Monday, August 05, 2019

Calming Down Political Disagreements / Not Inflaming the Crazies

There are lots of good reasons to try to tone down our political disagreements, making them more reasonable and civil.
   The one I tend to focus on is roughly Peircean: when disagreements become heated, discussion becomes more difficult / less effective. Inter alia, the participants become less likely to seriously consider each other's positions and arguments. Consequently, it becomes less likely that agreement can be reached.
   And / so: the resulting vicious shouting matches are more likely to inflame the crazies. In particular, IMO: the right-wing crazies who have proven themselves more prone to deadly violence.
   Also IMO: the more radical one side becomes, the less civil the public discussion becomes, so the less likely we are to come to agreement, etc.
   I tend to think (and have offered evidence) that it's the left that has radicalized most since ca. 2008. Obama, as has often been noted, wouldn't be in the running for the 2020 Democratic nomination--he's far too moderate. Furthermore, the contemporary left tends to adopt absurd positions virtually overnight (by the standards of public discussion) and then shriekily insist that anyone who questions them is a racist* (i.e.: a racist or some morally equivalent flavor of bigot.)
   On the other side of the equation is Trump, of course, who could make the pope cuss. He's terrible in all the ways we've all noted, and, as I said before the election, he was basically guaranteed to drive the extremist left even crazier--which means, basically: even more extreme. Now the two sides seem to me like rabid dogs, spewing spittle and going at each other with barely-restrained contempt and, to some extent, even hatred. (Though, uh...I guess rabid dogs don't actually feel contempt...)
   Speaking for myself, the extremism of the contemporary progressive left has definitely made me flip my shit. I believe them to be Orwellian, and I take that to be just about the worst thing you can be, intellectually speaking. Trump's a big fat liar--and, perhaps worse, an inveterate bullshitter. Which is to say (if Frankfurt is right): he has no regard for the truth. Which makes him a kissing cousin of the extremist left.

   (I tend to think that the left is worse on that score, mostly because it has, at its core, an anti-truth / anti-reason / anti-science set of theories. Trump is merely different in degree from a standard, lying, bullshitting politician: he just turns it up to 11. (At first I mistyped '22'...which may be more accurate...) But he's not a nihilist nor a relativist, nor a social constructionist, at least. Trump's disregard for truth isn't an ideal; that makes him less repulsive, at a theoretical level, to somebody like me.)
   Trump's Trump, and there's no fixing him. The same is true of many extremist lefties...but the left doesn't have to fix those latter. The liberals / moderates simply have to retake the Democrats by slapping down the extremist progressives. That, IMO, is eminently doable. That was the trajectory things took during the paleo-PC nonsense back in the late 80s-early 90s: the radicals went ascendant, the moderate left refused to criticize / control them...until their craziness became too crazy to tolerate...then the moderates--finally--stopped supporting/tolerating their bullshit.
   If liberals and moderates continue to tolerate the progressive left's intellectual and political vices, I don't see how anything can be fixed. Shrieking RACIST! at everyone who disagrees with you is guaranteed to lead to disastrous polarization. Especially when your policies are radical--which is basically equivalent to: seem absurd. You can't both (i) advocate radical, weird, unobvious policies and (ii) refuse to rationally discuss them with the aim of persuading the other side. And you definitely can't simply accuse the other side of prejudice every time they try to discuss them.
   So, IMO, the best thing that can happen, more or less immediately, for the country is for the moderates and liberals to reassert themselves and reject the radicalism and looniness of the extremist left. Move the discussion back toward the sane center, and the civility that typically resides there. We'll still have the problem of Trump...but if the left were to move to the center, the Trump problem would be solved in November of next year.
   Furthermore, a calmer, more civil public discussion--e.g. one in which people who are concerned about our massive levels of illegal immigration weren't automatically called "anti-immigrant" and racists--would be less-likely to inflame the genuinely racist and anti-immigrant extremists on the extremist right.
  My $0.02...but I'm pretty sure about this one.


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