Progressives live in a very simple, but powerful, moral world:
- Progressives care about other people, especially the poor, the helpless, and the victims of injustice.
- Conservatives are selfish and myopic; they often can't even see injustice.
- Progressives are generous, good-hearted people willing to sacrifice for others.
- Conservatives are greedy and only want to improve the lot of themselves and their own kind.
- Progressives are open-minded, willing to explore new ideas, and willing to accept strangers as fellow-travelers on the road to a better future.
- Conservatives are close-minded: they are afraid of new ideas, and they are afraid of strangers.
One of the reasons it is difficult to change minds is that we have this ideal of reasoning toward a good conclusion, but that's not how most people work. People work from a general paradigm, a view of how the world works. If you share their worldview, then you can get somewhere through reason. However, if you do not, if your worldview is quite different, they will write off your arguments as violations of how the world works. They won't even really consider them; they can't and still hold on to their identity.
Reading Tex's experiences with Obamacare is gut-wrenching. But when I've talked to Progressives about the problems with the law, in the end, it comes down to their sense of identity: Progressives care about other people and they are generous. Obamacare, then, is a good-hearted law designed to help the needy, and it has some flaws that should be fixed. In the end, neither the problems the program has caused nor the hazards of increased government control over our lives has made any difference to Progressives because they believe it's a generous law that will (when corrected) really help the disadvantaged. These things take time, you know. Evolution is a messy process.
Progressives are also humble. They are more than willing to admit mistakes. Sometimes their hearts overrule their heads and, overcome with a tremendous desire to help others, they don't think everything through and just rush to help. But we can fix those mistakes and make things better. Just watch.
You see, no matter what the Conservative's argument is, until it gets to the heart, it doesn't really matter. Progressive thought always ends up in the heart as its last defense: We care about others; we're generous; we're open-minded; in the end, through messy evolutionary processes, this will all work out for the better. This is the inner fortress of Progressive identity.
To really change a Progressive's mind, then, we need to challenge this identity. We have to show not just that their policies are harmful, but that they are heartless. We have to indict them as selfish and close-minded, more concerned with power than actually helping anyone. We have to show them that evolution is blind.
I think if we do that, we can create real openings.
The second part is one of of Khun's rules: No matter how problematic one's worldview is, no one abandons it until they can see a new, better paradigm to replace it with. We need to have a clear replacement to offer them, one that focuses on selflessness, service, generosity, genuine charity (in the old caritas / love they neighbor sense) and making the world a better place. I think Conservatives in general need to have a much better understanding of their own ideals and their own moral values, and they need to be able to articulate them clearly and succinctly. We each need our elevator speech, and we need to be able to back it up with in-depth discussions at the coffee house and pub.
Of course, this is just a hunch.