After following the great discussion yesterday at FireDogLake with John Dean and Dr. Bob Altemeyer about Dean's book, Conservatives Without Conscience, I started to think about the conservatives and Republicans of my acquaintance and how the nature of our conversations have changed over the last six years.
They dovetail nicely into Altemeyer's characterizations of Right Wing Authoritarians. There are some genuinely thoughtful people who hold conservative values, but are self-aware enough to recognize and distinguish between the claims and the actions of the Bush Administration. But there are also an awful lot of people who simply don't think critically and just reflexively defend this administration, despite mountains of evidence that their faith is ill-placed. I have one acquaintance (I hesitate to call him a friend) who will send me email after email with his "Blame Liberals First" talking points straight from Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. When I try to refute his rantings with those pesky facts, I inevitably get the line "Well, I don't approve of everything George Bush does, BUT..." and off he goes, absolving Bush of every bit of responsibility and blaming...you guessed it...LIBERALS.
Dr. Altemeyer says in his study that there are 25-30% of RWAs that are absolutely unreachable . Pathologically so. Certainly this acquaintance of mine falls in that category, maybe you know some yourselves or have run across a poster or two here the same way. But that means that there are 70-75% that are reachable. With the elections coming up, we have a vested interest in reaching those who can be reasoned with, who are open to looking at issues for themselves and not accept the dogma given to them by authority figures.
So I turn it over to you: How do you talk to a Conservative? How do we start bridging over the divisive rhetoric to start rebuilding what's been lost?
Oh, and just for fun: Here's a quiz to see where you fall in the authoritatian/libertarian spectrum.