I believe most everyone is born conservative.
Most everyone is born with the tools to act pragmatically, given the information and tools available to them. Most people are born in good moods, excited about the future, and ready and able to help others.
It’s only after we’re taught to hate and despise and be angry about perceived global injustice that we start veering left. And so it was with my conservative awakening.
Prior to the mid-80s, I, like most children, wasn’t very politically aware. Sure, I remember vividly arguing with kids on the bus to school that “Carter sucks,” and “Reagan rules.” But admittedly, there wasn’t really much substance to my argument.
When I got to high school, I remember I would lunch with two friends of mine who would consistently talk about President Reagan and what a lying, scheming, homophobic racist he was. At the time, Iran-Contra was raging, and they would rave on about the scandal and what a horrible person Reagan was.
The lightswitch the flipped for me was when I stopped to wonder how it was that my Dad, a very kind, intelligent, and thoughtful man, voted for Reagan and like him very much. How could my Dad be deceived by Reagan? Was my Dad actually a horrible man, himself? Had I missed something?
I remember going home one day to repeat the latest arguments I was hearing from my anti-Reagan friends and asking my Dad if it was all true. They’re arguments were so emotional and over-the-top, and I just didn’t believe that the American people could, by such a large margin, vote for such a disgusting man as Reagan apparently was.
Instead of telling me what to say, my Dad handed me the last four pages of the Wall Street Journal front section. He said these are the most intelligently written pages of any newspaper in the country and that he would save them for me every day if I wanted to read them.
So I started to read them. To be sure, I was also watching the nightly news, because I didn’t want to be left out of the lunch conversation. But I added to that the Wall Street Journal reading. It hit me pretty quickly.
The last four pages of the Wall Street Journal are their editorial pages, and the writers had to do their homework to be convincing. Reading those pages was not only an amazing refutation of the nightly news, but it provided me with about 20 times the amount of facts and information that I got from the news.
As I started to learn more about Iran-Contra, and United States politics in general, I started to engage with my friends. I remember being amazed at how quickly I went from thinking I wasn’t as knowledgeable to feeling like I knew way more about the subjects we discussed than they did.
I was routinely winning the debates, and it was exciting as hell. I felt like I had discovered some secret resource that provided me with information most people didn’t know or understand. And it was irrefutable.
Before long, I was starting to notice how much my facts were met with their derision. They were more emotional and more prone to character assassination. For every fact I shared, they responded by tearing down the people we discussed. To be sure, they also had their share of facts, which led to another lesson.
Data can be interpreted a number of ways. It’s not the numbers that are in question. It’s your ability to determine what are meaningful ways to dissect the data and what are less meaningful or even deceitful ways to do it.
After awhile, I really enjoyed the give and take of political conversations and would wade into groups of any size. I continued to look levels and levels deep on every subject and thought about things constantly.
I routinely checked myself, as I do now, always wondering to myself, “What if I am entirely wrong about this or that? What makes me so sure about what I’m saying?”
This level of introspection helped me examine things from every perspective. It also enabled me to anticipate arguments and finish people’s points before they did.
Now, it’s exhilarating to talk politics with others. The more the better. When it was me against 30, I still never felt outnumbered. I could take them all on.
The only difference between then and now is maturity and perspective. I realize now that it’s not about destroying the person I’m debating. It’s about persuasion. In my experience, the path to persuasion means removing the political personalities and coming to agreement on the issues and what we’re trying to solve.
I’ve found that if you can identify and agree on what the problem is and what we want, there’s far more unity than we’re seeing in the country today.
All of this started with my friends in high school talking politics and me deciding that my Dad, who’s a conservative, isn’t all the horrible things liberals say about conservatives: homophobic, racist, sexist, bigoted, etc.
In my pursuit to figure out why my Dad would vote for people who were so heinous, I realized, it’s because they’re not. They’re good people trying to do good things. And I realized that the only arguments Democrats had was to villainize good people.
From that point on, I was sold.