We’re only a couple of months away from Election Day 2012. The Republican National Convention is mocking Tropical Storms in Florida, and the Democratic National Convention is getting ready to throw a week long party in honor of my birthday in North Carolina. With all this buzz, and since Facebook is like being forced to go to a Town Hall meeting and listen as everyone tries to talk over each other about the important of the bakery tax, there is a good chance that some of you will probably try to convince me to follow your political beliefs.
Now, all of you out there should know that I am an immovable rock of solid convictions, possessed of a singular gift of divine providence, so your efforts when trying to convince me of anything are pretty futile.1 However, I happen to know some of you are as unrelenting as a toddler playing the “drop stuff” game, so I’m going to have to at least help improve the quality of your political arguments.
Why? Because I like arguing. This is not the same as debating. Debating is when you research things and have all the fact handy so that you can read them from index cards. The strategy there is to be better prepared than your opponent. I like arguing. A good argument is a thing of beauty, like when two kung fu guys fight on a bridge for no reason that was explained in the English dubs, but is obvious with subtitles. It releases endorphins and makes me feel like there is at least one thing in the world I’m good at beyond self-pity.
So, for the sake of better equipping you to give me a more satisfying future argument, here are some things that you should never do in a political argument, or conversely always do, because then I can mock you to my friends on twitter.
Reference Your Religious Beliefs
Let me be perfectly frank on this topic before we go anywhere else: If you mention religion in an American Political Argument, You are a loser.
This is not me telling you that having religious beliefs is a crime, or that your religion is wrong, or even that you shouldn’t allow your religion to effect your personal political stance.
It’s just that, if religion was going to persuade me, it already would have. It’s a bad argument tactic.
The addendum to this for Atheists is the same, your lack of religious beliefs aren’t going to change mine.
There are times and places for discussing beliefs. Politics is not part of that.
Regardless of what many people seem to believe, we are not, in fact, a Christian Nation. That doesn’t mean, however, that we are a Godless Nation of Heathens. If you truly wish to honor the Constitution, remember that we are a Nation founded for the purpose of allowing everyone to believe their own thing.
Even if they’re wrong.
Otherwise, we’d arrest everyone sporting Jorts.
Spouting Campaign Slogans or other Issued Rhetoric
If you come at me like a parrot that’s spent too much time sitting on a Campaign Tour Bus, I’m going to force you to eat crackers and sing show tunes for me until someone forgets to close the window on a particularly cold night or accidently lets the cat into your cage. Seriously, this is basically the argument equivalent of standing around old-timey boxing. You just stand there waiting for your turn to punch the other dude in the face. The problem is, we (unfortunately on many levels) don’t live in the oldie-times. So, while you’re waiting your turn for the face punching, the other guy just keeps smashing your skull in with his steroid enhanced super fists.2
You can’t support your beliefs with someone else’s words. There is nothing that makes me take a person less seriously than a desperate devotion to a phrase of sentence. Sound bites drive me insane. They’re talking points, not conversations. These are the places you’re supposed to start and build from.
If you allow the one sentence statements distilled from hours of conversation and speeches to become the entire message in your mind, you’ve lost the most important part of being able to support your own positions: critical thinking.
Facebook Image Shares
I automatically assume that if it is an infographic being shared on Facebook, it is a lie. Actually, a little bit of time spent fact checking shows that I’m probably right to assume this, since I haven’t seen one yet that wasn’t either a blatant lie or purposely misleading. Of course, since I’m not talking about a structured debate but pure, red-faced, spit screaming arguments, facts aren’t necessary. Arguments actually are, though. If you’re primary method for supporting your candidate is to click “share” on a picture on Facebook, then you’re really not really supporting your candidate, or issue, or policy, or petition.
Actually, Facebook hampers these things. I get angry at you for spamming my wall, a wall that should be filled with cute animal pictures, neat things that might or might not taste delicious, and the occasional update from friends and families. Facebook is not the brilliant platform for your sweeping political changes. It is entirely for bunny pictures.
I’m guilty of it myself. I will make a perfectly liberal statement and mark it with #TCOT. That’s the “Top Conservatives on Twitter” hash tag, by the way. I do it because it’s inflammatory. I do it because it will usually trigger a response from someone I’ve never met. I do it because it makes me feel like my voice is powerful and frightening.
I’m full of crap. I’m doing it because I’m a troll.
You do it because you’re a troll, too. You don’t win political arguments on twitter. No one wins a political argument on twitter
except for me because I’m a genius. The only reason you would even make those arguments is so that you can drive someone on the other side of the issue insane.
It isn’t even necessary for you to believe in what you say or make an articulate argument. If you say something to the opposition, you can pretty much guarantee that they’ll explode. This does nothing but cover the walls in explodey bits.
Fun, but not effective for convincing someone to change.
The Blame Game
One last thing before I stop preaching. When two people argue about politics, it almost always breaks down into a fight over who is responsible for all the crap in our world. They will completely abandon all talk of how to solve the problems in favor of screaming obscenities and blame at each other.
This probably makes everyone feel better in the long run, or at least it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, even it didn’t.
This is probably the most dangerous failure of growth that can probably exist.
If we spend so much time arguing over who is responsible for the problems at hand that we forget to solve the problems, they don’t get solved.
Here’s an idea, let’s solve the problems on the table, then we can all go out for pizza and argue all night long about who’s fault the broken lamp really was.
Not mine… for the record.
1- The Most flowery way of saying, “Stubborn as a Mule” that I could think of at this exact moment in time.
2- I am not intentionally implying that all boxers use steroids or have a super human mutation… only the particular fictional boxer referenced in this particular metaphor about old-timey boxing matches.