How to talk conservative

I finished reading “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” and I have to say, I got a lot out of it. Even if they are just approximations to the truth, it’s interesting to consider his various positions. Near the end he talks about religion and “groupishness,” and how people are too focused on the technical aspects of religious beliefs rather than what a religion accomplishes in a community, which he claims is its main benefit.

But what I found more interesting is the beginning of the book when he discusses the different moral make-up of liberals and conservatives (and libertarians) in this country. Namely, he claims that liberals care primarily about the following three things:

  1. caring for the vulnerable or victimized,
  2. the concept of oppression from bullies – or conversely the concept of liberty, and
  3. the concept of proportional fairness (you deserve a part of the pie since you helped make it, but you wouldn’t deserve any if you hadn’t helped).

By contrast, conservatives care about a larger set of six things, the above three as well as:

  1. the concept of sanctity,
  2. the concept of authority – when it’s just and those in power take proper responsibility, and
  3. the concept of loyalty.

I took away three points. First, liberals are bad at guessing what conservatives think, because they are somewhat blind to these last three things, and when they see conservatives go on about them, they assume conservatives don’t care about the first three, which is wrong, although it’s true that they care about them differently (especially proportional fairness: whereas liberals emphasize leaving nobody out, conservatives emphasize not letting people get extra, especially if it comes from their stuff). Second, if I, as a liberal, want to communicate with a conservative, I have to talk about all six of these with some level of understanding. Finally, statistics and other rational arguments only work if the person you’re talking to already agrees with you or if they are exceptionally open-minded – in any case you have to appeal to their morals before going into stats.

With that in mind, here are two rants against the Stop, Question, and Frisk policy, one written for a liberal audience, one for a conservative audience.

Liberal version First, the stop, question, and frisk policy targets minority men almost exclusively. Second, almost 90% of the events end up without an arrest, which means it’s unwarranted intrusion and bullying- typically the reason given for the stop is a “furtive movement”, which could be absolutely anything. Finally, there is a quota system in the police department which forces each officer to perform these unwarranted searches whether or not there is cause, which inevitably leads them to target the “least likely to complain,” namely young, poor minorities. We need to stop the police abusing their privileges in this way immediately.

Conservative version What is the difference between a police force and a gang of men who walk around with guns? The answer, in the best of worlds, is authority, intentionality, and the rule of law. Police have an important job to do, which is to protect us, and to keep the streets safe. And when they do a good job, we admire them for that and count on them for their protection. But imagine if, instead of seeing your neighborhood cop as someone you can count on, he instead consistently stops you on your way home from school or work and asks you suspicious questions, and sometimes even takes your keys from your pocket, and, while you’re locked in the police car, enters your apartment and terrorizes your family. This makes you feel like you are the bad guy, even though you did nothing wrong. After a while, it would make you and your neighborhood less trusting of the authority of the cops, which would lead to reckless behavior and lawlessness, because your rights are no longer being protected. We need to stop the policy of Stop, Question, and Frisk in order to make sure the police never become just a bunch of bullies with guns.