Or does it just make you want to sign up for a lobotomy? I thought so.
I’ve decided to explore this topic after my sister and her two boys spent last week up here in Fort Worth following the loss of power to their home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. My sister is not as outspoken as I and lives on a street full of hardcore, lifelong Republicans as is common in Houston. Sucks to be her. Furthermore, she and I are headed for a family visit next week during which we will masochistically immerse ourselves in a cesspool of diehard, Fox News-watching (and believing) Republicans who fly the Confederate flag on Robert E. Lee’s birthday.
Just today I was asked if I’d heard the rumor that Biden was going to bow out of the race just before the VP debate for “health” reasons and Hillary was going to step in as Obama’s new running mate. I can only presume that garbage was aired on Fox because these people do not obtain information from any other source. Perhaps Rush Limbaugh permeated their commons sense barrier as well, but I cannot know for sure. In any case, pro-Republican media sources are just one long circle-jerk, so it doesn’t really matter where they get their information (see comments below). It all goes back to Satan in the long run.
Intellectual debate is one of the highlights of my life. I loved living in Austin for just that reason. No matter which bar you entered, the scene was ripe for spicy discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the leading causes of war or the pros and cons of limited government. Agreeing and disagreeing had nothing to do with the shared enjoyment of testing and rehashing arguments as round after round was purchased into the wee hours. I rarely saw my sparring partners again, but those conversations stay with me.
In Fort Worth, of course, the vast majority of people here are Conservative Republicans who pride themselves on their bumper stickers indicating which pricey christian private school they send their children. I’m in a FreeThinkers group and love the conversation there – though we tend to agree with each other most of the time. But living in Fort Worth does at times make me yearn for the ubiquitous open-mindedness of Austin’s citizens and bar patrons.
Living in a town like this or on my sister’s street in Houston constantly begs the question of appropriateness of political debate. I’m outspoken and have little need for the approval of others, but also don’t have very tight relationships with my neighbors. When my sister’s neighbor across the street exclaimed, “Democrats suck!”, it was clear that arguing with the person would be unproductive and even less enjoyable. So why even threaten a relationship with a good neighbor, however politically bassackward they may be? It’s a question that will last through the ages.
In a previous blog, I discussed that our unwillingness to insert politics in “polite” conversation inhibits progress and stymies debate which is essential to a healthy democracy. We look to intellectual debate to be worthwhile, fulfill us, get our blood pumping, have fun, learn new things and test our acquired knowledge – not to wear us down, leave us worn and ragged and hopeless.
So, when is arguing with Republicans worth it? Here’s my hypothesis:
Arguing with Republicans is always worth it if they’re informed. Most of the Republicans I know are fairly well-informed, though most of them are also not regular church goers. I don’t know if that has anything to do with it, I just thought I’d put that out there. And while arguing with uninformed Republicans is akin to taking candy from a baby, it’s about as productive and fun as preparing for a triathlon by playing golf. I leave those discussions thinking, “What a dumbass!” rather than, “Oooh, that’s something to think about” or “That was fun” or “I shouldn’t drink so much if I’m going to have to recall shit from my AP History class.”
Arguing with Republicans is worth it if they use curse words in their every day vernacular rather than just when they’re angry. People who do not ever use curse words generally have some form of a stick up their ass. These people are not fun to be around in any event, let alone in a political arena. Even my own mother says “Shit!” every now and then. Those who can roll with the punches, play loosey-goosey and see the value in sarcasm are always worthy of a place in the forbidden world of political debate.
The previous rule applies to Republicans who drink alcohol and especially if they smoke weed. If they are a teetotaler, chances are they are wound pretty friggin tight and could erupt like Mount Vesuvius at any moment. Any real debate with these people should be left to the TV screen, no doubt peppered by the teetotaler’s spittle after images of nudity or Obama surging in the polls are projected.
Fiscal Repubilicans are always worth arguing with much more than Conservative Republicans. In theory, many of the fiscal Republican tenets make sense; they simply do not work in reality. Trickle-down wealth, lack of regulation, free market, etc. They sound good. They just don’t work. The problem with Conservative Republicans, however, is that they are one issue voters. Abortion in particular. For example, last week Ben Stein was on Larry King sternly criticizing the manner with which Republicans have handled this economy and are handling this specific economic crisis. After Robert Reich suggested he support Obama for just those reasons, Stein said, “No, it would not solve my problem with right to life, I’m afraid.”
One issue voters, mainly evangelicals, are the worst. They are uninformed and do what they’re told regardless of the consequences. There is no depth to their thought process and their leaders are unethical and unaccountable. I will not shy from an argument with these yahoos, but I also do not expect any positive result from these conversations. Most of the time, I have to present the flaws in christianity first because it is christianity that serves as the foundation for these people’s close-mindedness.
In general, if the Republican is cool and doesn’t take a quality discussion on the issues personally – you have the green light. If you’re like me and have no problem discussing politics with any schmo – even the racist ones – have at it! Enjoy it and remember that the discussion is what is important, not dominating, not winning or convincing. Simply having the discussion is productive. Especially if it’s over a good beer. I would avoid getting loud and redfaced – which can be hard after a few libations – but some of my best friends are knowledgable, fun Republicans and I wouldn’t have them any other way.