A Hunch about Persuading Progressives to Change

Progressivism is a moral philosophy: Progress is, finally, moral progress. We get there through a process of evolution, which is very slow and very messy. Each generation may only make a little Progress. We know our society is making Progress because we are rewarded, overall, with better lives and a more just society.

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.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd roll with that hunch.

Valerie

Tom said...

Just a couple of other points.

I'm not suggesting we attack rank-and-file Progressives personally. I know many of them and they really try to live up to their ideals. I know Progressives who regularly volunteer to help the needy, who regularly donate to charitable causes, who really try to embody their values.

Also, starting a conversation with "What a selfish, power-hungry rat you are!" seems a trifle counterproductive. No, we need to go after their leaders, their favored policies, and in one way or another their worldview.

If we work within their own worldview to highlight its inherent contradictions and anomalies, we can employ facts and reason. We just have to present them in ways that make sense to Progressives.

Also, this is why Progressives always attack Conservative motives. It can't be that Bush just made mistakes. He invaded Iraq for the oil (greed) or out of revenge (selfishness); probably his fear of the foreign made it easier to disregard the deaths of Iraqis. Any Conservative Christian leader must be portrayed as a hypocrite; they can't possibly really be generous and kind and care for the less fortunate. If they were, they'd be Progressive Christian leaders!

raven said...

I have given up, and I largely avoid them. I do not believe they can be trusted, not on any grounds of compassion, but because they accept orders unconditionally, and will perform mental contortions to reconcile the new belief with the old. The gulag is the gulag and they always end up putting their opponents there. Venezuela is the latest petrie dish. My patience is gone, and my belief is they will not stop until they come smack up against personal existential problems-and maybe not even then. Irksome, meddlesome moral busybodies, the lot of them.



One of them was recently celebrating the new, more restrictive rules for painkillers, and the additional layers of bureaucracy doctors and patients would need to go through to obtain them. All in some moral crusade against addiction. Then I mentioned reading page after page of comments written by people who had loved ones in agony, who were having a hard time getting relief, under the existing rules.
"Oh, they will find some way to get the meds"- a smug little comment.
And this, from someone who thinks the "war on drugs" is a big mistake. How the hell does someone rationalize that contradiction? It's OK to put a Doctor in jail for over prescribing, but the local street pusher is not a problem? I know this is way over used, but WTF?



This all boils down to one thing- They want to control my every action. And my thoughts. And if I don't comply, the gulag. At this time the rank and file will ardently deny they want to put me in a gulag. And they don't- and won't-until they are told to think it-and then it will become a passionately desired objective.

Tom said...

they accept orders unconditionally

I actually haven't seen this. I work in a Progressive-dominated field and organization, so I am around them a lot. I have a number of Progressive friends. I just haven't seen the ones I know obeying orders unconditionally.

Also, notice that among the Progressive virtues you don't see intellectual consistency. Some try for those things, others don't. So go for the heart:

"That seems extremely cruel! Especially to those poor people who can't afford it ..." "They'll find a way? Really? How? ... And then they can end up in prison!? How cruel! I thought you really cared about the poor."

(Yeah, here I might actually whip out that good old "What a selfish, power-hungry rat you are!")

Of course, the whole illegal drug issue is a monstrous black hole of Progressive hypocrisy we need to start exploiting.

Tom said...

This is a blog post, so it leaves out a lot.

Paradigms are also maintained within a social group. So, it's not enough to change their minds, you probably need to change their friends, too. (Just invite them to go shooting or something; they don't need to lose their old friends, just make new ones. It's a very open-minded thing to do.)

There are fake Progressives, folks who aren't true believers but who get social or other benefits by maintaining a public Progressive face. This strategy won't work for them because they are mostly self-interested and they just repeat the Progressive catechism as a way of maintaining access to those benefits.

Each individual Progressive is unique. One thing's not going to work for all of them. But I do think going for the heart first and targeting their own sense of identity is a good general principle.

raven said...

" But I do think going for the heart first and targeting... "

Hmmm... "Sigmund, line one.."- just joking, I could not resist.

Perhaps the "obey orders " should have been stated as "follow the narrative", in any case, I have found the group think-flavor of the day amazingly consistent. In the Times on Monday morning, on the lips of the left by that afternoon.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I back Raven's comments. She is correct. Progressives are smug. They deem non-progressives as inferior. Angelo M. Codevilla states it well and so much better than I can when he says:

...........Above all, the ruling class (Progressives) defines itself by a set of attitudes, foremost of which is contempt for those outside itself. This contempt stems from the rather uniform education that the ruling class’s members absorbed from universities and which they developed by living in their subculture. Believing themselves intelligent apostles of scientific truth, they regard others as dumb and in the grip of religious obscurantism. Religion is the greatest of the divides between the ruling class and those it deems its inferiors. Whereas they believe themselves morally good and psychologically sound, they regard others as suffering from psychological dysfunctions and phobias—effectively as bad people. The ruling class does not believe that those outside itself have the right or capacity to conduct their own lives...........

Read the whole thing. Its that good.

http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/4763/politics_religion_and_the_ruling_class.aspx

-Mississippi



Eric Blair said...

I think Raven has the sense of it. In the facebook postings of the proggy 'friends' I have, I continually see this superiority complex manifest itself in so many ways.

Anonymous said...

I view this as an exercise in extreme futility. I think we are far past reconciliation with the left. The views for the future are too different for one nation to move forward. One side has to win, through bloody means, before America will take any more steps forward. Until that point, we will continue to lurch like a drunk, always moving but never actually getting anywhere.

-Krag

Larry Harman said...

This is an excellent description of C. S. Lewis's Inner Ring.

Tom said...

Hmmm... "Sigmund, line one.."- just joking, I could not resist.

No, that was funny.

But sure, they do see themselves as superior, and I explained why in the original post. So, we puncture that. That is exactly what I'm proposing we go after: their egos.

I think there are several advantages to this method.

First, it's new (see next comment), so it's not the same old failed methods we've been trying. In the "adapt and overcome" cycle, if you are failing to overcome, it's time to adapt.

Second, who doesn't enjoy poking holes in some bully's ego? Even if we don't win anyone over, it'll be more fun than building carefully reasoned arguments destined to be dismissed with the wave of a raised snout. We do still have some time to kill before the civil war begins.

Third, I think this would be good for us. We are really the ones who have compassion for others and who are tolerant and open-minded. It would be good to say that and back it up with good, well-reasoned arguments and actions. It wouldn't matter if it changed anyone else's mind; it would be good for our peace of mind to declare it and stand on it rather than simply stand there like pincushions absorbing the slings and arrows of outrageous snobs. And we would be nice about it, because we're good folk.

Tom said...

Okay, so when I say new, I mean this particular application of the strategy. At least, I'm not aware of anyone else proposing it before me. Certainly, though, the strategy of disrupting identity / culture is not new.

Tom said...

Thanks to Larry, I've just read up on Lewis's idea of the inner ring. It's very relevant, so here's a link: http://www.lewissociety.org/innerring.php.

Tom said...

4. Independents

Anonymous said...

I disagree. Progressives are a manifestation of arrested development and the infantile, Nietzschean "will to power," unrestrained by any sense of reason born of maturity, discipline, reason, or Christian temperance. Lip service to kindness, goodness, and generosity aside, they have a hole in their soul that simply can not be filled because the spoiled child in them has rejected the spiritual and or cultural tools to fill it.

Giving a Progressive any power at all is like giving a toddler a gun. They want what's in the cookie jar and will do whatever it takes, throw whatever tantrum they need, lie, act nice, act nasty, whatever, to to get it. And to the extent they are successful, the spoiled child will use it's bullying tactics to get more cookies. In the case of a Progressive, that "cookie" is power. Progressives will do whatever it takes to accumulate more and more in an attempt to fill the bottomless pit that is the hole in their soul. When they offer or provide what appears to be charitable kindness (our tax dollars), they are really offering nothing but bait with a hook to give them power over others.

I have become convinced that this cannot be reasoned with. I don't know how to affect the spiritual change in them that might lead to their recovery. A 12 Step program, perhaps; but that requires a desire to change. I'm afraid to say that Progressivism is a self-perpetuating pattern of addictive behavior that starts in childhood and cannot be corrected on a sufficient scale to save the Republic.

Tom said...

Mississippi,

That's an interesting article, and I think there's a lot of good stuff there. However, Codevilla didn't equate the "ruling class" with Progressives. He attacked the ruling class in general, Conservative and Progressive both. I think that's right. The ruling class -- D and R -- is arrogant and dangerous.

Tom said...

Krag: I think we are far past reconciliation with the left.

I'm not trying to reconcile with the left. I'm proposing ways to break the left's hold on particular individuals.

Individuals matter. Get enough of them, and the left is powerless.

Every movement is composed of individuals, nothing more, nothing less.

Tom said...

Anonymous,

First, by rule and custom, anonymous posting is not allowed here. Please pick a name.

Second, you wrote: Progressives are a manifestation of arrested development and the infantile, Nietzschean "will to power," unrestrained by any sense of reason born of maturity, discipline, reason, or Christian temperance.

Some Progressives fit your description, some don't.

Then: Lip service to kindness, goodness, and generosity aside ...

Actually, I know Progressives who spend a lot of their own free time volunteering to help people. They volunteer at retirement homes. They volunteer with Habitat for Humanity to build houses for the poor. They volunteer to drive vans all day to take sick children from small towns to the hospitals they need in big cities.

I am not saying all or most Progressives do these things, but if you go and do these things, you will find a lot of Progressives there giving their time to help others.

Being wrong about their politics does not make them necessarily bad people.

There are a lot of nasty, hateful Progressives as well, but the Conservative movement is not immune to being nasty and hateful, either.

Ymar Sakar said...

I just haven't seen the ones I know obeying orders unconditionally.

How many of them obeyed Hussein's orders to bring up Obamacare during CHristmas and Thanksgiving? You should find that out first.

An order's effectiveness is two fold, based on the moral authority of the giver and based on whether it is feasible to carry it out. Thus if the US President told a person to do something, it would carry a different weight if a private or general had said it.

Ymar Sakar said...

Actually, I know Progressives who spend a lot of their own free time volunteering to help people. They volunteer at retirement homes. They volunteer with Habitat for Humanity to build houses for the poor. They volunteer to drive vans all day to take sick children from small towns to the hospitals they need in big cities.

I am not saying all or most Progressives do these things, but if you go and do these things, you will find a lot of Progressives there giving their time to help others.

Being wrong about their politics does not make them necessarily bad people.


Critical mistake is thinking their religion is their politics.

Tom said...

How so?

Ymar Sakar said...

As detailed in the next thread, converting people from a religion and convincing people to change politics, not even on the same dimension.