I have been thinking about how to persuade those on the left to see my point of view on at least some individual issues. Because I don't "speak their language," it takes some research to understand their outlook. For example, in doing research on the minimum wage, I tripped across some great examples of the left's thinking. A scholarly paper from the left (by economist Bruce Kaufman) arguing for increasing the minimum wage argues that there is an imbalance (and implies a large one) in the bargaining power of businesses and workers. Kaufman argues explicitly that for the unskilled, the purpose of a minimum wage is to protect the underdog and to level the playing field. Arguments over the value of contract between two parties are given short-shrift because the unskilled workers are deemed incapable of entering into meaningful contracts because of their lack bargaining power (see p. 437). I admit to a certain sympathy to the argument, except that the solution is not force employers to give workers more pay; but to examine and correct the causes of workers having no differentiating skills.
Even when I find an issue where common cause with the left might be possible, conservative or libertarian participation is rejected. The reasoning is revealing. Writing in Salon in an article persuading those on the left to not ally with libertarians on the issue of NSA surveillance, Tom Watson had this to say:
That’s because libertarianism is a form of authoritarianism disguised in a narrow slice of civil liberties. In trumpeting the all-knowing, ever wise wonders of the totally free and unencumbered market, it bestows all the power on those with access to capital.This was the purest exposition I have found of why the left thinks that libertarians and limited government conservatives are some sort of crypto-fascists. The whole article is worth a read because of the insight it gives into the left wing mind set. Now, my strongly held belief is that mere access to capital in a free market economy is made dangerous only because of the influence that money can wield over government. The worst abuses of Wall Street getting rich, monopolies ripping off Americans (like my cable provider) are facilitated by government power, through the Federal Reserve and monopoly granting powers, respectively. Reducing the size of government would certainly reduce the scope for abuse. The left will not countenance such an outcome, because the government exists to do Good.
The left is invested in the idea of government as a countervailing force to undo the ill-effects of free enterprise. In general, the leftist identifies with victims and the powerless. My evidence in this area is Israel. In the aftermath of World War II, the Jews and Israel were seen as victims. Israel was surrounded by enemies and in danger of a second holocaust. In general, the left supported their cause. Over time, as Israel prevailed over the Arabs and become more and more successful militarily the left gradually shifted to outright hatred and its sympathies to the Arab losers.
I have speculated in the past on the psychological roots of such reasoning, but knowing the cause is insufficient to deal with the problem.
His [the leftist's] feelings of inferiority are so ingrained that he cannot conceive of himself as individually strong and valuable. Hence the collectivism of the leftist. He can feel strong only as a member of a large organization or a mass movement with which he identifies himself.I think that quote is an over-generalization, but points to a way to talk to the left. What little success I have had in communicating with the left has been to show them how government becomes the oppressor regardless of structures put in place to make it the liberator, if you will. Understanding that the leftist argument comes from an assumption of victimhood and powerlessness is the best way to proceed in persuading. Ordinary Americans do not feel this way, so exposing the left's assumptions are a good way to dissuade the average non-political person not to buy the left's solutions.