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Friday, March 17, 2006

# Posted 1:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS IT REALLY EVER POSSIBLE TO CHANGE ANYONE'S MIND ABOUT POLITICS? Joe Gandelman approvingly points to some scientific evidence that the answer is 'no'.

Although I rarely if ever disagree with Joe, I'm going to have to go against him on this one. Over a matter of days, months, or even a few years, very few staunch partisans change their minds about fundamental issues. Instead, change takes years. And when it happens, it's very hard to attribute it to a rational argument that someone heard at some point in the past.

Remember, Ronald Reagan was once a strong Democrat. Scores of neo-conservatives were once on the far left. And change happens in the other direction as well.

Personally, I have gone from being a very liberal Democrat, circa 2000, to an independent primarily known for right-of-center opinions about foreign policy.

What changed? It's hard to say. Naturally, I think that I made a rational decision based on newly available information. Then again, I'm hardly objective enough to know whether emotional influences may have gotten the better of me.

Perhaps the real strating point for a serious investigation of this question is to look at how consistent our political views are over the course of a lifetime. My sense is not very.
(5) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
I don't think there is any contradiction between the scientific evidence and what you are saying and what Joe is saying. The important point is that the decision is not made "rationally" or to use a more loaded phrase, it is not "reality-based", and that the evolution of views happen over a long time, not on the basis of any one argument.

That political views change over time and circumstance is pretty clear, hence Winston Churchill's quip about age 20 and age 30.

While there are charges of hindsight bias flying around, there's more than enough evidence, including fMRI, to show that we don't hindsight bias to explain the polarization.
 
I mostly agree with Robert Bell. I only disagree with his assertion that the change is not rational or reality-based.

But interpreting Gandelman narrowly to mean one person convincing another during one or a few discussions would be an extraordinary situation. But I think all thoughtful people experience an evolution of their political thinking over the course of their life, as experience, exposure and reflection expose the flaws in initial impressions.
 
My father once worked for the government, promulgating safety, environmental, and exposure level standards, regulations, and citations. Later, he retired and took a position running a research lab and advising on safety (et al) policy for a major corporation -- Exxon.

I asked him how he felt about "switching sides." He stated that he felt he was consistent; that he had the same views, held to the same standards, and was recommending the same actions. He was now doing it for another party, and that perhaps he could be as effective working from the corporate side, albeit with different means, as he was in his government work.

An effective rebuttal of the premise of my question.

When I was in my teens, I was a fan of the Kennedy phenom. In my twenties, I abhorred Nixon; in my thirties thought Carter an idiot - not a benign one. I didn't like Clinton, but also didn't like the frenzied impeachment and surrounding furor. I support Bush, although his spending is profligate.

Was I a Democrat? I suppose. Am I now a Republican? I suppose. Have I changed? Certainly; but did I change from one from one leaning to another? I do not recall an epiphany or a slow recognition of the rightness of one position over another.

The same reasoning process that once led my to my conclusions and positions is still pretty much in effect, although perhaps seasoned with experience and recognitions derived from that experience.
 
The real question is: "Did I change, or did the political partys change" If you hear recordings, or read policy speeches of John F. Kennedy, and compare it to speeches given by party officials today, what changed? Me or the party? Republican welfare reform was far more consistent with the original ideas as laid out but the FDR addmin than later Democratic modifications, but are far different from the ones they held at the time.
 
Does this mean that moderates are the sluts of democracy? Do they go both ways for fun? Or are they just trying to fill their hollow souls?
 
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