Discussing Politics with a Republican

Well there are Republicans and Republicans.  In general Trump supporters already have hardening of the arteries in the brain and you can kiss that one off as an exercise in futility. Nothing will happen.  You can present facts and data and they will be called “Fake News” and go on their way, surrounding themselves in the bubble of their fellow Trumpees and Fox News.  No point.  What we need to do is confront and shame those Republicans because they are enabling a world of ignorance and stupidity.  Also it is all they will respond to.  But what about the “old” Republicans who say Trump hijacked their party, Republicans who still might be rational?

Now I happen to think that Republicans have almost everything wrong, from economics (primarily economics) to social policy, global warming, and immigration, maybe even defense.  Now the first thing you will note is the Republican I am talking about gets social policy, global warming, and maybe immigration. They still like to blame problems on the lazy and see hard work as a solution in a world whose playing field is badly tilted, but they are susceptible to facts.  So facts and data are getting through.  On the military spending thing, we could argue whether it should consume so much of our budget.  So with that kind of Republican in mind, how do you debate?

Well, the answer to that is to take a “problem”, say immigration, and define the problem in a way that we can both agree what that problem is.  For immigration, what is the issue?  Is it masses flowing across the border running drugs?  Well, the data does not say that.  You both have to arrive at the same set of facts and data or we will never get off the ground.  President DFF said their was a drug epidemic in America when justifying the wall, but that “drug epidemic” is from opioids that are not coming across the border, but from big Pharma.  This kind of conflation is why we can’t solve problems.

So are immigrants taking jobs?  We are almost at full employment and the jobs they are taking are jobs that can’t be filled (see Puerto Ricans (I know they are citizens, but in effect immigrants based on our response to their hurricane disaster, a moral outrage) taking turkey processing jobs in South Dakota).  So what exactly is the immigrant problem?

The point is if we can finally identify the real problem, then we could argue solutions based upon facts and data.  The problem is we never have an agreement on the problem, so we are talking past one another.  If you are going to change a Republican’s mind, or for that matter, they are going to change yours, we have to have agreement on what the problem is, a common set of facts and data, not a word like immigration that could mean a million things.

So you ask them what the problem is in their mind (in the great tradition of Socrates) and then question their assumptions about what supports that view of the problem.  The easy one is global warming.  Rational Republicans know it is a problem and generally believe all the science.  So if we can agree weather patterns are changing with extreme storms and rising sea levels, what can we do?  Then we can explore infrastructure hardening, protection of our coast line, and limiting its effect through alternate energy solutions.  We can disagree on the details or the effectiveness of certain solutions, but at least then we are working off common basic assumptions. Note that this debate will bled over into economics.  “We can’t afford it.”

The economy is the hard one.  Most rational Republicans are basically moderate Democrats in that for most social issues they are liberal, but fiscally very conservative.  You know, that balanced budget thing because they confuse the microeconomics of a home or business budget with the macroeconomics of government spending.  So what is the issue with the economy?

Wall Street is booming.  Our deficit seems to have no impact on interest rates and inflation is nowhere to be seen.  Well I will tell you what I think is the problem, but they might not totally agree.  It is less and less of the pie being shared with the workers.  In a word, economic inequality that is making the majority feel that the future will not be as bright for their children (that just a fact).

We are not investing in our future and giving our treasury away (which will cause more debt if this is a Republican who thinks the debt is a problem) to the wealthy that will pay small dividends at best.  So if we could agree that economic inequality is the one of our big problems, then we could argue about the efficacy of supply side economics and how to make a more equitable distribution of the profits.  OMG! Taxes!

Well you get the drift.  As a general approach to discussing things with a Republican, use the Socratic method.  Ask questions which makes them examine their underlying assumptions that they really haven’t examined against facts and data.  But here is a caution.  David Brooks is a rational Republican, but only so far.  Somewhere in his smart brain is this fog when it comes anything Democratic. While he sees President DFF as a DFF, and he saw the tax cut as too much for the wealthy, in his heart he still is terrified of debt and government doing anything.  That should start a whole other discussion about whether government is the problem or not.  It never ends but at least it is a starting point.

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