We're talking past each other.


It occurs to me that I haven't actually... debated a conservative on an actual policy matter in years.

Part of that is the nature of the internet, and also that whole global pandemic thing. But you'd think that an actual, fact - based, legitimate disagreement would have materialized at some point.

But it really hasn't.

Here's my fantasy of what that kind of debate might look like:

Liberal: Climate change is a real issue that our scientists and experts are saying could cost the world billions of lives and trillions in property damage. We need to do something.

Conservative: All right. We need to be careful though, as we don't want to harm our current economy. We also have to acknowledge that it's a global problem, and engaging some policies that might slow the American economy without actually addressing the GLOBAL crisis isn't optimal.

Liberal: The simplest thing to do then is to institute a carbon tax - we've helped ameliorate a different crisis by taxing tobacco. Perhaps that would work.

Conservative: The fossil fuel industry is already facing small profit margins. That would be too punitive. I would prefer something like Reagan's plan for acid rain - a cap and trade system that utilizes market forces to reduce the pollutant in question while allowing for the innovative to thrive.

Liberal: A bit clunky and neoliberal for our party's base, but it sounds good as addressing the crisis is their main priority. And Reagan's plan DID work. We should start the cap at, say "a" and then gradually reduce it at rate "b".

Conservative: I prefer to start it at rate "x" and then more slowly lower it at rate "y".

Liberal: Perhaps we can agree somewhere in the middle on that. There must be a way to transition to clean energy without hurting our competitiveness. We should lead instead of follow so that we can have the moral authority to pull China and India along with us. It's crazy that we still dig up goop out of the ground and set it on fire for energy in 2021.

Conservative: I know, right?

It's clear that it's a fantasy, isn't it? The road to a solution is clear, even if the actual destination is a ways off and we're being pulled in a (theoretically) more conservative direction. Like any good liberal, I'm queasy about any solution that includes "Reagan was right". But I'm cool with it because there's a legit attempt to acknowledge reality and discuss solutions. We're far apart, but going the same direction. 

The reality of our debates over the last few years has been much more like this:

Liberal: Climate change is a real issue that our scientists and experts are saying could cost the world billions of lives and trillions in property damage. We need to do something.

Conservative: Climate change is a Chinese hoax and you're just an anti - American puppet for even talking about it. Besides, the planet's temperature has always fluctuated and there's nothing we can do about it without destroying America. Greta Thunberg flew on a plane once.

And... scene?

The disconnect is as clear as the rhetoric is unhinged. 

I'm totally willing to admit to the fact that the left isn't immune to having unreasonable people, or people locked in on issues to the degree that they're unpersuadable. But decades of conspiracy mongering and partisan "news" ubiquity has made the political fight not just overshadow, but completely overwhelm what should be legitimate policy disagreements.

And it's a very real part of the problem that we have a media and a culture that is basically pretending that the first conversation is actually happening somewhere and that the second is only perpetuated by trolls and outliers. The first step to recovery is admitting that we have a problem.

I tend to navel - gaze on this sort of thing a lot, but it's a question that we need to ask sincerely. People who think they have the "real" info because they think Tucker Carlson is a legitimate journalist aren't going anywhere. And if the answer was easy, someone would have thought of it already with their racist uncle at Thanksgiving.

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