for ignoring differences in opinion, even if those opinions are religious or political.
Imagine a world where conservatives had to preemptively rule out establishing humane connections with liberals: work would become unduly stressful, friendship a rarity, and dating single women would be impossible! Fortunately, bonding with our ideological counterparts doesn’t need to stress us out. Most liberals are well-adjusted people whose politics take a back seat to the rest of their lives. This doesn’t mean that ideology never inhibits friendship; our beliefs are intertwined with our personalities. Yet in diverse communities (as opposed to, say, multi-ethnic college faculties where everyone votes democrat) politics rarely erect hurdles too high to jump over. Liberals are as scared of us as we are of them!
Despite that, a significant cultural divide currently keeps conservatives from holding hands with liberals. Part of the problem is America’s current tendency towards idealism; in our periodic battle to re-shape culture, liberals are discouraged from accepting us for who we are (and vice versa, to a limited extent). That politically-minded Americans can so easily spend all of their time in isolated ideological communities (especially online) also contributes to the problem, and I haven’t seen much evidence of cross-pollination between red and blue America to offset this. Whatever the roots of our animosity are, conservatives need to make sober, calculated efforts to bridge the gap between “us” and “them.” If we truly want liberals to treat us as moral and intellectual equals, we can’t just sit on the couch and expect them to call us out of good will. We must open up and risk being rejected by our fellow, left-wing Americans.
In today’s acrimonious age, crawling into the hearts and minds of liberals is the only non-coercive thing which can give them incentive to understand red America. So how do we achieve the admittedly imprecise goal of persuading liberals to relate to us? The same way one wriggles into anyone’s heart: seduction. I’m not suggesting we sleep with liberals to make them like us better (fighting off Bill Clinton joke) but keep the strategies of seduction in mind when dealing with liberals. Audacity and aggression (ála Ann Coulter) on our part will earn one-night stands from them in the form of meaningless concessions (“Yeah, Bill Clinton was a liar/communism doesn’t work/George W. Bush isn’t stupid, but…”) yet as with any meaningful courtship, connecting with liberals on a deep level takes time, patience, and attention to detail. With a lot of help from books such as Robert Greene’s The Art of Seduction, drawing liberals to the right involves, at minimum, focusing on those susceptible to conversion, disrupting their faith by activating their individualistic impulses, entering their spirit, isolating them, and finally, closing the deal. In the future, I hope to cover all of these bases.
I think life has granted me some authority to speak on this issue. I get along with my leftist friends so well some of them insist that I’m not really conservative. Others tell me I’m not like other conservatives; I’m the exception to the rule. Whenever I’m told these things, I’m reminded of the phrase “I don’t mind black people, but I hate… (you get the point).” It’s how they preserve their prejudice against Republicans while simultaneously justifying their friendship with me. I defy all of their feverish misconceptions about right-wingers. I don’t tell anyone they’re destined for hell; I don’t want to eliminate minorities as competition, and anxious young women feel shocked that I don’t endeavor to control them.
I’m not special. I don’t know any conservatives like the extremist authoritarians liberals make movies about. I know some who are condescending, too goofy to take seriously, and even a few crazy ones, but within rightist circles, I don’t know any Nazis or even minor-league racists. All the Christians I know are more or less sensible about their attempts to win people over. I’m sure somewhere resides a little Eichmann that happens to identify with something under conservatism’s “big tent,” but actual totalitarianism won’t include anyone in the right’s large constituency. Any one of us can touch liberal hearts and minds, given the correct approach is used.
So where should we start? By observing our prey.