The Two Reasons that People Argue

One of the reasons for my ongoing deprangry and why it makes me so sick and sad to follow politics lately is the way people argue. I don’t know if there was ever a time in which political opponents were expected to argue in good faith, but if there was, it’s long gone now.

It seems to me that there are two reasons that a person argues about anything:

1) To win people over to his side of the argument.

2) To make himself feel morally superior to the people he’s arguing against.

In modern politics, we have completely given up on reason number one. The demarcations between the warring parties are so strict and impermeable that now you know from the beginning of any dispute who will be for you and who will be against you. Any “debate” is just an effort to steel the resolve of your supporters–to make sure that they know they’re doing the Lord’s work against the forces of darkness.

Maybe you’ve noticed this. There really aren’t any “fact” arguments anymore in the public sphere. I’m willing to concede that both the left and the right have this proclivity, but it’s pretty obvious that the root of the problem comes overwhelmingly from the left. Opponents of abortion or global warming or Obamacare or whatever are dismissed as illiterate, science-hating, greedy, racist kooks. Since facts don’t matter, those selfsame opponents retaliate by demonstrating that the other side is full of lying, conspiring, power-mad, hateful communists (which also happens to be largely true).

We are ideologically gerrymandered. Just like congressional districts are drawn to guarantee that they always and forever belong to one party, we have cordoned off our beliefs so that outside influences can never touch them. Any engagement with the other side usually just boils down to name calling.

Again, I have no answer for this. I’m just trying to avoid falling into it myself in discussions with all those power-mad hateful communists.

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