Many people believe it is impossible to reason with Republicans: that you have a better chance of winning the lottery or getting hit by lightning three days in a row—and that both things are preferable—than trying to penetrate the thick hide and implacable mind of these ancient ossified pachyderms.
True, Republicans are some of the orneriest, most cantankerous beings ever to set foot on earth, and generally quite unpleasant to deal with, prone to loud bouts of ranting and rage, especially at the dinner table. But I believe reasoning with them is indeed possible. And I say this from experience, because I am the lone non-Republican in an all-Republican family, having lived amongst these crotchety creatures most of my life. In fact, some of the people I love most are Republicans, though that doesn’t make them less inscrutable.
So, I’m not saying it’s easy, or that the risks are not great: It’s not, and they are! And while there is no doubt that it takes angelic-like patience and glacial-like force (a few shots of vodka help too), if you follow these Ten DON’Ts and DOs, you, too, can gain the skills needed to survive a chance encounter with a Republican in the wild, and walk away safely without getting your head chewed off.
Ten DON’Ts and DOs
1. DON’T imagine for a minute that any Republican actually listens to what you have to say. They don’t! Republicans think they are always right. Whether factually they are, or not, is irrelevant. So unless you agree with them, they immediately tune you out.
DO keep that simple thought at the forefront of your mind at all times, and your encounters with Republicans will go more smoothly.
2. DON’T provide Republicans with lots of facts and figures to support your contentions. They absolutely hate that! And will simply ignore it anyway. And try not to get too logical either, as this produces similar results. Instead, keep the dialogue emotionally charged, perhaps a bit off-the-wall crazy, and again, never back up your points with proof. They certainly are not going to do so with their claims, and will not respect you for trying to do so with yours. Actually, it will make them suspicious of your motivations for having to prove something which you believe to be true. Belief and Truth are totally separate things in a Republican world, so don’t ever mix them up. As Romney’s team so candidly stated: “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” No truer words were spoken.
DO ask them to provide you with their facts and figures, supporting their contentions. Chances are high they won’t have any, but it shows a gesture of good-faith on your part, sets a positive tone to the conversation, and can be entertaining. Also try understanding their needs as much as possible, and listen carefully to their expectations. This is difficult, I know, but it gives the impression that you value their opinion and are interested in what they have to say, even though, like them, you’re probably not. This also makes it easier—correction: less difficult—for you to explain your viewpoint to them in terms (preferably simple ones) that they can understand, when/if you ever get a chance to speak.
3. DON’T start laughing your ass off, or stand there with your mouth agape, when they cite facts and figures from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, The Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks, or any other similar entity. Remember, many Republicans actually believe the things these faux-news outlets pull from you-know-where, so laughing at them is generally not productive and will be interpreted as rude—even though it’s hard not to do sometimes.
DO take lots of deep breaths, try forcing a smile once in a while, and keep uttering things like “Uh huh,” “Mm, that’s interesting,” “Wow, I never heard that one before,” or anything else innocuous you can think of that won’t provoke a bite. Then, as delicately as possible, try getting them to expound on why they think their facts and figures are true, or even remotely grounded in logic or commonsense. It is unlikely they will be able to do so, but it’s fun to watch them try.
4. DON’T waste time trying to make sense of their facts and figures. It can’t be done, and will send you both down a rat hole. The whole point of asking them to expound on their ideas is merely to be polite and keep the positive dialogue going—plus, it’s entertaining.
DO repeat point #3 as often as you can stomach it.
5. DON’T act like what they said is the stupidest thing you ever heard in your life, even if it is. This flips Republicans out. Remember, they believe they are right about everything, so challenging them on this will annoy them, since they can’t understand how everyone else in the world doesn’t see things exactly their way. Most Republicans only know other Republicans, only talk to Republicans, all their friends are Republicans, all their friends’ friends are Republicans—basically, everyone they know is Republican—and therefore they are not accustomed to being challenged by reason or doubt. Avoid blurting out things like “That’s really fucking dumb,” “You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” “I’ve never heard such a crock of shit in my life,” and so on. No doubt these thoughts will cross your mind while speaking with Republicans, but such comments are unhelpful, nonproductive, and will retard the communication process, so avoid them if at all possible.
DO try reminding them often that others, like you, may have a different point of view. This concept does not come naturally to Republicans, so it must be reiterated frequently. And if you make progress on that front, and are feeling particularly brave, then, in addition to having them recognize your alternate viewpoint, you could try seeing if they will actually respect it. But be careful: this one is a long shot!
6. DON’T forget to remind yourself as well that others, like them, may have a different point of view. Normally this might be easy for you, but studies show that even the most patient, pacific, unflappable, Buddha-like people tend to lose their freaking minds and want to throttle someone after discussions with Republicans. This is natural and expected; the key is learning how to manage it.
DO take a stiff shot of vodka now and then if you find yourself losing this battle, wavering, or wanting to chop someone up into bits. Try instead saying things like “That’s a good point, but…” Or “I see what you’re saying, however…” And if you really feel bold, and have a strong stomach, perhaps even compliment them with, “I completely agree with you, it’s just that…” They will likely know that this is complete bullshit, but Republicans are accustomed to that, and generally don’t frown upon it the way others might. In fact, they may like it, and respect you for trying to be like them, which is their overall goal.
7. DON’T raise your voice and start shouting when reasoning with Republicans, even if they are shouting at you. This only makes matters worse. No Democrat, Socialist, Independent, Communist, Agnostic, Atheist, or anyone else for that matter, ever won a shouting match against a Republican. It can’t be done. They are professional wing-nuts, while the rest of us only do it part-time. Plus, you’ll be hampered by logic and reason, while they won’t, which gives them a significant advantage.
DO try maintaining your composure, even while they are losing theirs. This won’t be easy, and many fail, but is necessary for success. Try subtly mirroring their hand and body movements, if you can, since studies show this helps build trust. But, frankly speaking, it’s difficult to do, since banging fists on tables and throwing things at the TV when Obama is on, is hard to mirror subtly. If, however, you find an appropriate situation, and would like to try something daring, go ahead. Just make sure you have a clear exit from the room before trying these out-of-the-box tactics, in case things go horribly wrong.
8. DON’T try reasoning with Republicans after they’ve had a few drinks. This is prone to disaster. Alcohol tends to reduce social inhibitions, which may be the only thing keeping them from diving at you from across the kitchen table. Additionally, alcohol can inflame the innate orneriness of a Republican and further diminish their already-low capacity for reasonable dialogue. And, at very high levels, alcohol may cause them to forget what they said earlier, and deny much of the conversation the next day, which puts you right back at square-one, and having to repeat the painful reasoning process with them all over again. Who needs that?
DO try reasoning with them after you’ve had a few drinks. This can steady the nerves and give you that I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude which is so helpful when dealing with Republicans. But this is only if you are a nice drunk. If you’re a mean drunk, who gets ornery like them after consuming alcohol, then the DON’T above (about them not drinking) applies to you too.
9. DON’T ever try reasoning with Republicans if there are guns around. Republicans like guns, often keep them within easy reach, and are looking for reasons to use them. For safety, it is best to always assume—whether the guns are visible or not—that your Republican is “packing heat” and itching to use it.
DO surreptitiously try to find out if there are any guns around, either overtly displayed in cabinets with lots of mounted animal heads around, or covertly hidden in drawers just an arm-reach away. If so, then ignore everything that I’ve said so far, and obsequiously agree with whatever they say. Remember, reasoning with Republicans is not worth losing your life.
10. DON’T allow yourself to be swayed by any of the nonsensical drivel that prattles out of Republican mouths.
DO borrow their gun and shoot yourself in the head immediately if any of that drivel starts to make sense. It’s too late for you then. You’ve gone to the dark side and will never see light again. So just end it—and put yourself and the rest of us out of your misery!