Agree to Disagree: How to Productively Debate Political Perspectives

In today’s heated political climate, partisan tensions simmer even in the most innocuous of daily encounters. Strangers on the street exchange glares at the site of a political button on the other’s bag, while previously friendly co-workers begin shunning a colleague after catching a glimpse of a political article on their Facebook wall. Productive political debate has faltered in today’s culture of icy distaste – oddly, it now seems more normal to uncomfortably steer around conversations about current events than face the subject head-on.

 

Siege camps have been built around our political affiliations, and fraternization is subtextually but powerfully discouraged. But keeping a cold distance from those with differing political opinions is a poor strategy for resolving the ideological tensions running rampant in our country; how can we possibly come to compromises and share our views when even tentative forays into political discussion inevitably end in shouting matches?

 

We need to begin rethinking how we approach our political conversations, and create discussion spaces where differing perspectives are not only accepted, but encouraged. In order to do so, we need to restructure our conversations to ensure a productive, friendly exchange of ideas.


Those who engage in positive political discussions should keep the following conversational guidelines in mind.

 

Don’t leap to judgement.

As Celeste Headlee, a Georgia public broadcasting host, mentions in a TED talk on facilitating productive political conversations, “The purpose of listening is not to endorse, but to understand.” Sticking to preconceived judgements about someone based on their political affiliation will tank any hopes of a productive conversation.

 

Put your disagreements on the back burner long enough to hear what someone has to say, and don’t attempt to “educate” them on why your beliefs are worthier than theirs. Interject if you feel that you need to, but always do so with respect and courtesy, and never react with anger or condescension. The person you speak with will appreciate the courtesy, and likely be more open to your viewpoint when you offer it.

 

Stay in the conversation.

There’s no doubt about it: Political conversations get awkward. It may feel easier and more polite to duck out of an uncomfortable debate rather than actively disagree with someone. Given the chance, most people will avoid conflict – even if that conflict could potentially lead to a productive exchange of ideas. Stay in the conversation, and weather the discomfort and frustration. Pushing through the stilted first minute of talk can lead to an easier, and much more productive, political discussion.

 

Reframe your argument

According to research conducted by Stanford sociologist Robb Willer, conservatives and liberals tend to favor arguments based in differing moral values. Conservatives, for example, tend to back their beliefs with patriotic, loyal, and morally-based arguments. Liberals, in contrast, usually support their views with reasoning based on tenets of fairness and care.

 

Interestingly, Willer’s study found that liberals and conservatives alike tend not to think of reframing their arguments to suit their listeners’ perspectives. As Willer himself mentioned during a talk in early 2017: “when we go to persuade somebody on a political issue, we talk like we’re speaking into a mirror. We don’t persuade so much as we rehearse our own reasons for why we believe some sort of political position.” That said, Willer did find that those of opposing beliefs can be swayed by an argument from the other side – but only if that justification is framed to appeal to their own moral values.  

 

In short, Willer’s study suggests that we need to break out of our own experiences, and put ourselves in our conversational partner’s shoes. How would they see the topic at hand? How can you reframe your argument to appeal to their moral tenets?

 

Agree to disagree.

Make sure to walk away on a positive note, even if you can’t find anything to agree upon. A constructive conversation isn’t necessarily one where one side sways another’s beliefs. Rather, positive debate occurs when two sides come together and exchange ideas in a friendly, positive way. At the end of the day, bridging the gap between political affiliations and building a productive working relationship with those of differing viewpoints is far more important than “winning” a hostile debate.

 

Gauging the Political Weather: 4 Engaging News Sources

Gauging the Political Weather Header

Before the onset of predictive weather apps and televised meteorology programs, the easiest way to figure out whether it was raining was to stick your hand out the window and see if it got wet. In today’s tech-savvy world, though, such basic methods are inconclusive – even laughable! Now, we can source comprehensive information in a few keystrokes without ever having to leave our seats.

For those of us wanting to keep up with the political weather, as it were, it’s easier than ever to access current reports and predictions from our laptops, televisions, and mobile devices. We no longer have to risk inconvenience by sticking our metaphorical hands out the window, or rely on our own limited analyses; the information we need is already at our fingertips.

Or is it? One of the unfortunate side effects of our easy access to information is, ironically, the similarly easy access to misinformation. A quick Google search over morning coffee can turn into a frustrating, hour-long hunt for the truth through sensationalized headlines and unapologetically biased news stories. It’s become a trial to sort through the conflicting information, and on some days it can feel tempting to turn off your news apps altogether.

But amid all the misinformation and sensationalization, some sources still ring true for headline-wary conservative readers.

Washington Wire

Readers can expect thoughtful, quality, and timely work from reporters at the Washington Wire. This regularly updated and long-running blog is the Wall Street Journal’s answer to their readers’ need for reliable political news. The online publication consistently turns out about 22 stories per week.

The Hill

As a significant and far-reaching political news publication, the Hill not only owns a widely-read print newspaper, but also operates a website and six related blogs. This source primarily focuses its reporting attentions on Congress and provides its readers with daily news about the latest happenings on Capitol Hill.

Politico

Since its launch in 2007, Politico has consistently produced reliable content that considers both international and domestic current events from a centrist perspective. This source has a self-professed mission to inspire the reader to draw their own thoughtful conclusions, and to avoid writing boring or sensationalized stories at all costs.

National Review

Since its inception in 1955, the National Review has served as a significant driver for American conservatism by providing news and commentary upon current events. Today, the publication produces an impressive amount of content for both its printed editions and for its regularly updated online blog.

In an age rife with misinformation and sensationalism, it’s become more important than ever to source news from reputable, reliable publications. Tracking down accurate information might not be as easy as we thought it would be, or simple as logging a few keystrokes – but we can, to return to an earlier metaphor, invest a little effort by reaching out our digital hands and finding the truth for ourselves.

A Beginner’s Guide to Political Targeting

Political targeting involves identifying what group or groups of people a candidate wishes to appeal to the most and then working to get those votes. Depending on the election, area, and issue, different groups will be targeted by a candidate.

Traditionally, there are specific groups or areas that Republicans and Democrats target more than others. Plenty of data available on voter demographics shows which candidate the majority of a single group voted for in the election.

How do you use political targeting?

Originally, political targeting involved candidates making personal appearances in various places with potential supporters and presenting their best self to those voters. Now, there are so many voters all over the country that this technique could not have a substantial benefit. Candidates still rely on making appearances at large events and organizing rallies, but media has become the biggest way to target voters.

Deciding which demographic you want to appeal to and then crafting messages for them is the most efficient way of using political targeting in modern elections. Much more strategy goes into modern political targeting, with campaigns utilizing advertising and research to find out the best ways to appeal to their desired group.

How did Donald Trump use it to his advantage?

In the 2016 election, President Donald Trump used political targeting to win. While Democrats pandered to their usual groups, many voters felt it was disingenuous and looked to an alternative political candidate.

Trump and his team knew their target audience was white, middle-class Americans who felt they have been overlooked in previous years. The Trump campaign also searched out new or undecided voters, which led to his success with the silent majority, the group of people who do not frequently vote or openly express their opinions.

Trump was able to target these groups by acknowledging their desire for change and need to have more financial stability, and also their desire for security, whether abroad or in the United States. By using carefully crafted advertisements, commercials, and speeches, Trump and his team appealed to these groups and won the election.

10 Amazing Political Quotes

“Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”

Mark Twain

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

“A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what’s going on. ”

William S. Burroughs

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

Groucho Marx

“In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.”

Napoléon Bonaparte

“Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.”

George Burns

“Every politician should have been born an orphan and remain a bachelor.”

Lady Bird Johnson

“Rule-following, legal precedence, and political consistency are not more important than right, justice and plain common-sense.”

W. E. B. Du Bois

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Abraham Lincoln

“As you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president.”

Kanye West
Sources:

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/politics

http://www.aavw.org/special_features/speeches_speech_king04.html
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/g/grouchomar146422.html

http://www.napoleonguide.com/aquote_power.htm

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/George_Burns

Filibustering, Explained

Over the years, filibustering has been called “a distraction” and “political gamesmanship.”

The recent more-than-24-hours filibuster by the Democrats was so epic that it was even covered by, of all places, USWeekly.

I won’t get into the details here about that particular protest, but let’s consider the recent headlines about the latest filibuster (which, reportedly, is the 9th longest one in history) to offer a refresher on the purpose of filibustering, why it’s important and when politicians typically use it as a strategy.

The Purpose

The term filibuster comes from a Dutch word meaning “pirate.” Since the 1850s it’s been applied to efforts to hold the Senate floor in order to prevent a vote on a bill. The filibuster wasn’t always a go-to course of action.

A 2009 story by US News & World Report says:

According to research by UCLA political scientist Barbara Sinclair, there was an average of one filibuster per Congress during the 1950s. That number has grown steadily since and spiked in 2007 and 2008 (the 110th Congress), when there were 52 filibusters. More broadly, according to Sinclair, while 8 percent of major legislation in the 1960s was subject to “extended-debate-related problems” like filibusters, 70 percent of major bills were so targeted during the 110th Congress.

 

Why It’s Important

Simply put, filibusters are intended to make all members of congress pause in order to promote comprehensive discussion.

But many say that filibustering actually does the opposite and, therefore, should no longer be allowed. Still, others suggest that the answer is not complete elimination.

Writes  The Witherspoon Institute’s The Public Discourse:

“With a simple change, the Senate can restore its republican bona fides, give minority points of view an audible voice, greatly reduce the number of filibusters, make incremental gains in the passage of bills important to the majority, and improve the quality of debate.”

 

 

 

 

3 Political Movies That Mirror the 2016 Election

You know what they say about art imitating life. Well, that especially goes for political movies. Whether it’s Robert Redford in All the President’s Men or Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon, we often see our current world brought to life on screen with these narratives. Here are three political movies that, if you binge watch them this weekend, will surely give you goosebumps because of their eerie similarities to Decision 2016.

The Candidate (starring Robert Redford and Peter Boyle; directed by Michael Ritchie)

This film won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The plot: A campaign manager Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) convinces activist-lawyer Bill McKay (Robert Redford) to run for senate. The public swoons. But to keep their affections, Lucas pushes McKay further and further away from McKay’s core beliefs and message. His platform gets watered down, but his popularity soars.  

Says Rob Samuelson writing for PoliticsChatter.com:

[The film’s] dry wit shows how in over his head Redford is and, once the race becomes competitive, the panic on his face is hilarious. In an anti-establishment year like 2016, it’s possible this panicked ‘Oh no, I can actually win this thing’ moment has happened to a number of candidates.

Stewart plays an idealistic senator who wants to make his community a better place. Another senator (played by Rains), however,  has Stewart’s character in his sights because Stewart’s do-gooding is interfering with the corrupt senators’ moneymaking.  The bad senator sets out to discredit and discourage Stewart’s character. A filibuster happens.  Stewart’s character warms hearts and wins minds. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is full of optimism for the ability of the little guy to convince the public to act on an important issue,” writes Samuelson.

Lincoln (starring Daniel Day-Lewis; directed by Steven Spielberg)

Day-Lewis, you may remember, won the Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of the president in this Tony Kushner screenplay.

Says Samuelson:

“For all the soaring rhetoric about equality and freedom–it takes place as the 16th president tried to pass the slavery-abolishing 13th Amendment–the real strength of 2012’s Lincoln is in showing how political deal-making happens.”

How to Talk to Kids About the 2016 Election

Little do we know, we are bringing up the next generation of voters. So how do you help young children and teenagers understand and navigate the current political climate, especially if you want to get them involved early?

Youngsters today turn to social media and the internet for news, even when they’re not looking for it. Common Sense Media reports that a study by the University of Chicago showed people between the ages of 15–25 get news once per week from family and friends through Twitter or Facebook.

Unfortunately, though, young people can’t always tell what’s spin and what’s fact.  Case in point: Candidates and talking heads from both sides of the political aisle use their social media platforms to turn a news headline to their advantage and/or pummel their rivals.

This might be why the University of Chicago study also declared: “Youth must figure out how to judge the validity of online data and how to discover different perspectives on shifted issues.”

The media assumes a colossal part in our nation’s political procedure. What’s more, with the all day, every day news cycle, those impacts are amplified. So it’s important to meet kids where they are when it comes to helping them understand the events of the world.

For Young Kids

Seek out age-appropriate news sources. Common Sense Media suggests HTE Kids NewsTime for Kids, and Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

Additionally, read kid-friendly books that can teach kids about politics and the processes.  “Check out Bad Kitty for President, which does a surprisingly good job of explaining the U.S. political system,” writesRegan McMahon.

For Teenagers

Around high school, it’s essential to participate in the news cycle right alongside your kids.

Writes McMahon:

“Compare the media coverage on different shows and networks. Do reporters, news anchors, and opinion shows spend too much time on distractions that heat up the news cycle rather than on the real issues facing our country? Check the credibility of candidates’ claims at the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org. “

Teens certainly have enough experience to grasp the political landscape, so make sure you don’t underestimate their ability to keep up and stay involved. There are new events making headlines everyday, and our job as a country is to make sure we’re raising concerned, politically literate, and engaged citizens who care about the present and future of the country.