A Conservative's Circle of Friends

There’s been some talk about friendships in politics thanks to an article that appeared in the Atlantic describing how willing conservatives and leftists are willing to go outside their ideological circles to make friends.

As highlighted by the Atlantic, the contrast is striking:

Out conservatives may face social isolation. Roughly 92 percent of conservatives said they would be friends with a liberal, and just 3 percent said that they would not have a liberal friend. Among liberals, however, almost a quarter said they would not have a conservative friend. Would UNC be a better place without conservatives? About 22 percent of liberals said yes. Would it be a better place without liberals? Almost 15 percent of conservatives thought so.

It’s striking that the party that trumpets itself as the most accepting, open-minded, and diverse is the least so when it comes to ideological positions. Conservatives aren’t so closed-minded as the left believes and tend to welcome everyone more readily. The reason for this was perfectly highlighted by Charles Krauthammer in a Washington Post article in 2002.

“To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil,” wrote Krauthammer.

Conservatives thinking that leftists are are stupid isn’t, by and large, a malicious take. Krauthammer goes on to explain that the stupidity displayed by the left is due to its fundamental misunderstanding of humanity that subsequently leads them to stupid solutions and ideas:

Liberals tend to be nice, and they believe — here is where they go stupid — that most everybody else is nice, too. Deep down, that is. Sure, you’ve got your multiple felon and your occasional war criminal, but they’re undoubtedly depraved ‘cause they’re deprived. If only we could get social conditions right — eliminate poverty, teach anger management, restore the ozone, arrest John Ashcroft — everyone would be holding hands smiley-faced, rocking back and forth to “We Shall Overcome.”

Liberals believe that human nature is fundamentally good. The fact that this is contradicted by, oh, 4,000 years of human history simply tells them how urgent is the need for their next seven-point program for the social reform of everything.

Conservatives see a glaring naiveté and many of us, myself included, believe that if we can just get the right piece of information into the hands of a leftist they’ll start to see their current views as foolish and turn away from them. Conservatives understand that in order to get that information into their hands, the leftist first has to be willing to receive it, and thus the Conservative will engage in an attempt at friendship.

To be clear, a conservative doesn’t just engage in friendships with leftists to push their politics. The general philosophy of a conservative or libertarian is “live and let live,” though you’ll always find the occasional conservative who is willing to let the state creep in on this or that issue in order to bring that subject in line with their beliefs by law. That said, conservatives will engage in friendships with leftists oftentimes because the leftist seems like a decent person who we want to be friends with.

I can attest to this personally.

On the flipside, however, is the leftist belief that conservatives believe what they believe because they’re just bad, selfish people. I’d be remiss to say that this is the position of all leftists, but if you stood in front of a room full of leftists and declared your beliefs, chances are the ones who would engage with you in an honest and friendly conversation would be dwarfed by the leftists willing to draw and quarter you right there.

It’s easier to engage with someone if you think you can help them improve in some way through education and comradery. It’s much harder when you see the other person as an intentional foil to a better world.

I’ve lost many friends along the way because of my conservative-libertarian leanings. Despite someone knowing me for years, the revelation that I believe in a conservative style of governing has caused many of my leftist friends to abandon and even denounce me sometimes.

It’s an odd situation to find yourself in, and as a conservative, it can make one feel a sense of social unease. Every conversation has to be approached strategically and fights both verbal and sometimes physical, must be prepared for. You never know who will get upset or what will trigger it. It could be something as mundane as your views on nature conservation, as once happened to me on a plane where I had to defuse a very excitable woman who loved abortion and nature a little too much.

We often hear about how we need to come back to the middle and foster a political environment that doesn’t involve so much anger and hatred. Both the right and a good chunk of the left say this, but the fact is that the left has proven to be the most vitriolic, violent, and bad-tempered when it comes to engaging with the other side of the aisle.

If change is going to happen, the left has to be willing to step down off the soapbox and put down their raised “resist” fists. They have to understand two fundamental things.

One, that their opposition isn’t evil and have some very solid reasons as to why they believe what they believe.

Secondly, the leftists have to come to terms with the fact that years of living in a bubble where thoughts and ideas were carefully controlled may have generated a warped idea of what the world, humanity, and their own acquaintances are really like.

In short, they have to accept the idea that they might be wrong.

If they can do that, then perhaps we really will have a political revolution where two sides can come together and solve issues. Moreover, we’ll have an environment where friends, family, and co-workers can actually be friends while holding opposing beliefs.


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