Disclaimer: I’m not a psychologist, just a guy with an interest in human motivations. This essay gives my opinions based on observations and amateur research. Your experiences will differ, and you may disagree.
To begin, two terms require definition for purposes of this essay.
• Virtue is defined herein as a liberal’s moral belief held with such certainty that pressuring society toward greater Virtue justifies any means. The term “Virtue” here is very different from what most consider virtuous. Rather, this type of Virtue represents the epitome of the phrase, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
• Reason is best defined through an example: If someone observes the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, Reason says that the sun orbits the Earth. This conclusion, though incorrect, creates the illusion of scientific deduction. Again, the term “Reason” here is far removed from most definitions; it might be better thought of as rationalization, or justifying behaviors by applying inappropriate or fallacious reasons.
Virtue and Reason are key to understanding a liberal mind. Liberals believe that imposing Virtue on others is imperative to improving society. They believe their Virtues are scientifically validated by Reason, regardless of conflicting facts or failed results. In other words, flawed Reason validates their Virtue, which allows rejecting contradictory data, and allows rationalizing the failed outcome — often by blaming others for lacking Virtue.
Case in point: Liberal Virtue says that guns are evil, and observation shows that some people commit violence using guns. Therefore, Reason concludes that gun control will reduce violence, which validates their Virtue. Aside from the obvious logical fallacy that giving up your guns in Idaho would reduce murders in Chicago, liberals reject any data proving the failure of gun control, because accepting those facts would invalidate their Reason and Virtue. To liberals, banning gun ownership is a Virtue worth pursuing, even if doing so fails to reduce violence.
Facts don’t matter
Although liberals reject facts that contradict their beliefs, they rarely (if ever) offer data to support their beliefs. Anyone who’s argued with a liberal has likely cited facts, then become frustrated when the liberal rejected the evidence. Citing evidence cannot change liberal beliefs because those beliefs are not built on facts. Their beliefs are built on Virtue and rationalized through Reason.
Dismissing evidence is easier for liberals after spending decades labeling their political opponents as Nazis, racists, or fascists. After all, why would anyone believe a racist Nazi? In the past, negative characterizations were used in military training to dehumanize the enemy. Liberal efforts at dehumanizing their political enemies have not only created an option for rejecting opposing views, but allowed for easier violence against their political opponents.
Despite this, do not assume all liberals are driven by hate. Many are, but some view themselves as good-hearted, although moral indignation may look similar to hate. Some liberals are simply misguided and could learn to think rationally. Those who have converted or “seen the light” often wondered how they could have fallen prey to the liberal mindset for so long.
Unfortunately, even misguided liberals cannot condemn fellow liberals who hold similar Virtues. When violence is committed by people who follow liberal Virtues, liberals won’t condemn it. The result is a dangerous view that “the ends justify the means” in pursuit of Virtue.
Liberals are paving a road with good intentions, yet they reject the consequences because accepting responsibility for failures would invalidate their Virtue. It would require them to concede that imposing their Virtue on society makes things worse, not better. To paraphrase Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, being “morally right” is more important than being “factually right.”
Arguing with a liberal regarding consequences that they refuse to acknowledge is a recipe for frustration, but understanding the reason for their rejection may help influence future communications with them. Remember, liberals are primarily seeking emotional satisfaction, which can be achieved regardless of results.
Most people believe that they develop their views by studying data and reaching a conclusion, and that they incorporate new data to modify their outlook as needed. In actuality, many people start with a desired conclusion and select only data supporting that conclusion, ignoring or rejecting conflicting data, yet still believe they’ve made a logical deduction.
By challenging a liberal’s belief or questioning the failed results, you challenge the Reason and Virtue on which that belief was built. Liberals won’t abandon Virtue merely because evidence proves them wrong; they’ll just dismiss the evidence. They will stick to their Virtue so they can continue to claim the moral high ground.
To illustrate, years ago, numerous studies proved that liberal proposals for gun control would not have prevented a single mass shooting. The liberal response was, “It’s still worth doing.” Even when proved wrong, liberals push their ideas because imposing Virtue on society is imperative, if not for results, then for their own emotional satisfaction.
For more on this, research cognitive dissonance, which occurs when a person is confronted with evidence that disproves their belief. It can manifest as responses from “that’s not true” to changing the subject or hurling accusations. A person experiencing it does not realize they’ve reacted this way. Understanding cognitive dissonance is critical when disagreeing with a liberal.
When you cite facts to a liberal, they only hear you telling them that they don’t know what they’re talking about. Similarly, accepting responsibility for their failures would require not only admitting to flawed Reason, but that imposing Virtue did not generate the claimed outcomes (or caused greater harm). Liberals will not change views in the face of contradictory evidence because doing so would destroy their Virtue and require yielding their moral high ground.
I’m from the government and I’m here to help
Liberals believe that Virtue obligates them to make decisions for others. Lack of knowledge in a topic does not stop them from claiming authority, because their goal is moving society toward greater Virtue. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. … those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
This is why a 19-year-old can believe that she has all the answers for improving society, and try to impose those views on others, despite a lack of experience or knowledge. Certainty of their own conscience generates arrogance, which helps them ignore contrary evidence.
This is compounded by the fact that when liberals’ attempts fail (or make things worse), the liberals themselves face no consequences. Only the people they wanted to help will suffer, ironically causing liberals redouble their efforts. Holding the Virtuous high ground is critical, even if results fail to materialize.
Between the approval of their own conscience and the negative characterizations of their opponents, a liberal will not take responsibility for failures if doing so requires admitting that their Virtue was faulty, or that their opponents (whom they believe to be racist Nazis) may have been correct.
How to change a liberal’s mind
You cannot change a liberal’s mind, since they must take the first steps. However, it is possible to encourage the step of accepting alternative ideas. Tips include:
• Be respectful. If you tell them they’re wrong, they’ll push back, and their resolve will harden. Frustration is normal, but do not lose your temper. Anger is counterproductive.
• Express your view in the language of Virtue. Suppose a liberal says, “you won’t give up your guns because you don’t care if people die.” This is an emotional appeal. Responding that gun control is “wrong” (which the liberal sees as moral judgement) simply because it won’t save lives is not relevant to liberals. Instead, you might respond, “I care so much that I want the most effective measures to save the most lives.” Rather than citing facts, you are claiming high moral ground, which the liberal should understand. For a merely misguided liberal, this can lead to the first steps toward change.
• Do not expect liberals to change after one discussion. Progress may take years, or may never happen. Patience is a virtue, and if you lose your temper, you may cause regression. Sometimes, however, you will win a conversion.
Most liberals won’t change, but some can learn to accept alternative views. I grew up in a liberal democrat home. In college during the 1990s, I visited the political section of a bookstore and realized that if I read only books with ideas that I believed, I’d never learn anything. I walked out with one conservative and one liberal book, and read them both. But I had to take the first step of opening my mind to different ideas. My liberal roommate read the conservative book and commented, “that guy’s a fascist, but some of his ideas make sense.” This was not a full conversion from Virtue, but at least showed a willingness to recognize the value alternative ideas, which was a first step.
Understanding why liberals reject facts is the first step in learning how to change their minds (or more accurately, how to help them accept other views and change their own minds). The point is that you can help less-entrenched liberals accept new ideas, especially when using their language.
I hope my observations help some readers understand previous arguments they’ve had with liberal friends or family members, and better prepare for future discussions. Perhaps readers will be better equipped to challenge young minds poisoned by public education before those beliefs become entrenched, or speak a shared language with a liberal who seems willing to question the validity of Virtue and Reason.