If the Trump presidential campaigns success didnt convince people, nothing will. Liberal people want to cling to the belief that just rationally explaining something to a right-winger and reciting policy proposals ought to convince them.
Theres some undying faith in education as the presentation of information. They really want to believe that if human beings hear the facts, theyll come around.
We think that its some misunderstanding or failure of logic that causes people to vote against their self-interest. And were aghast that people actually accept that were in a post-fact world.
Its easy, then, to conclude that people who vote for those who use them are just missing something they should know. So, we expect that enlightening them to their lack is the solution.
Yes, theres a moveable middle that will actually listen to such argumentation, a middle that seems to be shrinking because of decades of Republican right-wing consultants work to frame the debate about economic and social issues in their language and its assumptions.
But, as Ive argued for years, including a column here back in November 2011 entitled And We Keep Expecting Them to Be Rational -
We could have the smartest President that ever lived on the planet. We could rehearse ad-nauseam and as clearly as possible the facts, the data, the studies, and the logic of it all. We could wish, hope, and believe that people were different.
But again and again we will run up against the reality that the responses of the powers and believers in the religious, political, military and economic right-wing are neither moved by rationality nor the facts.
Religious Studies scholars know that symbols always beat rationality and linguist George Lakoff has been arguing for over fifteen years that frames trump facts. Yet so many liberal people are stuck in analyses of human behavior that go back to the Enlightenment.
And as I wrote before, the Republican strategy actually assumes liberals wont get it: leave the other side in the dust trying to figure out the logic of what you are saying and looking for further arguments about facts and logic that Democrats think work no matter how theyve failed in the past.
So, the third necessity emphasized in this series is that we must change the frame of the debate and stop expecting success to be the result of beautiful, cogent arguments.
This doesnt mean that our arguments shouldnt be logical and fact-based. It means that we must present our positions and ourselves as if we are the symbol of the points were trying to make:
(1) Dont ever look wishy-washy. Even if you dont have the facts at hand, stand for something as if you really believe it. Dont give the right-wing any excuse to believe that you dont really believe what you say by how you equivocate on an argument, seem to soften your position, or appear too ready to compromise.
If you dont show that you hold your position with conviction, you symbolize that you yourself appear to doubt its truth. If you dont really believe something, then dont stand for it.
(2) Come out as progressive. Youve noticed that when youre with people you just want to get along with and choose not to discuss politics, religion, or social issues to do so, theyll bring them up because of their psychological compulsion to do so. When that happens, all you need to convince them about is that you disagree.
Anything further in the discussion is up to whether youre willing to put the energy into it youre not obligated to solve their problems. You dont owe anyone explanations or justifications for your position.
Remaining silent, however, symbolizes to them that everyone in the room agrees with them. It doesnt force them to be confronted with the presence of a person (as opposed to their stereotypes of those people) who holds an opposing position.
(3) Never repeat the language they use even by calling it so-called or to negate it. When President Richard Nixon in 1973 famously objected: I am not a crook, Americans concluded that he was.
Reframe any response and let them object to how you speak of it. Their objections mean youre getting through. And youre getting them on a new discussion, the need to deny your words which reinforces your frame.
For example, never use the word therapy after conversion or reparative unless you intend to communicate that you believe it really is therapy. Call it the brainwashing or psychological abuse of LGBT people.
Dont repeat the misnomer tax relief for attempts to lower taxes. Call taxes the dues or investment we pay for living in civilization.
(4) Maintain your composure as much as possible and try to control any unintentional anger. Dont make it look as if they can trigger you emotionally. Thats a message to them that their position is effective.
But if your anger isn't an intentional tactic and they do, step back and ask yourself what it was that they triggered in you that touched your feelings. Dont give in to guilt or negative messages about it, but let everything be a learning experience.
(5) Never hesitate to repeat your position as often as you want. Education requires repetition of ideas at least three times. Its often more effective to repeat the exact same words than to try to explain yourself, and explanations often give them excuses to get off topic.
(6) Dont let them change the topic. A right-wing strategy when caught in a corner, contradiction, or inability to satisfactorily answer a question is to change the topic. So, youll need to point out that they didnt answer your point or question, and youll have to do it over and over again.
(7) Dont feel as if you must have all the answers. You can always say: I dont know, but Ill find out. Just stand strong in your values and how you believe they should be expressed.
Through all youve presented a symbol: yourself. You embody a position. And in this struggle, your flesh and blood presence trumps any arguments.
© 2017 Robert N. Minor
Robert N. Minor, Ph.D.,
Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas, is author of
Religion Is an Addiction;
Straight: Why Its So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why
Its So Hard to Be Human;
& Healthy in a Sick Society.
Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org
Menstuff® is a registered trademark of Gordon Clay
©1996-2017, Gordon Clay