2017 was a tough year for a lot of people, myself included. Imagine, believing you can see something as plain as the nose on your face, and a large portion of the country just refused to see it. I thought I understood the truth, but the truth is, I was clueless.
Trump was elected, against the will of the people, at least based upon popular vote. One again, the electoral college was enough to override the candidate with the most votes, putting in place a conservative that would undermine the progress that a Democrat had achieved.
Worse, Trump exemplified the dark side of America. Racism. Islamophobia. Lies. Economic oppression. In my limited understanding of what constituents a fascist, I believed that he was one. I still do, but now I understand better the reason why.
Photo by Gary Knight: https://goo.gl/9rUQR6
I raged into the void. Hard. I insulted Trump regularly, like so many others who took pride in being blocked by him on Twitter. I tried to highlight his authoritarian tactics by pasting descriptions of the tactics he was using in reply to his statements. I attacked the views of his followers. I tried to convince them that they were being idiots.
None of this was effective, and it took me too long to understand why.
Most people don’t know how to debate effectively. Over the past year, I’ve been teaching myself what works and what does not through trial and error. There has been so much error, but I’ve tried hard to learn from my mistakes. Some of these things are obvious, but hard to live by in practice. Some of them are far less intuitive.
As far as I’m aware I have not changed the minds of any Trump supporters, but I have earned the respect of a few. They at least understand that I’m being honest and telling things how I see them, even if they think I’m wrong.
I have also changed the views of some people that I largely agree with, pointing out where they are missing something or where they are not arguing their point effectively. The more people have a coherent view of the truth, the better chance we have of making a difference.
Finally, and for me most importantly, I have discovered gaps in my own knowledge. While I’m still liberal, my view of the world has changed dramatically over the last year. I’ve discovered ways in which my own actions made the world worse for others, and I’ve tried to change my life accordingly.
Discourse on both sides is vitriolic. Personal attacks are common, and are what people are used to. Don’t drop to that level. Remain calm and discuss the relevant points while ignoring insults. If the insults don’t stop, point out that you’re being civil and ask them to do the same.
Some people will not change their behavior. Those people are a waste of your time. Just ignore them. If they harass you over time, feel free to block them. Don’t block them just for disagreeing though. You don’t want to reinforce your bubble, and who knows, maybe you’ll change their views over time.
Let Them Lead
You should know the point you’d like to make, but you cannot control the flow of the conversation. There’s a good chance that the person you’re talking to will topic jump quite a bit at first. Quite frankly, you probably do that yourself right now.
While discussing Trump they may bring up Hillary’s lies (or perceived lies). Are you here to defend Hillary or to point out the problems with Trump? If you’re defending Hillary, then defend her. If you’re pointing out issues with Trump, then just point out that she’s not President and that any actions she may or may not have taken are not relevant to a discussion of Trump’s actions after the election.
If they pivot to the perceived good that Trump has been accomplishing then you have a decision to make. You can try to keep the conversation on track. Or you can point out that the ends do not always justify the means. Potential unification of Korea is an amazing breakthrough. From my perspective we got there through a game of chicken that risked the lives of hundreds of million lives of our allies and our citizens. Was that really a choice we’re justified in making?
Don’t Assume Their Views
Often you can guess someone’s views based upon their statements. Sometimes however you’re wrong. It is better to ask the question explicitly than to assume their views.
If someone keeps stating about Antifa being terrorists, they could be Neo-Nazis, Fascists or racists. Or they could be anti-communism since some of Antifa are communists and often people are told that all of them are. Of maybe they just don’t believe in unprovoked violence. Personally I believe in their goal of pushing back against Fascism, but I disagree with violence.
So many people assume I’m pro-Clinton just because I’m anti-Trump. I voted for her in the general election, but only because I feared Trump getting into office. Personally I was done with the status quo of wars and coddling big business.
State When You Agree
No one is wrong 100% of the time. It’s easy to focus on the places where you disagree, but explicitly agreeing when they are right can help demonstrate that you’re at least trying to be reasonable and honest.
Assume You’re Wrong
Just until you have evidence to back up you being right. Asserting without evidence is usually ineffective. When it isn’t ineffective it may be harmful, spreading untruths.
Trump’s administration has done a lot since coming to power. I have issues with so much that they’ve done, but sometimes people bring up things I never heard about. Don’t assume those things are bad without evidence. Do some reading. Do some actual careful consideration of the issues, and try to read dissenting viewpoints. Sometimes they’ve done reasonable things, with or without reasonable goals in mind. Having your views ripped apart ruins your credibility, so you want to make sure you have a good cohesive argument with coherent reasoning before speaking.
This also applies to new arguments about known points. You’re only going to change people’s minds by explaining things in a way they had not considered. Be open to the fact that sometimes you may be the person on the receiving end of a view you hadn’t considered. Expecting them to do something you won’t do yourself is hypocritical.
Quite frankly you are wrong, or at least you’re missing something. It is impossible to know the whole truth. Even if your main point is correct, there will be some detail that you’re not aware of or you’ve misunderstood.
Especially understand common logical fallacies.
Someone being a serial liar may leave you more inclined to disbelieve them. It is not, however, evidence that a specific statement is a lie. Attack the statement, not the person. You cannot just tell someone that the person they’re quoting is an idiot or a liar, but you may be able to demonstrate it. Responding to a Trump lie with a statement that he’s a liar is still an Ad Hominem argument, even if it is true.
You can also expect to see plenty of Slippery Slope arguments, Strawman arguments, and many other types. Understanding them can help you respond appropriately. It can also help prevent the use of them in your own reasoning.
Learn Their Beliefs
While there are plenty of reasons to dislike this administration, not every person you speak to will care about the same parts. You won’t have much luck talking about his treatment of women with some men.
If you’re talking to a libertarian, who tend to be very concerned about personal liberties, speaking about Sheriff Joe Arpaio may be a good idea. Perhaps they’re unaware that in his quest to detain and deport illegal aliens, he has a tendency to violate the civil rights of Latino citizens. So much so that a court ordered him to stop, and found him in contempt when he did not. Trump literally pardoned a man for violating rights and defying the rule of law.
If they’re concerned about racism, Trump has a long history in New York related to housing discrimination of African Americans and the false imprisonment of the Central Park Five.
Your Goal Should Be Truth
If your goal is to win the argument rather than to allow both of you to achieve a better understanding of the truth then it will be far too easy to take shortcuts. It becomes much harder to accept points that go against your views, even when they are the truth.
Quite frankly most of the time you’re going to fail to convince the other person. If you’re seeking a win, then you’ve lost. If you’re searching for truth then you’ve still won even if they still disagree.
After too long with justifications and lies, I truly believe that only truth will set us free. If we care about truth, we need to act that way. If we do not, then we should step aside and let those who do take power.