I have argued with many right-wing, conservative Republicans and Tea Party members on the internet over the years. Most notably on a Star Trek message board called Sistertrek. For some reason this message board had a very active politics section and most of the members of the board were conservative. When I joined the board I tended conservative politically but not over the top. I voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 election because I was turned off by the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I supported the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq initially after September 11. I began to get turned off to the Republican / conservative movement after it was discovered that the justification for the invasion of Iraq was based on a false premise. When I started voicing this opinion on the message board the neocons attacked. I was taken off guard by how nasty they became. My many battles with conservatives have taught me their many buttons to push to make them angry. The following is a list of ten that come to mind. Note: I will use the term “conservative” hereinafter to generally refer to anyone who is right-wing, Republican, conservative or a Tea Party member.
1. Liberal Media Bias With conservatives all arguments begin with the assumption that the “mainstream media” is biased in favor of the liberals and against the conservatives. This is how they justify denying facts and reality. If the credibility of the source of facts is undermined then nothing is factual and anything can be factual. Conservatives will choose media that tells them what they want to hear calling it “fair and balanced” and dismiss media that tells them what they do not want to hear calling it “mainstream”. I have found that questioning of this concept is viciously attacked by conservatives and justifiably so. Undermining this argument undermines most other arguments conservatives cling to.
2. Global Warming Even though there is general scientific consensus that global warming exists and is caused in part by man-made activities most conservatives will deny it. They base this denial on “junk science” promoted by the liberal media to undermine the fossil fuel industry or some such. Anytime global warming is brought up in a conversation from a perspective that assumes it exists will irk most conservatives.
3. Criticism of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan Conservatives are generally protective of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. They tend to overlook that both presidents relied on deficit spending to finance their agendas, were heavily influenced by big business, the defense industry and served the interests generally of the wealthiest at the expense of the poor and middle class. Conservatives also overlook the fact that George W. Bush was a horrible public speaker, often appeared foolish, invaded Iraq on a false premise and spent billions of dollars and American lives in the process. The mere mentioning of any of these points will make a conservative defensive.
4. Praise for Barack Obama or Bill Clinton By contrast praise for Presidents Obama or Clinton will draw the anger of conservatives. They will deny that Bill Clinton balanced the budget (they will say that claim is based on false numbers), that Obama ended the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (Bush was already doing that). They will blame the economy on Obama even though he inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression largely caused by the deregulation pursued since Reagan but continued through George W. Bush.
5. Moral Relativism Conservatives hate “moral relativism” even though none of them seem to use the term in the same way. Like “liberal media bias”, “moral relativism” is a conservative boogeyman that can mean whatever a conservative wants it to mean depending on the situation. Any attempt to get a conservative to define or pin down these definitions will most likely be met by personal attacks. You will be called a troll, stalker or trouble maker. Conservatives do not like strict definitions or interpretations even though conservatives do claim to want the US Constitution interpreted strictly (unless it undermines their arguments). Again, the truth is mailable when the credibility of the sources of facts are undermined by calling them liberally biased (e.g., media, universities, legal scholars or scholars of any kind).
6. Separation of Church and State I have seen conservatives actually argue that there is no separation of church and state in the US Constitution. They generally base this on “activist judges” who have “interpreted” the Constitution. Judicial review of laws (i.e., the interpretation of the Constitution) is something that has been enshrined in our legal system since the case of Marbury v. Madison in 1803. What is behind this is the increased diversification of the American population. Basically we are no longer an overwhelmingly white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant nation the way we were since the founding to about 1960. Long story short, question whether the “War on Christmas” is a real thing and conservatives will get pissed off.
7. Gun Control Gun control is an example where conservatives do not want the constitution strictly interpreted. The 2nd Amendment talks about well-regulated militias. Make this point and enjoy the fireworks.
8. Implying conservatives get their ideas from Rush Limbaugh Without exception, conservatives become angry and embarrassed when Rush Limbaugh is mentioned by a non conservative. They do not like the implication that their ideas somehow originate with him and that many conservatives merely parrot what Rush says. They want to think that their ideas come from the strength of their convictions. Point this out and engage a conservative’s fight or flight response.
9. Taxes To a conservative all taxes are bad and so is deficit spending. As such deficits can only be cured through spending cuts. Any reasoned argument that a mixture of both spending cuts and tax increases are needed are met with scorn and personal attacks.
10. Military / Patriotism Conservatives also seem to think they have a monopoly on patriotism and support for the military. They assume that non conservatives are unpatriotic and have contempt for the military. There is also an assumption that Republican presidents have a better record on military issues despite the fact that Woodrow Wilson and FDR successfully led the country during World Wars I and II arguably the two most successful military actions by the US in the modern era. According to conservatives Reagan and George W. Bush are better commanders in chief. Question this and they will surely respond. At this point I am beyond who is right and wrong. I try not to judge. Inside me there is lightness and dark. The dark in me enjoys making conservatives angry. Why? Two reasons. Because they annoy me and it is so easy. The light inside me realizes there are better ways to spend my time.
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