Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So you want to be politically moderate...

... but you don't know how. I mean, those maniacs are going to destroy this country! Their policies are just the first step in turning our society into a (fascist state/communist hell). Their (right wing wacko/ bleeding heart liberal) philosophy will lead us to complete ruin and steal our country out from under us! I know that we have many challenges ahead of us, and the only way to tackle these problems is to get past partisan bickering and buckle down to find solutions. But how do we work on the same team as those nut job ideologues?!

Well, slow down, cowboy. Chillax. Exhale. What we have for you today is an intellectual toolkit that will help you get some perspective. Maybe it will even help see the world in a more balanced way! And being a moderate is just like being an extremist. But without the hysteria and myopia!All you have to do is follow these 5 easy steps!

1) Don't confuse values with tactics: This one tends to get overlooked. Let's start with an example. Most of us agree that charity is good. We also agree that bureaucracy is inefficient. The question that divides us is how much, if at all, government should be involved in helping the poor. Its a question of where to draw the line, and reasonable people can choose just about any spot on the spectrum. Why view that discussion as a clash of values, when it is clearly one of tactics? The statement, "Government should not be involved in welfare - it should be handled by communities", may sound like a value statement because it used the word "should". But really its a tactical position. If I disagree with your tactics, we can discuss our disagreements much more fruitfully than if we don't even share the same values. Apply to other examples. Discuss. Lather, rinse, repeat.

2) Start with where we agree: This one kind of spills off the previous one. When considering any issue, start the discussion with the obvious truths or common values that unite both sides. For example, I think we can all agree that the deficit needs to be reduced. We can also agree that WPA style investment of government money can create much needed jobs and help the infrastructure. So how do we decide what to do? We agree on both of those opposites, but they contradict! Well, if intelligent reasonable people brainstorm all possible solutions, and then choose the best ones by vote, maybe we could get somewhere. That sounds reasonable. Wouldn't it be cool if we had a group of people like that in this country? Maybe it could even be bicameral! I love it when things are bicameral!

3) Its the ideology, stupid: This one flows from the previous two. We recognize that we have ideological bias. That's a really useful thing. When people share values, the solutions that they brainstorm will come out of their ideological bias. This will lead to a broader set of solutions than if an ideologically homogeneous group tries to come up with ideas. Once the ideas are on the table, they should all be weighed for their practical use as objectively as possible. At this point of choosing tactics, ideology should be pushed aside as much as possible, and pragmatism should reign supreme. Isn't that cool? You can be an ideologue brain-stormer at one stage, and then shift to pragmatic problem solving in the next. It just that easy! (void where prohibited - batteries not included)

4) Everybody is doing their best: A pretty basic one actually. Just skip right past the ad hominem stuff. Assume that everybody has the best of intentions at heart. Although we disagree, we both want the best for everybody. Is there evil in the world? Are there true villains? Sure, there's no denying it. But unless proved otherwise, (usually in a court of law) you can assume that your fellow countryman engaged in political discourse isn't one of them. The democratic process is based on the idea that people of goodwill will disagree. You will therefore have many opponents, but hopefully few enemies. Does your opponent have other motives influencing their judgment? Good question! Here are two more. Are they human? Do you have many motives influencing your judgment? So just suck it up and be a mensch, will ya'? You'll be surprised not only by how much the conversation improves, but by how much you can get done.

5) Perspective, perspective, perspective: You must have known that this one was coming, but it does follow the others. Just calm down and don't exaggerate. You don't have to always make your case using end of the world, doomsday scenario, slippery slope, reductio ad absurdum arguments. Just suck up your need to vent your emotional frustration, and make your case as reasonably and logically as you can. Don't you agree that people who can't do that are ruining our country, leading us into the pit in their evil plan for world destruction! You don't? Awesome! Then you're well on your way.

Well, that's really it. The whole dealio. It may take some repeated focus and application. It applies in any country, organization or group. I there are other humans involved, you should find this list handy. You can use this kit as you see fit, in whatever order or combination you see fit. You're welcome to practice with me if you like. If you don't want to, that's ok too. But I doubt that I'll be discussing politics with you in the near future. I have blood pressure to keep down, after all.

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