I think that, to a degree that sometimes seems unusual in these heated times, I enjoy reading and listening to people who don’t just disagree with me, but fundamentally disagree with me.
This is partly because I don’t even agree with the people who agree with me, so I get annoyed whenever a Democrat suggests a new means-tested tax credit and I see in my mind’s eye the dozens of pages of forms and instructions unfolding before me (see, e.g., Second Lowest Cost Silver Plan, and IRS Form 8962).
But it’s also because if you listen to people in their own words, they’re often making somewhat different arguments than the ones that your own ideological filters pass along to you. Not necessarily good arguments, or bad arguments, just different ones.
For example, conservatives in the United States will often pretend to make arguments in public about the size of the US national debt in order to justify their opposition to policies that make healthcare, childcare, or retirement affordable to their fellow citizens. When they do so, progressive media outlets inevitably take great pleasure in pointing out that the size of the US national debt poses no obstacle to conservatives passing enormous deficit-financed tax cuts. This is all very fun and gets people very excited but I think represents purely empty calories of self-righteousness. Since the Republican party does not, in fact, care about the size of the national debt, there are no “gotcha points” in “catching” them not caring about the size of the national debt.
On the flip side I think conservatives are quite ill-served in general by their captured media outlets, but when it comes to issues like the North Carolina restroom-access law you see this starkly elevated, with the view being imputed to liberals something along the lines of “Democrats want sexual predators to kill your children.” This is, needless to say, not something Democrats want.
In other words, you can learn a lot more about your ideological opposition’s views by listening to them, instead of listening to how your ideological allies filter their views back to you.
As a fire-breathing leftist, I can tell you that I support legally entitling people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity so that people are not faced with the absurd situation of being thrown out of one restroom for dressing or looking the wrong way or the other restroom for having the wrong anatomy. Given the extremely high level of violence in American society, policing, and criminal justice, explicitly protecting people in such vulnerable situations seems like common sense to me.
Likewise, when I read conservatives describing, in their own words and to each other, their objections to Democratic governance, I don’t see any indication they are concerned that large amounts of deficit spending will cause interest rates to rise, crowding out private investment (the ostensible economic objection to running large and growing deficits). How could they, given that the Republican party just committed itself to increasing the 10-year deficit by $1.5 trillion? “Catching” people not holding a view they obviously don’t hold doesn’t have any appeal to me. Rather, in the view of conservative writers, Democratic governance is supposed to be dedicated to the idea that the overall size of the economy can and will be sacrificed in order to give a larger share of a smaller pie to Democratic voters. The preferred Republican alternative is a rapidly growing economy in which an arbitrarily large share of economic growth is accumulated by the wealthiest owners of capital.
This is not an argument that you should “change your mind” or “keep an open mind.” I don’t think I keep a particularly open mind, and I struggle to remember the last thing I changed my mind about. Rather, it’s an argument to try to meet people where they are. If you think Democrats want to station sexual predators in your restrooms, you’re not going to have a very generous view of their suggestions for zoning reform. If you think Republicans are relentless hypocrites on deficit spending, you’re not going to have a very generous view of their proposal to limit the mortgage interest deduction.
But I continue to think that, as a rule, good policies are worth adopting and bad policies are worth rejecting regardless of which ideological quarter they come from. It would, at least, be worth a try.