Recently, I came across an article entitled “10 Ways We Can Bridge the Great American Political Divide” in which a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley named Robert B. Reich offered tips and suggestions on how to talk to the Great Unwashed, otherwise known as conservatives (an endangered species in Berkeley).
“Trump has intentionally cleaved America into two warring camps: pro-Trump or anti-Trump,” wrote Reich. “Most Americans aren’t passionate conservatives or liberals, Republicans or Democrats. But they have become impassioned for or against Trump. As a result, people with different political views have stopped talking with each other. This is a huge problem because democracy depends on our capacity to deliberate together. So what can we do – all of us – to begin talking across the great divide?”
Dr. Reich builds his article from the obligatory platform that all conservatives are racist, and it goes downhill from there. The funny thing about Reich’s article is his assumption that conservatives (besides being racist to a person) are essentially ignorant, and all he has to do is explain things more thoroughly and then we’re sure to change our minds and agree with him. And if we don’t, we’re racist.
This brings me to the point of this column: the language barrier. Progressives and conservatives speak two different languages. Progressives speak Emotion. Conservatives speak Logic. Too often, the two groups cannot communicate because each is incapable of bridging the language barrier.
Progressives live by emotion. Listen to the platform of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Bernie Sanders and all the things they want to accomplish: Medicare for All, free college, universal jobs guarantee, housing as a human right, open borders and unfettered immigration, “New Green Deal” to combat climate change, as well as campaign finance reform and a reform of the justice system.
This wish list is based on pure emotion and depends on the actions of the Magic Money Fairy who grants all wishes regardless of cost. It’s all “free.”
But those stupid, ignorant conservatives don’t believe in the Magic Money Fairy and think nothing is “free” except Rights granted by God. Everything else has to be paid for by someone. When progressives are asked where the Magic Money Fairy gets her funding, things get a little less “free.”
Bernie Sanders estimates “free” college tuition would cost $75 billion. He says the federal government would fund two-thirds of that cost using a tax on Wall Street trading, but participating states would have to kick in the remaining costs. So much for “free.”
Medicare for All would cost a trifling $1.4 trillion – that’s trillion with a “T.” CNN Money reports, “To pay for it, all Americans and employers would see a tax hike. Sanders called for a new 2.2 percent income tax on all Americans and a 6.2 percent levy on employers. He would also increase taxes on the wealthy.” So much for “free.”
These are logical facts – which is why progressives can’t grasp them. Conservatives can’t understand why progressives don’t comprehend higher taxes mean nothing is “free.” Progressives don’t understand why conservatives don’t believe in the Magic Money Fairy, who gets her funding from the endless, bottomless source of taxpayers and then redistributes it evenly among everyone. That’s only fair, right?
Consider a typical conversation:
The emotion-driven progressive says, “We need universal fill-in-the-blank! It’s compassionate! It’s fair!”
The logic-driven conservative says, “What’s fair or compassionate to force people at the point of a gun to take all their money to provide fill-in-the-blank to people who haven’t worked for it?”
The emotion-driven progressive will say, “Then we need to tax the rich more!”
The logic-driven conservative will say, “Let’s add up every cent of every person in America who makes more than, say, $90,000 per year. Now let’s confiscate it all. It still wouldn’t cover more than a tiny fraction of the cost of fill-in-the-blank.”
And so the discourse will continue, back and forth and back and forth, between two groups of people speaking unintelligible languages, made worse because the basis for both are in English, so both sides are under the mistaken impression communication should be easy.
Finally, when too many facts and figures and numbers come their way, progressives will metaphorically put their fingers in their ears and shout, “La la la la la, I can’t heeeeaaaaarrr you because you’re a raaaacist!!!!” And that’s the end of the conversation.
When a progressive tries to explain to a conservative the benefits of, say, Medicare for All or a universal basic income, he or she (or zhe) doesn’t think logically about how these things will be funded. They simply see it as the best way to restore human dignity and usher in utopia. They want what they want, the Magic Money Fairy will provide – and if you disagree, then you’re a racist.
When a conservative tries to explain to a progressive about the costs associated with social programs like these, he or she (no zhes, thank you) doesn’t think emotionally about human dignity and utopian ideals. They’re thinking with hard cold reality about bottom-line dollars and cents, and conclude it’s fiscally impossible. (“Fiscal impossibility” is generally interpreted as “racist” by those who speak Emotion.) It’s not that conservatives don’t have compassion for the poor; it’s that enough money doesn’t exist on the planet to fund the utopian ideals dreamed up by progressives to fund their poverty-elimination programs. Conservatives would rather help the poor by providing opportunity than redistributing income.
Columnist Mychal Massie attributes the progressive inability to speak Logic to their preference for living in Fantasyland. “Democrats and Cortez want us to believe that all we have to do is embrace their fantasy for America, give them our votes and voilà, instant utopia,” he writes. “But remember … Cortez and Democrats omitted the single most important point of their utopian fantasy: how she/they plan to pay for everything she proposes.”
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear. The Dr. Reiches of the world speak both languages perfectly. Reich was a Cabinet member for Bill Clinton. He knows very well the numbers don’t add up for socialist policies. He only speaks Emotion to play to the progressive useful idiots to garner more power for the left, just like conservative politicians do for the right. It’s the nature of the game.
But as I’ve said before, Trump is the game-changer. It remains to be seen how this plays out.