Talking to MAGA
We have become a deeply divided nation and because of this, our democracy is in grave danger. We know that our division was largely manufactured and we know who the provocateurs are – Conservative politicians, Conservative media, and billionaire-funded think tanks and political organizations. Their symbiotic relationship has worked flawlessly together to drive fear and hate deep into the minds of Americans. Our minds have had little defense against the decades-long onslaught of lies that have grown in scale and viciousness.
Their efforts have culminated into deadly serious ”homegrown” threats to our democracy that many of us would never have dreamed of happening in America, but here we are…
There is no single solution to this incredibly dangerous problem, but there are several obvious pieces to the puzzle:
- Clamp down on blatant disinformation coming out of media and political organizations
- Pressure mainstream media to stop their bothsidesism approach to reporting and report what is at stake
- Address dark money that funds disinformation campaigns, social engineering, and government corruption
- Show MAGA and Republicans the path back to reality
Of all of these, the one thing that we, as individuals, can start addressing right now is to show MAGA and Republicans the path back to reality. We need to give them a gentle exit ramp from the path they have been led down. This means we need to start calming things down and remind folks who we all are. We (all of us) do this by talking to talk to each other again.
The minds of MAGA and Republicans have been, and continue to be, hijacked and exploited, so talking to them is often challenging and rarely ends well, but talk to them we must. We can’t continue having each election being a battle over Democracy – especially when these battles are caused by one side being captured by a false and intentionally destructive narrative.
This article isn’t an attempt at a magical solution, but it does provide guidelines for you to create your approach for talking to your right-leaning pals.
This immediately brings up the issues of who to talk to and then how to talk to them. The “who” is relatively easy:
- Stick with friends and family – people with whom you have history and memories
- It’s probably best to avoid co-workers – maybe test the waters a little first
- Don’t waste your time with people you don’t know
- Don’t waste your time on any hardcore in-your-face Tumpists.
The “how” is much more involved and takes up the remainder of this piece. Let’s get to it…
One thing to keep in mind is the one-two punch of media that pits us against each other. First, conservative and authoritarian voices are doing all they can to make their listeners hate just about everybody and forget how much we all have in common. Second, MSM will always show the worst and the craziest of MAGA and Republicans, but, while not inaccurate, this is not reflective of all of them. Keep these two narratives in mind as you engage.
Another thing to remember is that many of us are victims of decades of conservative fearmongering, scapegoating, and disinformation. All of this made them vulnerable to Trump’s charisma and his pushing them to their cult-like behavior. This runs very deep in their minds, be patient with them – it can be fixed.
Lastly, understand that this will take quite some time. It won’t be a quick chat of talking points and rebuttals – that will be counterproductive. Spend your time wisely by only engaging those you know reasonably well and can engage often. Nobody will flip in a single conversation – think weeks or months. Make your conversations less about politics and more about things you have in common such as community, memories, and things you both enjoy.
If you actually find someone to engage, then consider some of the following:
- The overall approach to all of this is typically just sowing the seeds so that folks come around on their own some other day.
- Keep it light – there should be plenty of smiles, laughs, and agreement.
- Some may be looking for an exit ramp from the path they were led down. They need a do-over – give it to them. They need to save face – let them.
- Understand their point of view so well that you can explain it back to them better than they explained it to you. This shows respect – something many may feel they’ve been lacking for many years.
- No lecturing, no finger-pointing, no sarcasm – this will make them dig in their heels
- Many have been convinced that an inclusive society will exclude them, so avoid those conversations early on. Exclusion leads to anxiety, which often leads to defensiveness and bigotry.
You’ll inevitably stir up some of their usual talking points. It’s good to have simple counterpoints. Again, don’t argue these points or use them to attack – try to gently or indirectly ease your point into the conversation.
- Trump is not a victim of a liberal witchhunt if the only people testifying against him are Republicans.
- Wokeness, CRT, attacks on manhood, homeschooling, etc. are all being funded and pushed by billionaires – they want us to fight each other while they take all our money. When was the last time a billionaire did something for us?
- It’s not black vs. white or anything else – it’s rich vs. the poor and working class
- Illegal Immigration has been a thing in this country for over 200 years – it was never worth losing Democracy over.
- Yes, there are a few “crazies” on the left who want to ban all guns, but just about everyone simply wants common-sense gun safety laws. Today’s adults didn’t have to go to school worried about getting shot in the name of Democracy.
- Schools are teaching the same stuff they always have – billionaires want to take over education so we can pay them to fuck up our children.
- I know I wouldn’t be able to educate my kids well enough to be successful in life – and to be honest, I think there are powerful people in this country that want it that way.
- Fox News admitted in court a few times that they lie to us – I’m done with them.
- Conservatives love nostalgia – agree with them and mention how much you miss a government that is not owned by billionaires and corporate America
- If these don’t come up, then (gently) bring them up: climate change, social security, healthcare, and continued tax breaks for billionaires and corporations, etc.
It’s best to start a counterpoint with some sort of agreement:
- That’s a great point – I’m also thinking that…
- I was wondering about that a while back too – I realized that…
- I was totally on board with that a couple of years ago – now I…
- You’re spot-on there – I’m just worried that…
- I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said last week…the part I can’t figure out is…
Don’t insult them, roll your eyes, or talk with a condescending smile or tone. This will be noticed, it will hurt, and it will stick. Your temporary frustration will confirm to them what the conservative provocateurs have told them – that we don’t respect them. You will be making your task more difficult if not impossible.
It’s not worth severing a relationship with someone – if it feels like you’re going down that path then back off. Change the subject, poke fun at yourself, or get back to what you were talking about or doing together. Don’t get all huffy and storm off – try again another day or forget about this one.
It would be best to have an informal and evolving plan for each of the people you engage with. Learn as you go, do research on their talking points, and circle back on those topics as you slowly move them forward. Find where they might let you in:
- Are they parents or grandparents? If so, talk about climate change
- Are they one-issue voters? Can you address it gently? Is it worth pursuing them? Is it worth them losing Democracy over?
- Do they make their living off the land or enjoy the outdoors? Again, climate change
- Have they lost their jobs to offshoring, etc.? If so, go after billionaires and GOP corruption.
- Do they have friends/family that will be victimized in a fascist country?
- Do they have family members in the military or with health issues?
Don’t be a dick – it’s contagious.
If they push your buttons then just laugh at yourself or maybe even agree with them – it will catch them off guard.
Never talk down to people – that always backfires. No insults, smirks, or rolling eyes.
No matter who you engage with, always show and practice gratitude and humility – these are the building blocks of happiness and peace of mind.
Always remember that this will take time – be patient.
Don’t think your small actions won’t make a difference – they absolutely will, because, just like the efforts to destroy our Democracy, when it comes to saving it, the whole is certainly greater than the sum of the parts.