As we move forward in the third decade of the information age, it seems everyone with a political opinion likes to take to the interwebs to share their thoughts about the state of, well, everything. Unfortunately, conservatives can often be their own worst enemies. They post things on Twitter and Facebook and other social media sites that just reinforce liberal prejudices against them. For example, look at the comments in this otherwise apolitical article. The partisan attacks were rightly criticized by Brandon Morse of MisfitPolitics.com If conservatives ever hope to win elections again, they need to undermine the liberal narrative currently defining them in the minds of a large portion of the public. Here are 5 things you can do to elevate the conversation and maybe change some minds.
1. Do not fuel the new racism.
It is important to understand there is a new form of racism in this the United States that is just as virulent and hate-filled as anything faced by minorities of the past; it is anti-conservatism. This is not merely intolerance for conservative ideas, it is flagrant bigotry against conservatives as people. There are even those who seek to support their bigotry with “science,” just like the bigots of the past. These new self-righteous bigots treat conservatives as less than human, and thereby dismiss their ideas as below contempt.
These people are easy to spot. They often post anonymously and they post comments marked by irrational hatred. Ironically, they will often accuse conservatives of hatred in vile, personally insulting terms. Do not engage these people. Do not try to get them to like you. You could argue for hours or days on end and you will not change their minds. You will only raise your own blood pressure and introduce unnecessary aggravation into your life. The only way to respond, if you must respond at all, is to let them know you are not willing to have a discussion with them. Then move on.
2. Be polite and reasonable.
The key to convincing people to consider conservative ideas seriously is to convince them that you, as an individual, are a reasonable person, that you are not just reactionary. Respect the opinions of others. Never make your disagreement personal. Do not allow yourself to be outraged by differing opinions or even misinformation. Some people believe strange things, even when history and facts easily disprove those beliefs. They may feel the same about you. Never offer insults. Never call them “stupid” and certainly never call them “libtards.” You merely reinforce their opinion that conservatives are driven by hate. Instead, remember the simple phrase, “I disagree because…” Similarly, do not tell someone s/he is wrong or a liar, tell them their information is “incorrect” or “inaccurate.”
3. Be patient and informed.
Never respond to a post or comment without being certain of your answer. Speak with authority. If you are not well-versed in a topic, use someone else’s authority. Take the time to find a link with factual information or a good explanation of the issue that supports your position and post it as a response. If you believe a post is factually inaccurate, respond with a link to the correct information. Unless you have first-hand knowledge, do not resort to mere contradiction.
4. Be sensitive and sensible.
Extreme views on hot button issues such as abortion and gun control are the source of a lot of traffic on social media and the blogosphere. But, one can be adamantly opposed to abortion under all circumstances and still recognize that abortion is not going to be outlawed at the next election. The Second Amendment will not be repealed, either. This means one can have a reasonable discussion about these and other issues without taking an extreme position as an all-or-nothing proposition. This topic may be the subject of its own post; but, for now, understand there is no reason these other rules cannot be applied to even the most sensitive issues.
5. Show a little class.
People of all political stripes love to share infographics and quotes they agree with or bolster their views. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. However, some of these materials can be needlessly offensive to persons with differing view. So, before you pass along some clever post appearing in your timeline, ask yourself whether the material is making a valid point or is it just gratuitously insulting? Poking fun at the President and First Lady can be amusing, but there is no reason to be mean spirited. We did not like it when liberals did it to President Bush, republicans should not imitate it now. Similarly, there are plenty of people who are republicans or conservatives who are unabashed racists, which means they may agree with you politically but for very different reasons. (As many conservatives already know, those idiots can hardly hold a candle to the racism of the Democratic Party.) Distance yourself from any racist comment. You cannot tell whether the person making a racist comment or using a racial slur is actually a conservative or a liberal pretending to be a conservative in order to foster the liberal narrative of conservatives as hatemongers.
Often, approaching liberals with these things in mind can have results that range from surprisingly receptive to outright amusing, especially when liberals dissolve into their slander and vitriol in response. Your mileage may vary with actual use.
Do you have any other suggestions? Do you see things conservatives do that drive you crazy? Let us know in the comments.