A Plea To Conservatives Everywhere

February 16, 2011

I wish, I really wish, there was one tenet espoused by modern conservatism, one article of their faith that I could glom onto and accept as true or factually sound or anything even approximating that ideal. I really do. Otherwise, I may have to accept the possibility that I’m nothing more than a partisan stick in the mud, addled by “motivated reasoning” and hopelessly and immovably entrenched in my views.

Anybody? Anybody? Come on. Throw me a bone.

Linking through the overload that is this information age, I went from here to here to here, Joe Keohane’s article from last July in the Boston Globe, How facts backfire. In a nutshell, we’ve gone from the utopian, Enlightenment bathed conviction of Thomas Jefferson who opined (between sackings of his slave, Sally Hemings, no doubt) Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government to the very likely possibility that we may be physiologically incapable of becoming fully informed. Is that what Mr. Keohane suggested? I’m not sure but that’s what I believe he wrote, so I’m going with it.

We hold beliefs, believing that we’ve come to them rationally, objectively and open-mindedly. But when presented with facts that run contrary to our beliefs, it seems we have a tendency to dig in our heels and believe our beliefs even more. And worse still, there is some suggestion that the better informed you are, the more “politically sophisticated”, the less open you are to new, opposing information and thus less likely to alter what you believe.

So, if I’m following my line of reasoning correctly, the more informed we endeavour to become, the less informed we end up being. Something so-called experts in the field (although I’m beginning to suspect such entities cannot actually exist since more information only leads to further misinformation we’re told… or, so I hear) “confirmation bias”. Our inclination to latch onto information that confirms what we already believe regardless of its veracity, and to disregard information, valid or not, that disputes what we believe to be true.

The makings of the political logjam we currently find ourselves in. (If true that is, and since I’m not sure it is, that renders it questionable.) I believe what I believe. You believe what you believe. And never shall the twain meet. How is a society supposed to function under such factional pressure?

Badly, it would seem, looking around us. The Democrat-Republican divide in the U.S. The Conservatives against everybody else here, federally. In Toronto, an unyielding right-left split on council built upon a firm structure of urban-suburban antagonism.

So, in a spirit of co-operation and bipartisanship, I attempt to set aside my beliefs and preconceived notions of modern conservatives as masters of malevolent delusion, and ask once more for someone of that ilk to step forth and sway me to your side on the strength of a well-reasoned argument. Show me how further corporate tax cuts will kick start our economy. Persuade me that de-regulation and less oversight wasn’t at the source of the financial meltdown. Go bigger! Prove this whole trickle-down theory to me. How rising tides raise all boats. We’ve been at for 30 years or so now. There should be some model to point to. If not, how much more time do you need?

Give me the facts and figures showing that the War on Drugs has accomplished the goal of decreasing drug use and not simply criminalized a large segment of our population and made prison building a growth industry. We’ve been at this for awhile, too. There should be a solid school of evidence telling us that we’re on the right path. Harm reduction, schmarm schmeduction. Give me the straight goods on why punishment is the better way to go.

Maybe how about you provide even the teensiest bit of proof that this whole climate change thing is a sham and humans aren’t responsible for it even if it did exist. Which it doesn’t. So show me.

One thing. Just give me one conservative thing I can latch onto and say ‘yes’, ‘yes’, you’re right. That is a good idea. We would be better off if we implemented or passed or introduced that. Just one. I’m begging you.

Otherwise I’m going to have to start believing that I’m stuck in my little mindset, blind and deaf to all protestations and opinions that don’t match my own. That this impasse we’ve reached is as much my fault as it is those I don’t agree with. I want to break that deadlock. I want to be the bigger man. So please, conservatives. Prove me wrong and prove me open-minded.

in the spirit of cooperationally submitted by Cityslikr