HOW TO DEBATE WITH TEA-PARTY MEMBERS AND OTHER FAR-RIGHT CONSERVATIVES – A Common-Sense Guide for Rational People
I’ll tell you how, right off the bat: Don’t.
Don’t even try, you can’t win.
You know how in a zombie movie, the zombies can no longer think for themselves, and turn on other human beings? You know how once people become zombies they can’t be turned back into humans? This is kind of like that.
But seriously, you should not even attempt to engage in ‘discussions’ with these kinds of people. They revel in being negative and combative. They’re not going to be swayed. They’re not interested in ‘debating’ with you; they want to insult you, because they think they’re better than you. They believe that helping your neighbor is akin to giving someone something they don’t deserve. Their moral compass points inward rather than outward. And just like those zombies, they’ve been infected with a mindless, lethal desire to destroy, with no hope for cure. The virus infecting these Tea-Party zombies is the fact-deficient, ideological poison coming from places like right-wing talk radio and Fox News, a message funded by those wealthy and powerful who will stop at nothing to hold on to and amass more and more of that wealth and power. Just like zombies, these poor souls can no longer think for themselves, and their every thought and action is directed towards infecting others with the same affliction. And, to top it all off, they are a lost cause…they can never be changed back into rational human beings.
During the Civil War, on the battlefield, Army doctors had to act swiftly and decisively to save lives, and sometimes the measure seemed drastic. In cases of infection, a diseased limb needed to be cut away rather than treated in order to save the body as a whole. Now, I’m not advocating a ‘removal’ of the Tea Party in any way, shape or form, and I will never condone any type of violence toward them on any level. They are human beings and they are our fellow citizens, after all, even if we do not get along or agree on things. But the facts remain – their false rhetoric is very powerful, very poisonous and needs to be removed from the frame of discussion in order for rational people to be able to focus on and discuss the real facts and issues.
We need to remove their loud, rude, partisan rants, which pollute and distort the discussion and the issues, in order to begin to make progress on the things that affect us all, and the way to do that is to simply leave them out of the discussion. Just stay cool and ignore these extremist hotheads. Don’t hesitate to remove their inflammatory comments from your Facebook page – after all, it’s your page. Remove their rude garbage from the discussion. Yes, they have a right to free speech, but the great thing about this country is that we’re also free to not have to listen to them or talk to them. So, just stop listening to them and stop talking to them! The truth is, they don’t want to talk things over, they don’t want to work together to find common ground…they want to cram their exclusionary ideology down your throat, and make you feel like a traitor to your country while they do it.
Their belief system has been ingrained in them by over 45 years of Conservative ideology…a dark, twisted fun-house mirror of an ideology that has nevertheless somehow successfully managed to paint anyone who cares about others as the enablers of lazy freeloaders instead of Good Samaritans. They cannot and will not see you as anything less, and so it is pointless to try to convince them that you are a peer, an ally, a friend, and not the enemy. In their minds, they are the only true Patriots and you are, at best, a Communist, or at worst, a terrorist. And that if you or anyone else wanted a piece of the pie, you should have got off your lazy ass and worked for it.
Now, you and I know that this is not true. We love our country as much as anybody. We’ve worked damn hard for what we have. And we know that, with the top ten percent of earners in this country in control of over two-thirds of America’s net worth (source), that it’s not a case of not having worked hard to earn more but rather that the small minority in power have been stealing hand-over-fist from the majority.
The price of gasoline goes up and up and up due to ‘unrest in the middle-east’, where, ironically, greedy ‘leaders’ of our country are an aggressive force that plunders those people’s land and resources, and backs and rewards brutal dictators who are complicit in those foul deeds, instead of being a uniting force that fosters democracy and helps their country heal. Here at home, we’ve paid more for basic goods and services while actually receiving less. Groceries and household supplies, now with less product in the same packaging, cost us more, while our wages shrink. We’re told to cut back while those at the top are allowed breaks. And while the top one-percent of households have seen their average pre-tax income increase by over 350%, from over a half a million dollars in 1979 to $1.8 million in 2007, the average household income for 80% of American households has not increased by more than a few hundred dollars since 1979. A few hundred dollars. Now you tell me, is that our fault?
The top one-hundredth of one percent of Americans, or .01%, averages a yearly income of over $27 million, while 90% of Americans bring in an average of only $31,244. Back in 1980 that average income (in current dollars) was $30,941, from then to today a difference of only $303. Now you tell me, is that our fault? From the mid 1970s to the mid 2000s, average wages for the bottom 50% of Americans have only increased by estimates of 5 to 10%, while the top 10% saw increases of 30% or more. Now you tell me, is that our fault? Wall Street profits skyrocketed by 720% in 2007-2009, while Americans’ home equity dropped by 35% in that same period. Now you tell me, is that our fault?
The current situation in this country is the very definition of a ‘plutocracy’ and not a democracy. A plutocracy is defined as rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth. And we’ve never before in the history of the world seen so few control so much wealth and power at the expense of the majority. Even though people like you and I (and even the average tea-partier, no doubt) make up 90% of the people in this country, we’re making less even though we’re working harder and longer, we’re paying more and getting less when it comes to our basic goods, and we’re being asked to give more and cut back more. On the other hand, the top 10% sees a dramatic increase in income every year…and they’re reaping the rewards of an unequal power balance that allows that increase to be exponential, at our expense. How is this fair? Not to mention that the current economic crisis is a direct result of their mad money schemes, their manipulation and monopoly of the banking sector, and now we’re supposed to pay for the mistakes. Try to tell me that $3.50 a gallon for gasoline hurts their pocketbook – it doesn’t. But it’s strangling the rest of us.
You’re not going to convince a far-right conservative, from any income bracket, from any walk of life, that this inequality is the result of corruption, however. To them, the top 10% are being rewarded honestly for their ‘hard work.’ But as you can see, the percentages of gains over the last 30 years don’t match up. We’re being squeezed ever tighter and the fat guys at the top get ever fatter while they do the squeezing on us. Far-right conservatives don’t see it this way and they never will. You will give yourself high blood pressure trying to reason with them, and you will destroy your morale and your resolve to make things better for yourself, your future, your children, your family, your friends, your co-workers, your community, and your country.
Where you can make a difference is with people who are uninformed and unsure. The mainstream media, from which many people get their ‘news’, is a mouthpiece of wealthy corporate power, and as such it glosses over the issues and leaves out the devils in the details. This lack of depth when presenting the issues only makes them more confusing and less debatable; we need to clarify the issues and the potential consequences with facts and rational, in-depth discussion. Moderates, centrists, and independents (of which I am one) are all common-sense people with whom you can reasonably discuss the issues.
Back up your talking points with credible facts and sources, be honest, keep to the high road, show others how the issues affect them and you will have made an ally of the common-sense majority, and hopefully an informed, vocal ally that will in turn do the same for someone else. We’re all in the same boat here – we need to get together, start talking and start acting so that we can be heard. The vast majority of the ‘bottom’ 90% of people in this country is made up of honest, good, reasonable, common-sense people of many income levels, from all walks of life, and while the rank-and-file Tea Party faithful makes up only a small percentage of this ‘bottom’ 90%, they’re currently framing the discourse and shaping the direction by making 90% of the noise. As the common-sense majority, we need to change that. We need to start talking, and keep talking, and then start acting…which will send a loud, clear message to decision-makers that we’re watching, we’re informed, we’re organizing, we’re acting and we’re demanding results.
We, and the politicians we elected to represent us, have allowed this inequality to go on for far too long. Our apathy, inaction and inability to deal with the temper-tantrums of the Tea Party have resulted in our worst fears becoming true. With no voices opposing the far-right fringe, newly-elected hard-right Republican politicians – directed by the wealthy puppets behind them – now use that reality as justification to enact unjust initiatives that further widen the already existing inequality. They tell us that this is what ‘we the people’ voted for because all they heard was the voice of the Tea Party. It has allowed, and in fact emboldened, the wealthy and powerful to now take huge, coordinated, far-overreaching steps in many states, to attempt to keep themselves filthy rich and on top, and to keep on squeezing the rest of us, systematically taking away our rights, eroding our quality of life and eventually destroying our modest way of life. They are creating their own reality, and we’re going to have to live in it unless we stand up for ourselves.
We need to flat-out ignore the falsehoods perpetrated by the far right fringe, and drown out their fact-deficient rants by presenting and discussing informative, fact-based realities with each other and with those who are on the fence or uninformed. Only in this way will we elevate the discourse and start to get things moving in a positive direction. And then we need to get up and start acting. Let’s prove to everyone what we already know: that we are NOT a small group of violent, extremist, selfish thugs, but rather that we are a majority that is peaceful, smart, and ready to go to work to defend what is rightfully ours. Remember, WE ARE the majority, we surround them, we have the potential to be heard the loudest, and we have the power!