Tag Archives: Debate

Sine Qua Nons for Debate With “Conservatives”


Most self described “conservatives” in the US are actually regressive and reactionary. To have a productive debate, both parties must be able and willing to argue in good faith and possess a worldview that permits reason based on credible evidence and a potential change of opinion based on the results of that reasoning.

Anyone who’s spent more than a few hours trying to discuss a political or religious issue with an ideological opponent knows that most such arguments are fruitless. I’ve spent plenty of time banging my head against the calcified worldviews of (mostly) regressives, and I’ve learned that it’s not worth my time.

The question of how we can tell whether it’s worth engaging someone with an opposing viewpoint depends of course on the particular viewpoint, but I think we can come up with some very simple conditions, any of which will tell us that someone is unreachable by reason. The sine qua nons for a productive discussion with a right leaning thinker include :

  1. Does your opponent recognize Obama as the legitimate President of the United States? This will eliminate birthers and other hateful and otherwise demented extremists.
  2. Does your opponent agree that the current GOP represents the will of the very wealthy at the expense of the majority of US citizens? This is a truth so evident that anyone who refuses to acknowledge it is unreachable by reason. Note that the Democrats are also beholden to the very wealthy. This question is in no way intended to minimize the culpability of the Democrats.
  3. Does your opponent agree that climate change is happening, is at least partly caused by human activity, and represents a threat to life on earth as it now exists?
  4. Does your opponent agree that corporations have far too much power over our local and federal governments?

I’m very tempted to include more questions, about the need to pay every person a living wage for example, but I have to think about these.

I think this is a good start. A no answer to any of the above questions is an almost certain predictor of an unreachable opponent and a wasted effort on your part.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.