Conservatives are Better at Emotional Distancing

I wrote this months ago and wanted to post it before the election. Then I forgot about it. I still think it’s relevant though.

Years ago I spoke with a conservative who told me he couldn’t understand why anyone would get upset about politics. “If I order steak at a restaurant and I really like my steak and recommend it to you but you order chicken instead, I don’t get all mad about it. I don’t see why politics is any different.”

My first instinct was to agree because it’s my personal goal to not get angry unless lives are in danger, but after I thought about this, I found it more and more disturbing. If there is anything that makes sense to get angry about, it’s politics. Politics could literally mean life or death for all of us. Getting cut off on the highway or having someone cheat on you won’t cause even close to the kind of suffering that poor public policy can. A good, moral person should get more upset about harm caused to the community than to themselves, but I’ve met a number of conservatives who don’t see it this way.

This is a good example of the attitudes of certain conservatives: they see politics as a game. They forget that these are real human lives they’re affecting. They see arguing as a fun little game that they can win and don’t understand that when liberals argue, we are often arguing for our lives or the lives of our friends and family. This is why conservatives have a huge advantage. When we talk about the harm they cause, they are able to disconnect, telling themselves it’s all just a part of the game and our suffering doesn’t actually matter. They focus on the strategy of winning the argument and ignore the humanity of the situation. Trump supporters take this to a dangerous extreme. They don’t communicate. All they know how to do is win arguments by any means necessary. And they are very good at it.

However, a little emotional disconnect is actually healthy. Liberals need to take a lesson here. If we took a step back and looked at the situation non-emotionally we would realize we do still have options.

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