Several authors I follow run blogs, and of those, several have been tackling political issues lately. John Scalzi – to nobody’s surprise – has been quite balanced and avoiding the frothy, while still making his position (and reasons for it) well known. Pat Rothfuss has an excellent little bit on why some people shouldn’t vote (worth the read, IMHO), Jim Hines talks about the nasty us-and-them dualism politics tends to inflict, and Kelly Swails links to (and discusses) why we shouldn’t force our political opinion on anyone.
Of all the approaches, I think that John Scalzi’s got the best one. (And the person Kelly links to is pretty well wrong.) As Pat says in his post, there are some people who are… well, smart and well-informed. These people may know things that you do not – and you should get all the info you can from them.
And here’s the thing that Pat and Kelly and Jim seem to miss: They’re pretty smart folks. Really, I met ’em. I was impressed (and yes, beer all around next GenCon if we can talk about the philosophy of magical realism vis a vis werejaguars and GH Mead, with a Kantian twist).
The person Kelly links to argues that how each person’s voting is none of anybody else’s business. This is true. Nobody should be *forced* to share their opinion, and such an attitude should be respected. That said, those of us who are reasonably smart and informed have an obligation to NOT keep our mouths shut. Because the people who aren’t willing to have their reasons for voting tested… probably fall into that category of “not that smart”…and simply don’t realize it.
Pat makes some good – and frightening – examples of people who have chosen candidates for really *stupid* reasons. I’ve run into them myself. One person, seeing my Obama pin, commented “I’d never vote for him.” I asked why – since they commented – and they *could not come up with a single reason*. Not. One.
This is unacceptable.
This election cycle, a study came out pointing that arguing with a conservative will simply entrench their talking points…even if the facts were against them. But the people nearby – the audience of undecideds – will get a very different message. So I’d challenge smart folks out there – and Pat’s got a great criteria for that, too – to play devil’s advocate. Point out where logical arguments fail, or point out good things about the other guy. Because, as you know: Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.
Sure, politics can be a divisive and nasty thing. But it doesn’t have to be. Like Kelly points out, it can actually be fun to talk politics – and test your ideas against others. Sometimes you learn something about yourself that you didn’t before.
Sometimes, especially when it’s uncomfortable, talking about what the other person likes – or doesn’t – is the only way to turn them from a cardboard cutout into a real person.
[edit on re-reading Pat’s blog (which I again exhort you to read as well): No, Pat’s just smarter than me and is telling you to get your own fishing pole. My bad.]