How to Argue Politics

Posted in blog post on July 28th, 2011 by Merrill Markoe

Well, the Halloween yard decorations are for sale at Costco and you know what that means: its almost Christmas. Also the political season is in full swing again.

Yes, I know its almost always  Christmas and Political Season.  They are two of the sado/masochistic traditions that we as a country hold so dear that we celebrate them year round. True, elections lack the galvanizing economy boosting-gift-giving-ritual action of the six months of Christmas. But come on!  They are also the gift that keeps on giving since they include everything else; They’re a team sport,  a reality show,  a contest,  a holiday, a source of constant histrionic bulletins and  cataclysmic updates. They not only contain gossip, passion and petty arguments, but they’re  full of  people who claim to be regularly communicating with Jesus!  Plus they’re far more terrifying than Halloween.

Unfortunately arguing politically has always been a problem for me. I’m just not very good at it.  I usually know how I feel about the issues but rarely have I done enough exacting research in to the various historical details and precedents in each case to annihilate the arguments of my opponents. Or at least that is what I always thought was wrong with my approach.  But lately, as I watch things play out in Washington, as well as abroad, I have become convinced that all of my old assumptions are now obsolete. As usual I was being kept from a winning hand by trying for too much over-achieving. That is why I have assembled the following tips on how a political argument is won.  I believe my pointers are useful to all, regardless of political leanings.

How to Argue Politics:

1.Begin by choosing an unshakable stance to which you are going to hold fast like you would to the steering wheel of a runaway vehicle with bad brakes.  Even when you sense you may be lurching wildly, or the steering wheel is unresponsive, just hang on tightly, no matter what you see or hear. As long as you are going a million miles an hour, there’s no need to continue looking at the road ahead. Rather your extreme devotion to keeping your foot on the gas pedal, despite your lack of ability to see what is in front of you, will be your rudder, your anchor. (Think: Boehner in the budget ceiling debates.Or Sarah Palin when confronted on any empty headed counter-intuitive thing she says.)

If you are not sure what side of the issues you are on,(perhaps because the candidates you find cutest seem to keep changing their minds) pick your position by making some kind of simple minded emotional connection to something tangential. How about music? Country music is often played by Republicans. Indie music is almost definitely Democrats. Unknown bands hoping to become famous by making a viral video during the election: Tea party.

2.Having done that, now go online, find a chat board that supports your new point of view, and select the bullet points of your argument FROM THE SENTENCES THAT CONTAIN THE MOST WORDS ALL IN CAPS!!!!

3.Never allow lack of information to keep you from the passion you have for your side of the argument. Nothing needs to be solved. Your argument should  exist in an unencumbered vacuum where it should be allowed to circle back to the point at which it started. There is no way you are wrong. Remember that. So take comfort in the fact that no matter what side you are on, there are some excellent ways to wipe out whatever your opponent is telling you.

If you are conservative and the other guy begins making some good liberal point involving basic ethics and human rights,stay your original course by having, at the ready, an ambiguous Biblical quote that can be interpreted as supportive of anything. For example “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” If you’d rather not invoke religion,then another good argument-ender is :“If clean air and the environment means so much to you, how come I don’t see you giving up your comfy home and your gas guzzling car?” Be sure to use as many complex metaphors as you can that reference Dwight D. Eisenhower or Ronald Reagan. Most people today can not remember who these men are, they just know they are impressive. So throw in a lot of statistics that they will be helpless to refute. Don’t worry if they’re not true. As long as you are speaking louder and faster than they do, they will give up so that they can get back to checking their messages.

If you are liberal and faced with a piece of a conservative’s  fiscal argument that seems too solid to dispute, it is always wise to invoke the people and customs of one European country or other to prove your point.  ” The people of Switzerland don’t carry guns and they have like one homicide a year.”The people of Sweden permit public nudity and drinking at every meal for the whole family and they have no rapes, ever.”The people of Belgium have socialized medicine and prescriptions cost a penny.”” The people of Denmark have legalized drugs and drug related crime is non existent. Plus the rate of addiction is half of what ours is.”  And if you are taken to task with the only real topper: “Well if the people of Europe all jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” you can simply answer “Yes. Because the people of Europe take better care of their infra structure than we do and their bridges are among the safest for jumping in the world.”

If the people of Europe  do not appeal to you, the old “How can we waste millions on ( war, supporting flailing dictators, tax cuts for the wealthy etc ) when there are children starving in our own back yard?” is a time honored all purpose stall. (And this despite the truth that no matter how much  spending  is eventually curbed, or redirected and no matter which party has the majority in the Senate, the extra money is never going to be used to feed hungry kids (unless they somehow can band together and become The Church of the Hungry Youngsters, thus making them eligible for grants or tax exemptions.) As a liberal, your ace in the hole will be any parallels you might care to make to Truman, FDR or JFK, three Democratic presidents whose policies are largely forgotten. So totally fabricate your details  since almost no one you are arguing with will have the smallest grasp of what the truth is. Chances are they will be too eager to to get back to staring at their phones to give it much thought.

4.Now as you begin your argument, remember that no matter what position you take, you’ll need to open with the following: “I may not agree with what you say, but I would defend to the death your right to say it.” Say this with conviction, despite your own lingering doubts and suspicions that were you actually called upon in this capacity, there is no telling what you could be counted upon to do.

5.Finally, remember that every single thing that the other guy says is definitely  wrong. There is no such thing as believing that someone is making a few good points on the other side of the argument. Taking in new information and changing your point of view in any way, ever, is considered weak. So once  you have decided what you believe, that is it. No room for more thinking.

6.No matter which position you have taken ,whenever you feel yourself starting to get confused or losing ground, feel free to stop for a minute, take a deep breath  and kill some time with a round of  blaming the media for distortions and bias. Both sides have equal rights to this.

7.Now get arguing! And take a hint from someone who used to work on talk shows: As much as possible tune out what your opponent is saying. Just Nod. Smile. Focus on the rolodex in your head and the snacks you are going to eat right afterwards. Then make your points, say you have a plane to catch and get the hell out of there.,




P.S. Ahem. Its not til November but if you’re the kind of person who pre-orders books…(additional coughing) Also Barnes and Noble

One Response to “How to Argue Politics”

  1. Jade E. says:

    This has been the best blog I have ever read! I completely agree that this is the only way people can make a valid political argument. The louder you are, the better you’re heard, right? If only we could always talk over people and be stubborn, I would never have to go to class again. But we have to be reasonable and understanding. Not when you’re talking about politics! When someone tries to make a political debate about the ideas and morals of one largely and loosely formed group I start to wonder, “why don’t we just vote for people, not parties.” We all know the answer, greed. Ms. Markoe, you have a fantastic style of writing and you’ve made my day so much better with your awareness and your ability to turn something negative into something worth reading and digesting. Comedy is a great way to help people see the truth. Although humerus, it’s very effective in reaching out to the masses, because it’s still very neutral. I will be honest, the first time hearing about Merrill Markoe was tonight when I was watching the Daily Show online. But, I am so thrilled to finally say to a friend that asks, “so, who’s your favorite writer?” My answer, “Merrill Markoe.” I am very excited to read more and buy your book. 😀 Thank you!

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