Move the Middle

 

In the latest Ricochet podcast, Lawrence Fox ends the interview on a high note by calling on a bit of common sense that has escaped right-wing politicos for decades: You don’t win politics by moving to the middle. You win by moving the middle toward you.

While we are at it, move the left and the right as well. We have all strayed from better living.

Steve Hayward is correct. For America to thrive (or survive), the left needs to be redeemed and not just beaten in elections. A country cannot long endure half its citizens hating the others and objecting to all that they stand for, including free expression.

Too often, the right as well as left surrenders truth for comfort. Modern leftists often hate to be challenged, but at least they show passion for their values.

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is loving something more than what you risk. Do conservatives love truth and justice enough to advocate it even when there are harsh consequences? Is it more important that your children be free of harassment or that they learn to be virtuous persons who are free in their hearts?

Courage is attractive. Intelligent and disciplined conviction is attractive. Joy and optimism are attractive. Live boldly by the virtues you cherish and discontented people will wonder how they can get a little of that.

Don’t talk only to voters who seem most agreeable. Don’t talk only to the undecided. Just talk. Be plain so that you are trustworthy. Then speak of values grander than yourself and allow for people to surprise you with interest. One never knows who can be persuaded and when.

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  1. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    The Left is horribly broken these days.  I don’t think it can be fixed, but the nasty part can be split off from the salvageable part. 

    • #1
  2. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) (View Comment):

    The Left is horribly broken these days. I don’t think it can be fixed, but the nasty part can be split off from the salvageable part.

    Agreed. But I think we often make the mistake of presuming who can be persuaded.

    They say that sometimes a person must hit rock bottom to change. Others are suddenly awakened by epiphanies, new experiences, or new relationships. Everyone should be offered a chance to hear the truth. 

    We can remain wary of the villains while casting a wide net.

    • #2
  3. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    It’ll take carrots and sticks. We have to make it painful for them to remain children, and rewarding for them to grow up.

    • #3
  4. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    One doesn’t win by whining about which hill one doesn’t want to die on and instead by running the other guys off of the hill they’re on and down into the swamp over yonder. I recall one of John Adams’ lines from 1776: “This is a revolution, dammit! Sooner or later we’re going to have to offend somebody!”

    Mr. Fox is right. Free speech first and foremost. Without that, we’ve lost the ability to contest anything.

    • #4
  5. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Aaron Miller: Don’t talk only to voters who seem most agreeable. Don’t talk only to the undecided. Just talk. Be plain so that you are trustworthy. Then speak of values grander than yourself and allow for people to surprise you with interest. One never knows who can be persuaded and when. 

    I don’t disagree with anything you said. But I had been intending that the next time somebody brought up the issue of persuasion, I was going to mention a book review I read a few days ago.  The book is “Preachers, Partisans, and Rebellion Religion: Vernacular Writing and the Hussite Movement,” by Marcela K. Perett (2018).  The review appeared in the latest issue of American Historical Review, which I’m pretty sure is behind a paywall.  (I pay for an annual subscription.)  

    This sentence caught my attention: 

    In these vernacular texts, theology or catechesis was sacrificed to gaining the laity’s support, and facts were sacrificed to persuasion.

    So is that true in general, that facts are at odds with persuasion? 

    According to the review, the Hussite controversy grew increasingly acrimonious as it went on. “Theological accuracy and erudition” on each side were sacrificed in the cause of generating an emotional rejection of the other side. “[A]ll sides grew increasingly cantankerous and violent.”  That’s apparently what happened when persuasion was made the primary goal. 

    Is that the way it works in general?  

    The book sounds interesting but I’m probably not going to get around to reading it, even if the price comes down. I see that my university library has it, but I haven’t tried to borrow more books since the pandemic began.

    By the way, there is or was a Ricochet member who taught courses on Czech church history and would sometimes take students on a trip to Prague.  I can’t remember his name, though. Does anyone else remember? He was an occasional poster.

    • #5
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    According to the review, the Hussite controversy grew increasingly acrimonious as it went on. “Theological accuracy and erudition” on each side were sacrificed in the cause of generating an emotional rejection of the other side. “[A]ll sides grew increasingly cantankerous and violent.” That’s apparently what happened when persuasion was made the primary goal. 

    Violence isn’t persuasion; it is subjugation. 

    • #6
  7. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    The Left cannot be persuaded, because they would have to think.  They Feel, so we need emotional arguments.  We cannot appeal to their brains or their values, we must appeal to their guts.

    • #7
  8. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    So is that true in general, that facts are at odds with persuasion?

    No, that’s not true. But it’s tempting to focus too much on common ground because that’s an area of comfort and amicable discussion. 

    Common ground is a place to begin because what we share helps to establish trust and to encourage us. One will fight harder to persuade a friend than to persuade a stranger. It’s good to establish a relationship first, whenever possible. 

    But a good friendship helps all involved to progress toward truth and justice. Eventually, it is necessary to confront disagreements that matter. 

    To maintain perspective of what matters most, it helps to step back from debates and negotiations occasionally. I think that’s how many people in capitols get in trouble — they get trapped in focus on what is possible or feasible, rather than on what is true and good and necessary. 

    Not all people want truth and justice. Evil masks itself as good. Many will be fooled to the end. Many reject the good more deliberately. The “facts” won’t persuade such people and we must accept that.

    We have to trust God to lead us to people with open minds and open hearts.  If sometimes we are outnumbered and lose the battles, we can be glad that even a few might be opened to eternal truths.

    • #8
  9. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) (View Comment):

    The Left is horribly broken these days. I don’t think it can be fixed, but the nasty part can be split off from the salvageable part.

    Agreed. But I think we often make the mistake of presuming who can be persuaded.

    They say that sometimes a person must hit rock bottom to change. Others are suddenly awakened by epiphanies, new experiences, or new relationships. Everyone should be offered a chance to hear the truth.

    We can remain wary of the villains while casting a wide net.

    Waiting until they hit rock bottom didn’t save Venezuela.

    • #9
  10. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    The left is trying to cancel Thomas Sowell. 

    • #10
  11. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    So is that true in general, that facts are at odds with persuasion?

    No, that’s not true. But it’s tempting to focus too much on common ground because that’s an area of comfort and amicable discussion.

    Common ground is a place to begin because what we share helps to establish trust and to encourage us. One will fight harder to persuade a friend than to persuade a stranger. It’s good to establish a relationship first, whenever possible.

    But a good friendship helps all involved to progress toward truth and justice. Eventually, it is necessary to confront disagreements that matter.

    To maintain perspective of what matters most, it helps to step back from debates and negotiations occasionally. I think that’s how many people in capitols get in trouble — they get trapped in focus on what is possible or feasible, rather than on what is true and good and necessary.

    Not all people want truth and justice. Evil masks itself as good. Many will be fooled to the end. Many reject the good more deliberately. The “facts” won’t persuade such people and we must accept that.

    We have to trust God to lead us to people with open minds and open hearts. If sometimes we are outnumbered and lose the battles, we can be glad that even a few might be opened to eternal truths.

    I think what’s needed are some real life, documented, detailed examples where one person persuaded another of anything political. I expect they will be very hard to find. 

    • #11
  12. Goldgeller Member
    Goldgeller
    @Goldgeller

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    So is that true in general, that facts are at odds with persuasion?

    No, that’s not true. But it’s tempting to focus too much on common ground because that’s an area of comfort and amicable discussion.

    Common ground is a place to begin because what we share helps to establish trust and to encourage us. One will fight harder to persuade a friend than to persuade a stranger. It’s good to establish a relationship first, whenever possible.

    But a good friendship helps all involved to progress toward truth and justice. Eventually, it is necessary to confront disagreements that matter.

    To maintain perspective of what matters most, it helps to step back from debates and negotiations occasionally. I think that’s how many people in capitols get in trouble — they get trapped in focus on what is possible or feasible, rather than on what is true and good and necessary.

    Not all people want truth and justice. Evil masks itself as good. Many will be fooled to the end. Many reject the good more deliberately. The “facts” won’t persuade such people and we must accept that.

    We have to trust God to lead us to people with open minds and open hearts. If sometimes we are outnumbered and lose the battles, we can be glad that even a few might be opened to eternal truths.

    I think what’s needed are some real life, documented, detailed examples where one person persuaded another of anything political. I expect they will be very hard to find.

    I think people get persuaded all the time. I went back and forth over typing out a longer response or a shorter response. But the evidence for persuasion, above and beyond activating different parts of ones identity occurs. I don’t have a ton of specific examples because I don’t really encounter that type of talk. But it does occur. Unfortunately I’m more familiar with mass public opinion than individual level. 

    I think WaPo had a piece on Katie McHugh and how she changed her mind from her Breitbart days if you want an example of a switch. Jonathan Haidt mentions how encountering Sowell’s work and some other conservatives’ works caused him to reevaluate his measures of morality. And we know Supreme Court Justices argue all the time to persuade each other to change their positions (and this is strong evidence because their speech is performative). 

    • #12
  13. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    I think what’s needed are some real life, documented, detailed examples where one person persuaded another of anything political. I expect they will be very hard to find.

    Not really. Several Ricochet members have said they used to be leftists. That actor on the podcast, Lawrence Fox, mentioned that some of his friends are starting to realize how bad the anti-speech culture has become. On Ricochet, many of us have been persuaded on a particular issue by our fellow conservatives or at least been exposed to arguments we hadn’t considered before.

    EHerring (View Comment):

    Waiting until they hit rock bottom didn’t save Venezuela.

    It’s true that sometimes people realize their mistakes too late and all suffer for it. We shouldn’t wait for people to hit rock bottom. My point was rather that a person who previously refused your arguments or example might be ready for it today. We must keep offering truth so that those who are ready for it will encounter it or be reminded.

    Conservatives, including myself, are often too passive and too content to talk among ourselves where our ideas are welcome. It is important that truth remains present in the public square and is not hidden away in our homes. We must agitate where lies and misunderstandings have become the norm.

    • #13
  14. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Goldgeller (View Comment):
    I think people get persuaded all the time

    Oh, yes, they get persuaded all the time. I can certainly point to examples where I’ve been persuaded. But I’m not sure I can point to an example of one person persuading another. 

    • #14
  15. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    I think what’s needed are some real life, documented, detailed examples where one person persuaded another of anything political. I expect they will be very hard to find. 

    Not really. Several Ricochet members have said they used to be leftists. That actor on the podcast, Lawrence Fox, mentioned that some of his friends are starting to realize how bad the anti-speech culture has become. On Ricochet, many of us have been persuaded on a particular issue by our fellow conservatives or at least been exposed to arguments we hadn’t considered before. 

    I’ve been persuaded by liberals on many issues. Now the liberals have become leftists, and I haven’t followed them there.  But that’s not the same as an example of one person persuading another of anything political.

    Conseevatives, including myself, are often too passive and too content to talk among ourselves where our ideas are welcome. It is important that truth remains present in the public square and is not hidden away in our homes. We must agitate where lies and misunderstandings have become the norm. 

    I agree with this 100 percent.

    • #15
  16. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Goldgeller (View Comment):
    I think people get persuaded all the time

    Oh, yes, they get persuaded all the time. I can certainly point to examples where I’ve been persuaded. But I’m not sure I can point to an example of one person persuading another.

    Typically, I think people are persuaded cumulatively or more in hindsight. You plant the seed; you nurture an idea or doubt already in their mind. When a person is alone, changing one’s mind is less deterred by pride and not distracted by the continued flow of conversation or circumstances. 

    I’d be interested to hear from any Ricochet member who was converted on an idea and remembers exactly how the change happened. My guess is that few remember the details because it’s usually a gradual change. 

    More than a few times, I have been convinced at least that I did not give opposition enough credit and their arguments are more reasonable than I imagined. But even if I can recall the topic, it’s hard to recall the specific argument that struck me as reasonable. That’s a failure on my part.

    • #16
  17. Goldgeller Member
    Goldgeller
    @Goldgeller

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Goldgeller (View Comment):
    I think people get persuaded all the time

    Oh, yes, they get persuaded all the time. I can certainly point to examples where I’ve been persuaded. But I’m not sure I can point to an example of one person persuading another.

    Typically, I think people are persuaded cumulatively or more in hindsight. You plant the seed; you nurture an idea or doubt already in their mind. When a person is alone, changing one’s mind is less deterred by pride and not distracted by the continued flow of conversation or circumstances.

    I’d be interested to hear from any Ricochet member who was converted on an idea and remembers exactly how the change happened. My guess is that few remember the details because it’s usually a gradual change.

    More than a few times, I have been convinced at least that I did not give opposition enough credit and their arguments are more reasonable than I imagined. But even if I can recall the topic, it’s hard to recall the specific argument that struck me as reasonable. That’s a failure on my part.

    I guess I’d say you have a few observational studies that look at the association of newspaper endorsements on vote direction and vote share and there some instances of credible shifts or switching when you get some good controls. But I think the idea that the change is gradual or mix of “me persuading you to think about and internalize something in your own way” should count. But I can’t think of too many switches based on direct debates. I’m a bit stubborn so I’ll say I believe they occur and that most of the issue is that I simply don’t read the relevant material. 

    • #17
  18. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Goldgeller (View Comment):
    I think people get persuaded all the time

    Oh, yes, they get persuaded all the time. I can certainly point to examples where I’ve been persuaded. But I’m not sure I can point to an example of one person persuading another.

    Typically, I think people are persuaded cumulatively or more in hindsight. You plant the seed; you nurture an idea or doubt already in their mind. When a person is alone, changing one’s mind is less deterred by pride and not distracted by the continued flow of conversation or circumstances.

    I’d be interested to hear from any Ricochet member who was converted on an idea and remembers exactly how the change happened. My guess is that few remember the details because it’s usually a gradual change.

    More than a few times, I have been convinced at least that I did not give opposition enough credit and their arguments are more reasonable than I imagined. But even if I can recall the topic, it’s hard to recall the specific argument that struck me as reasonable. That’s a failure on my part.

    That’s right, I think, though I’m not so sure it’s a failure because I don’t recall a specific argument. Usually it’s not a specific argument, anyway.  It’s a whole bunch of things that come together. 

    • #18
  19. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Goldgeller (View Comment):
    I guess I’d say you have a few observational studies that look at the association of newspaper endorsements on vote direction and vote share and there some instances of credible shifts or switching when you get some good controls.

    We know that politics and culture in America have generally drifted left, even as the gap between left and right widened. If the culture can shift one way, it can shift another way. 

    The Great Awakening is one example of a shift rightward, as I recall. The Reagan years and Tea Party election of governors and Constitution-minded reps in Congress is another. Pope John Paul II revived interest in orthodoxy among young Catholics. Bishop Barron is attracting millions on YouTube and getting invited to discussions outside conservative circles. There’s hope. 

    • #19
  20. Goldgeller Member
    Goldgeller
    @Goldgeller

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Goldgeller (View Comment):
    I guess I’d say you have a few observational studies that look at the association of newspaper endorsements on vote direction and vote share and there some instances of credible shifts or switching when you get some good controls.

    We know that politics and culture in America have generally drifted left, even as the gap between left and right widened. If the culture can shift one way, it can shift another way.

    The Great Awakening is one example of a shift rightward, as I recall. The Reagan years and Tea Party election of governors and Constitution-minded reps in Congress is another. Pope John Paul II revived interest in orthodoxy among young Catholics. Bishop Barron is attracting millions on YouTube and getting invited to discussions outside conservative circles. There’s hope.

    Agreed. There are some reasons to be positive about many developments. 

    • #20
  21. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    We are lost as a Republic. Free expression is forever dead. 

    • #21
  22. Goldgeller Member
    Goldgeller
    @Goldgeller

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    We are lost as a Republic. Free expression is forever dead.

    There are some real dangers out there given the type of market power many large tech companies have, but I want to encourage you that a lot of these censors have really started to overreach in ways that are creating some real pushback. I think the success of orgs like FIRE, magazines like Quillette, the profitability of running substacks makes me think there is a way forward. It won’t be easy. But there is a way forward. Also there is also just the very likely probability that the woke crowd will implode on itself as grievances begin to cut in every direction. 

    • #22
  23. MartinB Member
    MartinB
    @MartinB

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller: Don’t talk only to voters who seem most agreeable. Don’t talk only to the undecided. Just talk. Be plain so that you are trustworthy. Then speak of values grander than yourself and allow for people to surprise you with interest. One never knows who can be persuaded and when.

    I don’t disagree with anything you said. But I had been intending that the next time somebody brought up the issue of persuasion, I was going to mention a book review I read a few days ago. The book is “Preachers, Partisans, and Rebellion Religion: Vernacular Writing and the Hussite Movement,” by Marcela K. Perett (2018). The review appeared in the latest issue of American Historical Review, which I’m pretty sure is behind a paywall. (I pay for an annual subscription.)

    This sentence caught my attention:

    In these vernacular texts, theology or catechesis was sacrificed to gaining the laity’s support, and facts were sacrificed to persuasion.

    So is that true in general, that facts are at odds with persuasion?

    According to the review, the Hussite controversy grew increasingly acrimonious as it went on. “Theological accuracy and erudition” on each side were sacrificed in the cause of generating an emotional rejection of the other side. “[A]ll sides grew increasingly cantankerous and violent.” That’s apparently what happened when persuasion was made the primary goal.

    Is that the way it works in general?

    The book sounds interesting but I’m probably not going to get around to reading it, even if the price comes down. I see that my university library has it, but I haven’t tried to borrow more books since the pandemic began.

    By the way, there is or was a Ricochet member who taught courses on Czech church history and would sometimes take students on a trip to Prague. I can’t remember his name, though. Does anyone else remember? He was an occasional poster.

    I believe the Ricochet member you’re looking for is @FlaggTaylor.

     

    • #23
  24. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    MartinB (View Comment):
    I believe the Ricochet member you’re looking for is @FlaggTaylor.

    Pretty sure that’s right. Thank you.

    • #24
  25. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    EHerring (View Comment):

    The left is trying to cancel Thomas Sowell.

    Guilty of ‘multiracial white supremacy’, no doubt.  People must be protected from his words in our anti-fascist, anti-racist New America. 

    Boy, am I glad that Parler, that haven of fringe extremists who deserved to get Cancelled by our antifascist web of pro-social oligarchies, is too handicapped to make people generally aware of this.

    • #25
  26. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    So is that true in general, that facts are at odds with persuasion?

    No, that’s not true. But it’s tempting to focus too much on common ground because that’s an area of comfort and amicable discussion.

    Common ground is a place to begin because what we share helps to establish trust and to encourage us. One will fight harder to persuade a friend than to persuade a stranger. It’s good to establish a relationship first, whenever possible.

    But a good friendship helps all involved to progress toward truth and justice. Eventually, it is necessary to confront disagreements that matter.

    To maintain perspective of what matters most, it helps to step back from debates and negotiations occasionally. I think that’s how many people in capitols get in trouble — they get trapped in focus on what is possible or feasible, rather than on what is true and good and necessary.

    Not all people want truth and justice. Evil masks itself as good. Many will be fooled to the end. Many reject the good more deliberately. The “facts” won’t persuade such people and we must accept that.

    We have to trust God to lead us to people with open minds and open hearts. If sometimes we are outnumbered and lose the battles, we can be glad that even a few might be opened to eternal truths.

    I think what’s needed are some real life, documented, detailed examples where one person persuaded another of anything political. I expect they will be very hard to find.

    I think F. A. Hayek was persuaded by Mises and his associates, but that could be a misconception on my part.

    • #26
  27. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    The Left cannot be persuaded, because they would have to think. They Feel, so we need emotional arguments. We cannot appeal to their brains or their values, we must appeal to their guts.

    Is feeling, as opposed to thinking, the (or, a) natural consequence of 3 generations of unheard-of prosperity?

    Similarly, could it be that the primacy of health and longevity is as well?

    • #27
  28. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    Professors now fear the monsters they created.

    you can’t reason with them. People were attacking Sen Tim Scott for not supporting a min wage increase, said he wants to keep people poor. Of course, I had to weigh in:

    Me: It is up to people, not government to raise themselves out of poverty. They do so by making better life choices and working hard. They must finish high school, not have kids out of wedlock, get married, and stay married.

    Leftie: …and to this Elizabeth person I didn’t realize that being an adult meant you are required to be married? That’s new lol

    Me: No, you don’t have to be married to be an adult, but being a single parent means your kids are highly likely to be raised in poverty, join gangs, drop out of school, do drugs, engage in criminal activity, and stay poor.

    Leftie: oh my then my intelligent daughter is doomed 😱… better prepare her for gang life right now!

    Me: You joke but the illegitimacy rate is a big driver for exactly what I said. I often have single parents tell me I am wrong because their kids turned out ok. They ignore the fact that they are a minority, that a majority of such families struggle to climb out of that bottom rung.

    And the finale, she offers this to prove my comment about single parenthood is player in poverty’s wrong:

    Leftie: College degree, government employee, single mother from an abusive relationship where he was raping me, making my way for my daughter to show her she doesn’t need to be married to be happy 🖕🏻😚 by the way do you have Medicaid? Do you have SSI? SSA? Ever use police, fire, EMS? You mention military, if your educated enough do you realize that these are socialist programs? Do better research hunnie ☺️

    • #28
  29. Kelly D Johnston Coolidge
    Kelly D Johnston
    @SoupGuy

    Laurence Fox’s introductory video for his mayoral campaign is something Republicans running in blue states and suburbs should emulate. Won’t work everywhere, but wow, if I were a Philadelphia suburban GOP candidate for state legislature or Congress, I’d mimic this. It has all the ingredients and post-pandemic emotional connections. Watch and listen

     

    • #29
  30. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Goldgeller (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    We are lost as a Republic. Free expression is forever dead.

    There are some real dangers out there given the type of market power many large tech companies have, but I want to encourage you that a lot of these censors have really started to overreach in ways that are creating some real pushback. I think the success of orgs like FIRE, magazines like Quillette, the profitability of running substacks makes me think there is a way forward. It won’t be easy. But there is a way forward. Also there is also just the very likely probability that the woke crowd will implode on itself as grievances begin to cut in every direction.

    None of that matters. They control all the power and have total high ground. Say the wrong thing at the wrong time and your life is over. 

    THey will next move to direct violence. This has all happened before. It will happen again

    • #30