Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Political Conversation on Campus

It is easy to get into political conversations on the UW campus whether it be at a coffee shop, the classroom, or house party. What is not easy to do is to take conservative positions on issues in these political discourses. When you may simply be taking a pro-business or pro-life stance, extreme scrutiny of not just your position but of you as a person begins to take place. Explicit and implicit judgments of greed, intolerance, narrow mindedness, and disregard will thus inhibit constructive disagreement and discussion. Instead of listening and considering particular points or statistics, many Madisonians will simply get emotional and resort to generic liberal talking points such as:

“Don’t you care about the poor”

“Not everyone can succeed in the world”

“All people deserve equal rights”

“A woman can decide what to do with her body”

“The tax cut was a give away to the wealthiest Americans”

“We need to be tolerant of everybody”

“We need clean air and water so we must stop polluters from damaging our environment”

Instead of providing objective evidence to back up their points they resort to language that contains little substance and is rather based on feelings and sentiment. John Leo, a conservative writer for US News & World Report captured his discussions with liberal colleagues in this way:

Finally, I reluctantly report that liberal friends basically reject give-and-take political discussion. Their positions are typically posed in the language of feelings or the language of rights. Either way, there is nothing much to debate--feelings are personal and rights are beyond the reach of argument and majority decision making. My liberal friends are polite and tolerant, but their opinions reflect a body of remarkably settled thought that leaves little room for dissent or new ideas. To their token conservative friends (that’s me), they seem ever more isolated from the thoughts and concerns of their fellow Americans.

The truth is that many liberals on UW’s campus are as intolerant and narrowminded as conservatives across the country. They do not listen to objective evidence unless it supports their opinion and they tend to shy away from media outlets and particular people that may challenge their views. However, I do know certain individuals that lean left who do listen to differing viewpoints, like to challenge their beliefs, and understand people differ on the role of government. The important point to draw from this piece is that in order to have legitimate political conversations we must be speaking in statistics and logic rather than rhetoric, feelings, and emotions. Hopefully, many of the leftists on campus will learn to sift and winnow and converse with objectivity and understanding rather than with emotional rhetoric and personal attacks.


  • Amen.

    By Blogger Brad V, at 9:25 PM  

  • I disagree. I’m from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and it’s a fairly conservative place. People often ask me how I can get by in such a liberal place as Madison. This got me thinking. I really enjoy being in Madison, but I don’t enjoy being in Fond du Lac. How could this be?

    Besides the copious amount of alcohol consumption, Madison is a great place for political discourse – even with liberals! In Madison, most liberals are pretty reasonable and are willing to talk. They feel unthreatened in their liberal stronghold. I’ve found that many conservatives, on the other hand, can be particularly nasty. I think this stems from the fact they are threatened in this liberal stronghold, day in and day out. I think many of them have become hostile and defensive – kind of like a pit bull that is kicked every day. This implies no merit to the views of either side – its more of a psychological observation.

    I’m off to work, but I’m going to reply to your comment on my blog about the Daily Cardinal article.

    Take it easy,

    By Blogger Mark Murphy, at 12:20 PM  

  • In response to Mark, the type of backlash conservatives may get on campus probably depends on who your friends are and who you talk to. In many of my experiences I have felt that I have been looked down upon for being more conservative and often these people have not came up with sharp arguments on certain issues.

    By Blogger Tim, at 9:36 PM  

  • Political discourse with close friends has been one thing. And IF you can get a liberal to sit down and talk to you, they're usually pretty reasonable. I've actually had several moments this year on Council and SSFC that I have identified to my clsoe friends on the committees, as the "Ice Breaking" moments.

    The reality of it is, however, that when they're in their groups, don't know you, or just met you, liberals here tend to brush aside what you say. It's not what you're saying, it's that you (and therefor implicitly everything coming out of your mouth) comes from a rich, straight, white (and don't forget priveleged) perspective.... which is why you're conservative, and why they (the bi, tri, or quadro-sexual minority from the ghettos of east timor, or more often than not, their supporters) don't have to listen to a single thing you say, and even consider what's coming out as a potentially good point.

    By Blogger BadgerZach, at 5:25 PM  

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