It’s no secret that we live in a world of political division. Not only are liberals at war with conservatives, but both sides of the political spectrum are at war with themselves.
While my preference is unity, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon, judging by social media. Since that’s the case, then people need to at least, learn how to debate effectively.
Here are four things to remember before getting into your next political debate:
1. Stop letting your opponent control the language
Until pregnant, pro-choice women start having fetus showers on a regular basis, it’s not a “fetus”. It’s a baby.
Until guns jump off the table, run down the street, and start shooting people on their own, it’s not “gun violence”. It’s just violence.
When you let your opponent control the language, you let them control the debate. You allow them the opportunity to soften their position through less controversial verbiage, making their position sound almost reasonable.
Call a spade a spade. Catering to politically correct double-speak is a form of soft tyranny.
2. Know your opponent and their tactics, then call them on it
I learned this one watching Ben Shapiro take on Piers Morgan in an interview regarding the 2nd Amendment. Ben had researched Piers’ tactics, and at the beginning of the interview, called him out on them, pointing out that Morgan has a tendency to resort to name-calling vitriol, ad hominem attacks, and attempts to paint his opponent as low intellect Neanderthals, whenever he ran out of talking points to support his position. Shapiro went on to say that he trusted that Morgan wouldn’t engage in those same tactics in their debate.
Morgan was instantly taken aback, batted his eyelashes innocently, and went into full denial mode. The interview went smoothly for a while, with Morgan refraining from his typical tactics, but true to form, reverted to his normal attacks when Shapiro had him backed into a corner, giving him the ammo he needed to point out that he was correct in his initial assessment of Morgan’s tactics.
I’ve implemented this strategy in many debates, and without fail, it’s been effective.
3. Don’t go on defense
It’s inevitable. In any debate, on any topic, your opponent is going to spend the bulk of their time, telling you why your position is wrong and why you’re a bad person for holding it. All too often, I see good people take this bait and retreat into a mode of defending themselves, rather than defending their position, or going on offense against their opponents position.
It’s a natural reaction to try and defend your character, morality or ethics when they come under attack. However, the second you do, you’ve just handed the debate to your opponent.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been called a “gun nut that doesn’t care about children”. Until I learned the tactic of not taking that bait, my reaction was usually “I am not a gun nut and I love kids”. Now, my reaction is “If being a proponent of the basic, human right to self defense, not only for me, but for the protection of children, makes me a ‘nut,’ so be it. What I think is nutty is being opposed to those things.”
Guess which one of those reactions is more effective in winning the debate.
4. Don’t allow deflection
When people are losing a debate, they tend to drift into side topics. It’s not unusual for a pro-abortion advocate to drift into healthcare as a whole, or for a gun control advocate to drift into government provided “safety”.
Don’t follow people down these rabbit holes. Drag them right back out, and force them to stay on the topic of hand. The moment you start following them is the moment you’ve given them control to lead you to separate topics, control the debate, and muddy the waters of the original topic.
Debate is a healthy thing when done right. It’s done right when the right strategies are applied. So engage, but engage to win. I assume your position is worth it.
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