Once again, Americans are at each other’s throats, ready to fight over extremely partisan lines. Typically, this opens opportunities for the liberty movement. We can step in and point out the hypocrisy of the two-party system, exposing the puppeteers behind the curtain.
But we have our own problems within the liberty movement. For instance, the recent Libertarian Party National Convention has left many cheering and others fuming over ideological divides.
The very discussions that should be uniting us, and inviting others to participate in the liberty movement, are going nowhere. I believe a few reflective questions and some common sense strategies could steer us on the right track.
Leave your theory at home
As someone who’s involved with the liberty movement, I often get asked, “What kind of libertarian are you? Minarchist? Anarchist? Classical liberal?” While these frameworks mean a lot to libertarians, no one else understands or cares about them.
If your ideology requires a personality test and a reading list, no one will ascribe to your ideology. Liberty sells itself.
Don’t get me wrong. I love theory. I believe a stateless society will be a peaceful one. A “civilized” society doesn’t practice drone warfare, nor does it force its citizens to fund it. While the current structure stands, I will speak in terms that are relevant and easy to understand: war is bad.
Even better than a plain-spoken truth, is a call to action: end foreign intervention – resist conscription. If your politics can’t be broken down into actionable terms, they will never germinate into political action. A simple, bold message is key.
Get used to sharing the facts and repeating yourself
Conventions around political discourse have become tiresome and toxic:
“It’s not my job to inform [member of population] about the history of [marginalized population].”
“I shouldn’t have to share my story about [personal trauma] in order for people to take me seriously.”
“It’s not fair that I have to be the one to explain [complex social structure] to [person who benefits from complex social structure].”
I’ll put this very simply: who cares? This is a fight for liberty and the very foundation of what it means to be a free human on this planet. Growth hurts. Positions of principle are sacred, but they mean virtually nothing to your opponent. Your cause is their punchline. And before you get too self-righteous, their cause is your punchline. You know that burning certainty in your chest you feel when you’re fighting for the things you believe in? The other side feels it, too.
Important causes whither and die beneath the shadows of “should” and “fair.” If you’re waiting around for your opponent to spontaneously convert, or to suddenly come to the same conclusions as you, brace yourself for disappointment.
Don’t demonize your opponent and don’t hide the truth
People complain that no one listens to the facts anymore. I would argue that few actually share them. They may bludgeon their opponent with the facts, but they never offer it in its pure form: the truth. You don’t need to weaponize the truth. You don’t need to decorate it with loaded words. You should never hide it behind your ego.
You can’t demonize someone and expect them to listen to you. If you call a pro-lifer a misogynist, they won’t wait around for your explanation about ectopic pregnancies. If you call a pro-choicer a baby killer, don’t complain that they didn’t want to hear about heartbeats. Call a gun owner selfish, and they will reject your statistics. Tell a gun control advocate they’re brainwashed, and they will simply walk away.
Some of these positions are unmovable. But at the core of all of these positions are central themes: safety and freedom. We all want to feel safe and free. If we can keep our tones cool and our arguments focused, we can claim common ground wherever it arises. But when we enforce stereotypes and build walls emblazoned with false dichotomies, we only fuel the opposition’s fervor.
Words matter. Use them sparingly
At the end of the day, words mean different things in different contexts. Labels like “woke,” “traditional,” “liberal,” “conservative,” “feminist,” “misogynist,” and all their counterparts have extremely diverse connotations. Each one will stoke the flames of passion on one side, and roll the judging eyes of the other. So let’s use language that is universal, productive, and factual.
Political discourse seems to attract people who are removed from normal social conventions. If we are to make progress, we have to make things simple, relatable, and most importantly, true.
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This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.