So it is not that Schlafly, or other conservatives as sophisticated as he, can’t make an argument. Rather, the problem is that when Schlafly makes an argument, it’s hard to believe it has anything to do with real intellectual give and take. He’s not arguing out of an openness to changing his mind. He’s arguing to reaffirm what he already thinks (his “faith”), to defend the authorities he trusts, and to bolster the beliefs of his compatriots, his tribe, his team.
Liberals (and scientists) have too often tried to dodge the mounting evidence that this is how people work. Perhaps because it leads to a place that terrifies them: an anti-Enlightenment world in which evidence and argument don’t work to change people’s minds.
But that response, too, is a form of denial—liberal denial, a doctrine whose chief delusion is not so much the failure to accept facts, but rather, the failure to understand conservatives. And that denial can’t continue. Because as President Obama’s first term has shown—from the healthcare battle to the debt ceiling crisis—ignoring the psychology of the right has not only left liberals frustrated and angry, but has left the country in a considerably worse state than that.
How do we effectively run a country when half of its citizens won’t listen to reason? Do we follow China’s lead with their “special economic zones” and have “libertartian regions” where people are can have few government benefits, low taxes, the ability to teach their kids whatever they please, and legislate on any moral grounds they see fit while the rest of us enjoy a well-regulated market economy with a strong safety net and science-based education? At that point, would it even be worth it to stay united as one country?