What we’ve got here is failure to communicate

I missed the debates the other night, but I read some different commentary on them. Of course conservatives and liberals will have different interpretations of events of the debates, and I think the best example of this is the issue of the attacks in Libya and the exchange between Romney, Obama, and the moderator Crowley. Here is Fox’s take on it. Here is Think Progress’s interpretation. And here is a report closer in time to the murder of the ambassador. I want to highlight a line from the Fox article. It says “Obama didn’t explicitly label the Benghazi strike terrorism in those Sept. 12 remarks.” The writer says this like it is an Ah-ha! moment proving Romney right. It’s not. Implicitly or explicitly, it’s the same thing. I’m an attorney, and so I approach a lot of the ways I think about things from this perspective. In law, if you explicitly or implicitly say something or do something, as long as a reasonable person can understand your meaning, the result is the same.

I really think this boils down to a difference in the ways liberals and conservatives communicate. My dad is very conservative, and I sometimes think about how he communicate as being hyper-literal. A word means what the word means and he won’t bend the meaning of the word to try to understand your meaning. God help you if you use an idiom. He is like the opposite of Humpty Dumpty.

When Humpty Dumpty uses a word, he makes it do a lot of work and pays it extra. When my dad uses a word, he expects it to be a slacker so he doesn’t have to tip.

And the flip side of this is that he thinks a synonym would change the nature of the thing you’re describing. As an example: when I was pregnant, I hated my life and got really annoyed when I learned my sister (also conservative) was throwing me a baby shower. I did not want a baby shower. I did not want a bunch of people to come see me so miserable. I was not excited about having a baby. I was nervous and scared. So the plans for the baby shower were off. I breathed a sigh of relief until my sister called me back asking if I would be ok with a party. No! You can’t use a synonym and expect it to be acceptable. My dad thought my sister was being a bit ridiculous, but then told me he would be having a luncheon for me. I eventually had to tell them no party, no luncheon, no fiesta, no get together, and, to make sure I covered all my bases, I said that I didn’t want to be in the same room with more than 7 people at a time.

My dad is not the only conservative I met who communicates in this way. I read a blog entry by Ryan from Secular Ethics where he said something to the effect of a businessman is not uniquely qualified to run a country. I wanted to express my agreement with that statement and frustration that a lot of people think business experience is super important to being in government, and I said something like “I know! I hate it when people think that being a businessman makes you automatically qualified to be president.” (Not an exact quote.) And a conservative person called me on my use of the word “automatically,” complaining that every CEO wouldn’t win a primary (I can’t remember his exact words and I don’t feel like searching the blog to find the frustrating complaint). I had to roll my eyes. No, all CEOs aren’t invited to participate in the presidential debates by virtue of them being a CEO, and I admit I didn’t use the most accurate word. But it frustrated me that rather than attack my point or Ryan’s point, he disagreed with my usage.

Back on that person’s blog, he was talking about how Romney wouldn’t raise taxes on the middle class. I asked him about this, and he very kindly and patiently explained to me that Romney wouldn’t raise the tax rate, but he would increase revenue by getting rid of deductions that are used by the middle class. So I asked him, well, if I’m paying more in taxes what’s the difference? If there is a 30% tax rate on my income, but I get to deduct my mortgage payments, my effective tax rate is lower than 30%. Maybe it’s 20%. (Numbers are not my strong suit.) But if I lose that deduction, when I have to pay that extra 10%, I’m not going to be comforted knowing that my “rate” is the same. Shockingly, the blogger never responded.

Edit: This here is an example of exactly what I mean. You changed the name of the event from “victory rally” to “storm relief event,” but showing the documentary of your life clued us all in that it was the same thing. (Good effort though.)

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About emmawolf

I'm a freelance writer living in Baltimore with my husband, son, and two cats. I'm working on editing my first novel. I love reading, traveling, and the cello.
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One Response to What we’ve got here is failure to communicate

  1. Ryan says:

    The “Romney’s a businessman” argument is disingenuous. It’s not like conservatives would support Obama if Romney didn’t have his private sector experience. Moreover, Paul Ryan has barely had any such experience (perhaps none; I’m not sure), yet conservatives praise him. Policy clearly comes first for them, as it does for me.

    What bothers me the most about the argument is that Romney’s record as a governor should trump any other experience that he has. It’s more recent, it shows what a Mitt Romney with private sector experience does in such a position, and it’s more like the job that he seeks today. Conservatives claim that Obama can’t run on his record, but apparently Romney can’t run on his, either. It seems that we are supposed to pretend that none of it took place.

    As for Romney’s seemingly paradoxical “pro-growth” and “revenue-neutral” tax plan, the key is to recognize the underlying assumption that the rest of his policy will increase tax revenue by expanding the tax base, strengthening the economy, and reducing economic uncertainty. It is written into his plan on his own website and economists have pointed out that it is quite optimistic.

    In other words: he believes either (or both) that your effective tax rate will be lower because other people will be paying into the system or that you will make more money anyway because businesses will be faring better under his plan.

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