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troubleinharlem's avatar

What do you think about this whole ongoing argument about conservative beliefs?

Asked by troubleinharlem (7966 points ) April 27th, 2010

Please no baiting/flaming or whatever, okay? We all have our own opinions that we’re entitled to.

I have some friends that are extremely conservative (they watch FoxNews, for those of you who want to make that connection), and some of the things that I’ve seen/heard them say seem to have “evidence” that backs it up, to some degree.

And to add to that, there are people who have beliefs that “If so and so disagrees with such and such, then its because they don’t want to face the truth.” Is that even a fair argument?

What do you think about the whole conservative/liberal (I think that’s the opposite) base?

Hopefully I asked this right… I spent 15 minutes trying to word it right.

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26 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

What can/should I think about it? I know my beliefs and I can change them given enough evidence – evidence, a concept lost on some people.

ninjacolin's avatar

i’ll comment on the belief part i guess:

beliefs change based on evidence processed by the mind. for example, if i say BLUE.. the last color i believe I typed was blue. But.. if i now type GREEN.. my belief has changed as has yours, the reader, about which color i last typed.

what you don’t know however, is that I’ve typed another color and deleted it. So, now that you know that.. your beliefs are modified yet again.

the point is: Beliefs depend on evidence for their existence. Sometimes you know the whole story, the rest of the time you don’t. Also, you can think you know the whole story while you don’t.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir : Ah… fair enough. :S
@ninjacolin: Do you think that beliefs have to do with environment/culture?

marinelife's avatar

Currently, there is much too much polarization. I think we should focus on what we have in common rather than our differences.

For example, I went to work a few years ago in a place in which most of the employees were much more conservative than I was. I was surprised by how much we shared in terms of values. Much more than they or I would have credited. I grew to like many of them to the point of socializing outside of work.

ninjacolin's avatar

@troubleinharlem i believe beliefs coerce all behavior, so yes.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

FOX is a dumbed down news organization that relies on sensationalism and conservative bias to bring in their viewer base instead of objective reporting.

It’s the TV equivalent of the NY Post.

Not where the thinkers go for information.

kevbo's avatar

Your question is vague, but this article does a good job of explaining basic differences between conservatives and liberals.

troubleinharlem's avatar

@kevbo: Thanks for that! That’ll help me out a lot in understanding all of this.

gemiwing's avatar

I have a deep and vast hatred for the phrases ‘Drink the kool-aid’ and ‘You just don’t want to face the truth!’ used as an argument. They’re simply statements about another person’s beliefs without anything behind it that the other person can counteract. It’s akin to saying ‘You’re face is stupid!’ on the playground; the only response back is a negative like ‘nu-uh!!!’. Much better to argue a point instead of the person. Saying ‘I disagree with you because of X’ keeps things moving, in my opinion.

I have no issue with Conservatives or Liberals, I have issues with how information is gathered, shared and used to expand profit margins under the guise of ‘we know what’s good for you’.

ninjacolin's avatar

I agree @gemiwing. To say: “You don’t want to face the truth!” is to accuse someone of complacency.

It could also be viewed as a passive-aggressive petition to demonstrate the validity of one’s conclusions.

Snarp's avatar

@gemiwing That kind of thing is standard for conspiracy theorists too. You’re just too lazy to find out the truth! You’re brainwashed! You believe whatever the media spoon feeds you. These are not arguments, they are the final statement that the individual making these statements has lost.

Nullo's avatar

I’ve been conservatively-minded since third grade; I remember being quite distraught when the teacher left halfway through the year.

I think that there are those who, for reasons that certainly seem valid to them, really, really do not like conservatism and thus have a tendency – deliberate or subconscious – to misrepresent it. This is not helped by the shot of endorphins that we give ourselves whenever we hear something that agrees with us.

Nullo's avatar

I’ve been conservatively-minded since third grade; I remember being quite distraught when the teacher left halfway through the year.

I think that there are those who, for reasons that certainly seem valid to them, really, really do not like conservatism and thus have a tendency – deliberate or subconscious – to misrepresent it. This is not helped by the shot of endorphins that we give ourselves whenever we hear something that agrees with us.

@kevbo, @troubleinharlem Be warned that the article smells of bias. And remember that conservatives are not necessarily Republicans, nor are Republicans necessarily conservative.

kevbo's avatar

@Nullo, duh. It’s written for non-Republicans.

Nullo's avatar

@kevbo
You’re saying that it smells of bias because it’s written for non-Republicans? o_o
What business have you posting that in a thread about conservatives?

kevbo's avatar

Heavens! I seem to have entered the wrong drawing room. What folly!

dalepetrie's avatar

I think you believe what you believe, and even though I’m extremely liberal, I have no problem with conservatives who are steadfast in their beliefs/ideologies. What I have a problem with is when people are too inflexible to change any part of their beliefs based on irrefutable evidence. I have a problem with politicians who use scare tactics to curry favor with a certain section of the electorate. I have a problem with people who are hypocrites, who say and do one thing, but apply a different set of standards to others. I have a problem with deliberate distortions masquerading as facts. I have a problem with obstructionism for political gain, and putting the priorities of self above those who one is elected to represent. I have a problem with people who repeat talking points of their side rather than actually thinking for themselves. I have a problem with the hysterical language and tactics often used in support of movements which have no basis in reality. I have a problem with the replacement of substantive debate on an issue with populist sloganeering. I don’t like when people try to use platitudes to stifle debate, or when they build straw men to attack the source of the argument, rather than addressing the argument itself. I don’t like when people take an anomaly and blow it way out of proportion to try to submit it as if it’s disproving something that is widely known. I don’t like when people ignore the big picture for the parts of the argument that suits their way of thinking. It is all fine and dandy in my opinion to be intellectually lazy, and it’s all fine and dandy to be politically outspoken, but you can’t have it both ways….if you don’t know what you’re talking about, you should stfu. And it happens on both sides, but I don’t think I’m being biased when I say that the things that people do which bother me have, in my lifetime, and PARTICULARLY in recent history, been far more prevalent on the right than on the left.

Some examples. Let’s look at abortion. I don’t believe it’s “life” until it can sustain itself (theoretically) outside the mother’s womb, and science has a definition of that, it’s 20 weeks, when the embryo (a non viable “potential” human) becomes a fetus (a potentially viable “unborn” human). I don’t honestly believe there is a God, though I don’t discount the idea out of hand, and so I have no moral qualms about abortion in the first half of pregnancy. But I understand when conservatives whose beliefs are informed by their religious views tend to believe it’s murder. I’ve got no problem with them protesting this, with trying to work through legal means to shape legislation if they can find a position where the majority agrees, so be it…but I don’t like when one takes it into his own hands and runs roughshod over the rights of others, tries to forcibly prevent people from doing what they want to do and have the legal right to do (sometimes to the extent of murdering abortion doctors in cold blood), because they think God doesn’t approve of abortions. I say, if there IS a God, and He does NOT approve, then He has the power to stop it without you interceding on His behalf.

Global warming is another example…there is not enough scientific evidence to say that global warming is 100% caused by man, and certainly some of the evidence that is out there has been “sexed up” for public consumption. But the fact remains that well over 90% of scientists believe man has contributed greatly to global warming, that global warming is real, and that we can have some impact on reversing the trend. Furthermore, any published arguments against this belief are almost always funded by energy interests who have a lot to lose if we try to meet our energy needs in a more green or “earth friendly” manner. Often people don’t consider the source yet the repeat the talking points as if they are 100% fact based, even if their “facts” are in contradiction with what is believed in the scientific community.

A perfect example of this….I live in Minnesota, we used to have very cold winters every year (and by most peoples’ standards we still do). By very cold, what I mean is, we’d hit a 2 to 3 week cold snap where it wouldn’t get above zero, we’d have snow and cold from October to May, and some days it would get to near 40 below with deadly windchills. In the mid 90s, when we first heard about el nino, a lot of this stopped, our winters became more moderate, sure there were some cold days and some snowy days, but not as many. Then it came to light after about 10–15 years in a row of more moderate winters than everyone remembers that it was part of a pattern with these warmer than average years being the warmest years on record since record keeping began. We began to see a trend emerging not just over 15 years but over the 120+ years for which weather records had been kept, and it was alarming that we’d never been this warm. Tons of other scientific information pointed out that this was not just some natural cycle, but part of something else. A overwhelming consensus was reached among the legitimate scientific community about what was happening and what could be done about it. But immediately, many conservatives began to side with the big business interests and tried to poke holes in the theory.

Now, even during these unseasonably warm years we’ve had for nearly a generation now, every year there are still some bitterly cold days. But every single freakin’ time we go from having nice temps (like say mid 20s in January), to suddenly being at 10 or 20 below for a week, we hear from the conservatives, “so much for global warming.” Yet, did I hear a single one of these voices say, “oops” or “maybe I was wrong” when the entire month of March went by this year and for the first time on RECORD we had NO SNOWFALL…March has ALWAYS been the snowiest month in Minnesota, and not only were we above freezing pretty much the whole month, but not even a trace of snow fell. And even liberals like myself didn’t point to this as “evidence” of global warming, as with ALL science, it’s one piece of the puzzle. So, serious people debate about the body of evidence, it’s the people who take one small anomalous event, which in the case of global warming isn’t even all that anomalous when you look at it in the perspective of recorded weather history, who try to tear down structures made of concrete and steel with a q-tip and a rubber mallet.

Or, using this same example, boy when it was revealed that some scientists at a university that no one had even heard of had published a very small piece of evidence supporting global warming theory, but had emailed each other about ways to make the evidence more “eye catching”, that was it for many, proof positive that decades of research by all manner of scientists was out to lunch, just as they suspected, global warming scientists collectively had an agenda. Which brings up another thing I hate…when someone can twist things around to point to an agenda which reasonably speaking, why would anyone have…what would be the benefit to it, while ignoring the very obvious agenda that is had by the people who are going against the grain…a profit motive.

Another way the global warming problem is exploited on the right (and another example of something I hate) is how the economic crisis and the rising oil prices, things which make people angry, and when people get angry, they look for easy solutions, can be used by crafty politicians to push through their agendas. For example, for reasons ranging from “global warming isn’t real” to “global warming may be real, but we still need to meet our energy needs in the short term,” federally protected wildlife preserves in Alaska which sit on top of comparatively small quantities of oil come under attack when someone says they want to drill. Then you have the Palins and such out there chanting “drill, baby drill” to a rabid fan base, effectively sloganizing an easy answer that basically does nothing to break our dependence on foreign oil, does nothing to ease the contribution to global warming, provides a very small benefit, and poses a potential threat to wildlife in the area. It’s an unabated self interest that drives me up the wall…“drill, baby drill” = “lower gas prices”, that’s the equation that people see when they buy into this false populism, they don’t see the other factors, our entire culture is increasingly based on distraction from reality, and as such everything you want the masses to hear has to be condensed down into short sound bytes. Substantive debate can NOT be boiled down to a simple slogan or chant.

The Tea Party is another great example of what I don’t like, because it employs all of this and more. So much of it is completely disconnected from reality. For example, I think everyone, liberal and conservative would agree that our government shouldn’t waste money, and that taxes should be no higher than they have to be on anyone. But the problem comes in that Obama on his first day in office lowered taxes on 98.6% of Americans, and has been working to modestly increase taxes on the top 1% of wage earners, who now pay a larger percentage of the Federal income tax burden, but a far smaller percentage of all other tax burdens. These people take to the streets to protest tax increases when their taxes have gone down. They take up a cause that was the brainchild of wealthy interests, but they don’t realize that there is a rich person pulling the strings. They use the historical Tea Party reference, when the Tea Party was about taxation without representation, whereas the purpose of any tax increases, even though the taxes of virtually ALL the protesters will go DOWN not UP, is to better represent those who are under-represented in our society. We are talking about fairer overall taxation for greater representation, not arbitrary taxation for no representation…the analogy on which the entire “movement” is based is a mis-reading of history.

Furthermore, Obama is trying to strengthen the social safety net, which a lot of Conservatives agree with, but whereas past efforts to give tax breaks to the extremely wealthy and to large businesses have gone unchallenged, any efforts for the government to help out those who truly need a hand up are derided as socialism. Worse, socialism is used interchangeably with communism and fascism, even though they are completely different things. People carry around signs of Obama with a Hitler mustache or a swastika on his arm, and they believe that. Again, they completely misread and twist and pervert history in favor of shock value and sloganeering. They are not open by and large to rational debate, because their anger comes from an irrational place where emotion holds more currency than facts. Yet, many of these same people are thrilled with Arizona’s new immigration law where a police officer can stop anyone they want on the street and ask them for their papers…that is the DEFINITION of fascism, yet we don’t see these tea partiers asking government to get off the backs of the immigrants.

And immigration is another good example of an issue where the facts are complex, a one size fits all easy answer tends to victimize and dehumanize people and causes far more problems than it ever fixes, but by shutting out or tuning out the complex facts behind the issue, it becomes easy to turn this into an us vs. them thing in order to exploit anger, which in turn leads people to ignore facts and debate in favor of platitudes. All of this stuff boils down to people who often might be intelligent enough to understand all the facets of issues, but who have become too intellectually lazy, too distracted, too complacent and placated to dig any deeper than what lies on the populist surface.

So I’ve seen these and countless other examples of conservatives in today’s world having very strong opinions, but basing them on ignorance, fear, misunderstanding and hatred. But I’ve also seen Conservatives who can argue their points without resorting to these knee jerk reactions. I once had a conservative explain to me that he supported the war in Iraq, not because there were ever WMD’s there, not because of any link to Al Quaeda…he knew both of those things were bullshit. His reasoning was somewhat based in fear, due to the fact that he was supposed to be in the WTC on 9/11. But he had come to believe that ANY despotic leader, even if they are just a scapegoat like Saddam, anyone who in a just world would no longer be allowed to live much less lead, SHOULD be taken out if for no other reason than to demonstrate the might of our military and the strength of our convictions. In other words, he did not try to come up with a false rationale for the war, he believed in it not because he was a “warmonger”, but because he honestly reasoned that making an example out of a despot was the path which ultimately would take the fewest lives, and which would keep our nation as safe as possible in this new world of terrorism. Now, I don’t agree with his argument, but it was well thought out, it was reasoned, it was not someone’s talking point regurgitated, and this guy was not stupid or ignorant by any means…he was very bright. He and I could agree to disagree about the best way to handle it. But for every one of him, I encounter 1,000 Conservatives who spit back one of the lies used to justify this war after the fact.

So my feeling is this….I’m conservative in some ways….for example, the death penalty. I believe that some people simply need to be removed from society because they’re being alive, even if behind bars, presents a clear threat to the safety of others in society. However I’m liberal in that I can’t support the death penalty in its current form, because our justice system’s use of a “reasonable doubt” standard of conviction is far from error proof enough to ensure that we never execute an innocent person. And as long as our legal system can not find a way to utilize the death penalty only where there is NO doubt, and only in the cases where the severity of the crimes truly permits it.

I am conservative in that I don’t believe our government should tax anyone more than they have to, and that they should not waste our tax dollars. I’m all for trimming government spending where it is appropriate to do so, I’m all for doing things as efficiently as possible without sacrificing efficacy. I do however support efforts to make our overall tax structure more fair. For example, why is it that I made so little money last year that the Federal government paid me $2,500 but I paid the state government $1,000? Why is it when my housing value dropped by 10% from 2009 to 2010, my property taxes went up by 1% in that same period. I was unemployed for 15 months and my wife worked ½ time and we have a son to take care of, plus I have a large mortgage and tons of bills….I paid a ton in taxes, sales taxes, state income taxes, vehicle taxes, gas taxes, property taxes, utility taxes…overall even though I had to take on great debt just to keep myself afloat, overall I paid a lot in taxes….but Federal taxes actually helped to offset that. This is what a progressive tax structure is all about, recognizing that all other taxes are by nature regressive, meaning that the less money you make, the higher your taxes are as a percentage of your income, and thus it should be used to adjust for that. And so taxes need to be lowered on the poorest and raised on the wealthiest, just to make our tax structure fair. But it’s an all or nothing, zero sum game with our lawmakers…one side wants all tax increases and no spending cuts, while the other wants all spending cuts and no tax increases. I am of the mind that whatever we NEED to provide to our society, things like schools, roads, other infrastructure, things that keep people alive, educated, healthy and productive, things that are too large in scope for individuals to tackle by themselves, that THIS is where government should step in. So when our schools are underfunded, I’m not going to want a cut to education funding. But I don’t want to pay for $800 hammers and $400 toilet seats either. This one side or the other mentality obscures common sense, this cognitive disconnect creates anger, anger creates susceptibility to fascist misinformation tactics and sloganeering.

And when Republican leadership (and yes, I know the difference between Republicans and Conservatives) blocks any initiatives put forth by Democratic leadership, 100% lock step without considering moving on anything, simply put because (as they were as much as caught red-handed admitting) they want to make Obama look like a failure, that is political obstructionism for self-serving purposes.

So, honest conservatives with points of view that have been reasoned, even if I vehemently disagree with them, I respect them for sticking up for their beliefs. I expect to be able to see substantive debate between them and people who are vying for the opportunity to represent me in government. Knee jerk conservatives and just plain ignorant conservatives who repeat and vigorously depend what they think they believe, I see these people as talking loud and saying nothing, and I feel they should strive to understand the whole story in support of their own opinions rather than allowing someone like Bill O’Reilly tell them what to think. I honestly wish there was more substantive and honest debate, my problem is that debate has become about personality and showmanship and not about facts, and that thought this is not 100% isolated to the right of American politics (though I’ve seen it FAR less from liberals than from Conservatves).

There’s my 2 cents or 20 bucks as the case may be

Nullo's avatar

@dalepetrie Protip: Massive Walls Of Text are almost never read.

Sarcasm's avatar

@Nullo Protip: @dalepetrie‘s are worth reading.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Nullo – which ironically proves one of the main points I made in my massive wall of text.

And FYI, just because YOU don’t read massive walls of text, doesn’t mean no one does. I did after all earn 16k worth of lurve by posting wall after wall of massive text that was read, appreciated, debated, discussed and commented on by many who actually appreciate analysis of questions that isn’t half an inch deep.

ETpro's avatar

I have noticed that people on either the far left or right fringe are often driven not by evidence and facts so much as deep-seated feelings and convictions. They are, in essence, fact proof. They fit the old adage, “My mind is already made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.”

I have little room for either such philosophy. I don’t give a hoot if someone if a lefty or righty, I care whenever they live in a fact-based universe or an ideology based universe. I can see good and bad in the agendas of both sides. I believe in open debate about real facts and the nuances of policies before picking a direction. Those who seek to stifle debate or to throw up lies with no support for them and just doggedly insist they are truths—I do not welcome into political discourse. They have no place running a country, because they will invariably run it straight into disaster.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@dalepetrie I read the whole “massive wall of text” and I agree with you wholeheartedly. You make exactly the kind of logical and reasoned argument that you hope for.

ETpro's avatar

@dalepetrie I second @Dr_Dredd on that. I agree 100%. For anyone who wants to push the fantasy that both sides are the same, see this discussion and the answers it is drawing on a rather different social Q&A site populated mostly by right wingers. http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/motion-to-subpoena-president-barack-obama/blog-306381/

And lest anyone think that is just an anomaly, I can provide links to many, many more.

dalepetrie's avatar

Thanks @all @most.

Sorry for that @Nullo, just being an ass!

mattbrowne's avatar

Here’s what I think: it’s great we live in pluralistic societies.

Keep the good stuff, change the bad stuff.

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