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The local Wisconsin Public Radio station recently rebroadcast an interview with Chris Matthews. In it he sketched an interesting profile of a Limbaugh listener. What a DKos reader and contributor can do with that profile is the topic of this diary.

Matthews noted such listeners live and work under several types of real and perceived pressure. To name one, many react fearfully to the way immigration and creeping demographic norms are changing the culture they grew up in.

Paraphrasing, Matthews sketched the Limbaugh listener as a traveling salesman, engaged in difficult and demanding work, prodded and pressured to meet sales quotas, angry about the sales resistance and lack of respect he receives, doubly so in the current economic climate.

Limbaugh's air time coincides with on-the-road time for many such salesmen, who find the show a kind of support group.

Again, paraphrasing Matthews, Rush assures these traveling salesmen, “You're doing everything right. It's the femi-nazis, the affirmative action people, the minorities, who are all getting a free ride. You're carrying the load.”

Keep in mind that Matthews is sketching, not presenting a researched sociological profile. He suggests that Rush functions as a cheerleader for this group, and that they lean on him for support as they slog through their difficult daily grind. I'll add that these listeners may feel little sense of job security, and struggle to build retirement nest eggs. Did I mention the need to save for their children's college educations?

Until recently, I worked at a corporation where part of my job involved pulling customers' vehicles into service bays for maintenance. Quite a few cars were either fleet vehicles, sedans driven by salesmen working for large corporations, or were privately owned SUVs and sedans loaded with boxes of sales brochures. Matthews' sketch struck me as remarkably faithful. As I moved these vehicles into service bays, I was amazed to note how many radios were tuned to Limbaugh's program, or to local imitators.

Rush, it seems, is Willy Loman's therapist (or his cigar-chomping, pill-popping geisha).

These traveling salesmen are feeling trapped. Racing on an career gerbil-wheel bound for nowhere, having little to show for their effort, certainly not as far as wages and buying power are concerned, Rush offers an easy out, a vent for their anger and sense of isolation. Limbaugh's message is well-known: Someone else is to blame.

Rush offers up feminists, liberals and other left-tending people and groups as easy targets, but of course, these are the wrong ones. The plight of these traveling salesmen has much more to do with the political machinations of their own bosses. How do we make them see that their bosses are the real villains?

I meet these traveling salesmen at social gatherings. We connect by talking about sports, cars, raising children, travel, and vacationing in the northern half of the state. If politics is broached, our differences emerge. But this is not always a point at which the conversation stalls.

More than once I have met people who, after engaging me in conversation at successive social gatherings over the span of several months or years, are dumbfounded to learn that I am a Democrat. You might call me a stealth Democrat/Progressive. And I use that less-than-immediately-apparent identity to influence a specific group of political conservatives to broaden their perspective, to change their minds even, at times.

Since social gatherings can have the desirable benefit of building community and nurturing friendships, something I value, I tend to (and yes, there is an element of the calculated in this) exploit these gatherings to begin sharing my worldview. Given what I shared in the last paragraph though, I hardly come across as one of Limbaugh's reviled socialists, or as some pushy, in-your-face liberal.

Here, I suggest, is one method by which Democrats take back the House, retain the Senate and the White House, and begin restoring sanity, utility and balance to a government and an economy rigged to further enrich the already rich: Initiate and sustain dialog with middle class Republicans. They are your neighbors, the relatives of your friends, and you are bound to meet them at social gatherings.

Such gatherings of a social nature are, arguably, more effective venues for influence (as opposed to indoctrination) than gatherings of ALEC drones, or for that matter, gatherings of the Tides Foundation. (I find social gatherings much more interesting, too.) Unless you engage some individual who has no notion of a social contract, and even sociopaths wear a mask of civility when they believe it advantages them, you will find that your worldview, researched with solid data, can, in fact, influence listeners who have limited time to do their own research.

This is the stealth Democrat or Progressive in action. Smile, be witty and mild mannered, but arrive loaded for bear (or perhaps tea-stained elephant would be more apt). Your task is to gently point out the faulty reasoning in supply-side economics, the fact that the economic playing field is not level, the incomplete understanding conservatives have of the responsibilities of government, the myth of the poor freeloader and the welfare queen. Some of my Republican friends still cherish these shadows and endow them with mythic invincibility. But I can also say I am making progress in helping them to slay their imaginary demons and live as adults.

What is happening at these social gatherings? I am soft-selling to these traveling salesmen, selling informed, active, engaged, responsible citizenship, selling one nation, under God if it suits them, with liberty and justice for all, selling government of the people, by the people, for the people, selling unions, reminding them of all the workplace dignity and protections that unions have made commonplace. I'm quoting Madison, Teddy Roosevelt, Alexis de Toqueville, and yes, it does make for a party atmosphere unlike any they may have experienced before. The stakes are high. Our country has been hijacked, and I'm doing what I can to get it back. I treat every acquaintance who expresses a conservative opinion as a swing voter.

Part of the challenge is to take apart the caricatures Limbaugh draws of liberals, feminists and the like. Humanize them, give them a name, a face, tell a story of how they fought an injustice against long odds. When the traveling salesman sees that other hard-working Americans of modest means struggle to survive in this supply-side joke of an economy, struggle to prevail against wage theft, unbalanced taxation, marginalization, the time is then ripe to finger the real villains. And villains they are. Limbaugh never rails against the real perpetrators of this pathetic excuse for an economy. Time to name them and detail their infamous exploits. Call it a more expansive, enlightened and inclusive history lesson.

It can quietly dawn on the traveling salesman that he has more in common with you than with the Koch brothers, Ted Cruz, Jack Welch, Paul Ryan, Jamie Dimon, Limbaugh and a host of other damaged goods.

The counter to ALEC and other top-down, fringe-element policy pushers is, in part, a million small conversations at barbeques, at birthday parties, at book club meetings, yard sales, bake sales, at wedding receptions. These serve, first, as a place to enjoy the company of friends and family, to make new friends, and to learn just how deep and broad the human experience is. These too, are the salons of America, the marketplaces of ideas, an under-utilized resource for solutions to the mess Reagan's handlers and their progeny have made of this nation. Put another way, fight the massive misdirection and misinformation campaigns by resorting to asymmetrical warfare.

Perhaps the obvious needs to be repeated: Democrats and Progressives, our causes are just. They are long-term and sustainable, they are inclusive. That ignorant minority of one-percenters who would make this nation a feudal state can be overwhelmed by the mass of ordinary citizens. The hardened malevolence of the former may be manipulating your relatives, neighbors and friends, but it cannot be everywhere at all times. If the latter express an apathy borne of fear, a learned helplessness, share with them what you have learned about the earlier struggles this nation survived, help them end their shadow boxing and face the real demons. Share with them your quiet fierceness.

Originally posted to Heywaitaminute on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 08:56 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Very good insight and advice. (18+ / 0-)

    Sometimes one does, indeed, catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Restoring a little civil discourse at the one-to-one level is what it's going to take.

    Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

    by commonmass on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 09:52:13 AM PST

  •  That's how I do it... (7+ / 0-)

    when I'm on my own. But let someone belch out a right-wing talking point when my wife is around and she just goes off.

    One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain -Bob Marley

    by Darwinian Detritus on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 09:55:10 AM PST

    •  She is ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Darwinian Detrius, chimene

      OK in my book, and under similar pressure with an inverse reaction.  She would not happen to be a public school teacher?  Those poor folks are demonized and under appreciated.

      This land is your land and this land is my land, sure, but the world is run by those that never listen to music anyway. ~ Bob Dylan ~

      by NCTim on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 10:16:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Uh, guilty. (0+ / 0-)

      I "lit-up" once in a restaurant when having dinner with friends my wife had known since high school. They are Republican, and after the husband said something particularly, uh, "ill-informed" (yes, that's a euphemism for ignorant and stupid), our wives had to talk us down. So I am no perfect practitioner of the techniques I espouse in this diary entry. But I continue to collect data and to practice overcoming right-wing talking points by deconstructing them and pointing out the invalid presumptions and misdirections contained therein. Parry and thrust...

  •  unlikely that the snake oil Limbaugh sells, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    producing anger and distrust, could help with a sales career, unless the customers also buy it. John Birch CT as the lingua franca of the Loman set.

    •  I think sales attracts or creates RW types (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Musial, JVolvo, Mad City 67

      The most charitable spin I can put on it is that you've got these pumped up guys who embrace the "mystique" of sales as a line of work where they can make big bucks off sheer drive and force of personality because there's no rule that says you can't sell more.  When things don't turn out as well as they expected, of course they don't blame themselves but also they don't blame the work either.  It doesn't help that they're the kind of people who see everyone around them as dull apathetic lumps who'd never push themselves and don't even care what's out there to take.  They probably also trade stocks and work out like crazy: same mentality.

      The piece of advice I'd give traveling salesmen is that NOBODY wants to be bothered at home.  OF COURSE they're going to give you attitude or just string you along if they're too polite to shut the door since they can't shut your mouth.

      Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

      by Visceral on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 01:54:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wouldn't mind giving sales a try (0+ / 0-)

        except that I'd have to spend time with other salespeople, Glengarry Glen Ross style; I hate that brand of machismo.

        I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business.

        by CFAmick on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 09:22:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  These (0+ / 0-)

        are the Willy Lomans, workaholics, who run at full-speed from introspection while their children and spouses succumb to drug addiction and alcoholism, spurred by "Willy's" neglect. Workaholics are addicts, and they do a great deal of damage to themselves and to family and friends with their single-minded pursuit of...what exactly? Really. What exactly have they accepted as a substitute for happiness, for intimacy, for a life with depth and meaning?

        They might answer, "The American Dream", but press them to define it, and don't accept any fuzzy answers or put-offs. Does their American Dream include alienating their children, divorce, remarriage, serial monogamy, infidelity, denying their own addictions, and you don't live such a narrow life without falling prey to addictions...

        Materialism is, of course, commonly swapped for happiness, but it always, always fails to satisfy...

      •  Sales (0+ / 0-)

        In their eyes there's something lacking; what they need's a damn good whacking.

        by Mad City 67 on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 01:48:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Sales (0+ / 0-)

        In their eyes there's something lacking; what they need's a damn good whacking.

        by Mad City 67 on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 01:48:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Sales road warriors... (0+ / 0-)

        A lot of these people are classic overachieving underachievers. They spent most of their high school and college years standing around with their hands in their pockets. One day they woke up and discovered that their friends and relatives were all well on the way to successful careers, while they were best described as classic slackers. Since they had few marketable skills, their only refuge was sales.

        It is not surprising that these people are conservatives. Most educated liberals and progressives simply wouldn't put up with the abuse. I'm not talking about the negativity of the customers, I referring to the abuse from the employers. Despite the stereotypes, a lot of sales people have low self esteem, and do little more than bitch when their boss/company comes up with yet another way to make them do more with less for less. Classism and racism flows easily from those who constantly need someone below them on the food chain to make themselves feel better about themselves.

        In their eyes there's something lacking; what they need's a damn good whacking.

        by Mad City 67 on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 03:02:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Heywaitaminute - Great diary (10+ / 0-)

    A tip and a rec for you.

    No one changes their mind in a confrontation. I too work in stealth mode, 90% listening, 10% open ended questions. That's how you get people to really start to think. Find common ground and build off that foundation.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 11:35:48 AM PST

  •  Depending on the circustances (5+ / 0-)

    I sometimes operate in stealth mode. In truth,in my day to day,I meet few outright Gopers anymore. They are all now Independents or Fauxbertarians.

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 12:37:41 PM PST

  •  I've got to say, this is all well meant (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JerryNA, Whatithink

    but it's awful advice and awful strategy.

    The populist message is summed up in the sentence, "WE'RE GETTING SCREWED BY THE GODDAM [insert whatever here]."

    Rush's message is, white middle class people are getting screwed by the blacks, mexicans, homosexuals, feminazis, etc.  That these people are all AGAINST the average working stiff, people like YOU, people like the ones at your house party, and by extension, they're against your mom and your dad and your kid sister too.

    I think a long discourse about how other people aren't so bad is a waste of time.  People who are dissatisfied with their life need to hate and blame somebody.  Just give them somebody else to blame.  That's exactly what Occupy Wall Street tried to do.  And that's why Frank Luntz has been so panicked and upset about the success of the "class war" message of the Democrats in all his poll-testing.  

    You want to get your friends to rethink things?  Mention the AIG bailout and how they turned around and gave themselves gigantic enormous bonuses after they had run the company into the ground.

    "But.... it was the Fannie Mae and the greedy black people that wanted homes."

    Nuh uh.  Don't waste time on arguing against that.  Get the focus back on those fucking billionaires awarding themselves huge tax-payer money bonuses for failure.  Do they get bonuses when they fail at their job?  No.

    And point out how some of those businesses screwed homeowners left and right through simple FRAUD, and when it came time to prosecute them for that, the Justice Department decided they were too big to prosecute.  Are you too big to prosecute?  Noooooo...

    The problem the liberal message often runs into is that it sounds so damn elitist.  "We should help those who are less fortunate than ourselves."  Sounds great, but when your own life is hurting, its a message that pisses a lot of people off, because they know that they're left out of this equation.  Too well off to need assistance, too poorly off to give money to those who don't work as hard as they do.  And the people eager to help the poor seem like they have their head in the sky.

    A better message is, "We all deserve better than this!  Those rich fuckers in their toupees like Donald Trump -- they're nothing like us!  And they want us to keep THEIR taxes low so the rest of us have to pony up more???  What for?  So they can buy more coke and supermodels and attorneys to screw people?"

    The message you've outlined above in your diary sounds like one tailor-made to appeal to other Kossacks and people that are already committed liberals.  That's why it isn't very effective.  It's like a Jehovah's Witness knocking on your door in the morning with a pamphlet telling you about the 144,000 who are going to be saved.  Depending on how hungover you are, you'll be polite and listen and take the pamphlet and close the door.  Or you'll just close the door and swear never to open it for those guys again.  It's a fine message for fellow JH's and for a very, very few people who have never been exposed to the JHs before, but otherwise it too fails.  They get their real membership through friends and family, not through knocking on doors.

    •  I think the difference is not in the content (6+ / 0-)

      But in the style.

      The diarist seems to be proposing that the message  be gradually presented, via comments and questions. HItting people upside the head with overt anger is going to turn them off. Your approach is actually tallored to appeal to other Kossacks more than the diary is.

      “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

      by Catte Nappe on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 02:55:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I disagree. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The anger is directed at somebody who is NOT ONE OF US.  

        Don't underestimate the power of anger at "the other."  It's the staple of all populism.  Angry people want angry answers.  I know that frightens some people, sounds too 1984ish or Face in the Crowdish, but it's just human nature 101, and even successful liberal movements are based on it.  First you establish the other as the enemy, then you establish your own group identity in contrast to that.

        •  There's a time, and a place (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mike Kahlow, Calamity Jean, JerryNA

          The family reunion picnic, the office Christmas party, your nieces's wedding reception, your book club..these are not arenas for for empowering anger and establishing enemies. If you think they are, you should not be surprised if your social circle shrinks dramatically.

          “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

          by Catte Nappe on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 06:30:07 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I get this (6+ / 0-)

    Like you I have had more than one social friend be suddenly floored by the realization that I am a liberal.  The idea that a white, male, church going, gun owning, military officer could be anything other than a Teapublican has never occurred to them.

    I dont put much effort into "converting" them but I do challenge them on facts and I take great joy in mocking wild conspiracies.  I truly cherish opportunities to challenge their assertions on religion with special emphasis on the teachings of Jesus and Mohammad.  I have yet to meet a Teapublican who can withstand even a cursory challenge to their religious statements.  I am absolutely convinced none of them have opened a Bible or understand the difference between the Old and New Testaments.  What I have the absolute most fun with are their views on the military and warfare.  Since most have never served its easy to pick them apart.  Interestingly the ones who have, almost to a man were, were never in combat.  I dont even have to tell them the STFU, they just know to do it.

    Eventually they all figure out that I am a liberal and I hear something about Obama blah blah blah.  Thats when I hit them with "Oh the President isnt a liberal.  He is down right conservative in my view.  Im a Great Society LBJ liberal.  Im a Huey Long liberal."  This really gets them because most dont know who Huey Long is and think of LBJ as a conservative Texan.  I might personally be responsible for 1% of all the Huey Long google searches!  Usually we just agree not to talk politics which is fine with me.  As far as I am concerned I won because for a lot of these guys their stupid political beliefs and un-facts are the center of their existence.  They are a warm blanket I have suddenly taken away.  I dont want to reform them, just make them cold.

    It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

    by ksuwildkat on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 03:07:52 PM PST

  •  I think this fails to consider why (4+ / 0-)

    these people prefer to demonize those less fortunate rather than the ones who are ripping them off: to blame the plutocrats would mean admitting one belongs to the lower order of society, that one is not destined to walk among the "winners" (if only all those greedy "Welfare Queens" weren't standing in the way). This problem of Americans who think of themselves not as the oppressed but as temporarily embarassed millionaires goes back a very long way.

    "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

    by Alice in Florida on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 03:21:16 PM PST

    •  I take your point, and offer this. (0+ / 0-)

      Then it is precisely the lack of upward mobility that becomes the topic at social gatherings. Another opportunity then arises to name the perpetrators of wage theft, the scoundrels who shifted the tax burden off of corporations and the wealthy and onto the middle class, the continuing absurdity of corporate welfare.

      Suddenly you're not talking about those mythical welfare queens, you're fingering actual financial swindlers and their ridiculous “instruments”, you're naming Republican congressmen who have voted to overturn the ACA how-many-times-now(?) instead of acting to end oil company subsidies. You direct attention to real people perpetrating real crimes.

      That, and you lead a discussion of this human, cognitive weakness, this tendency to conflate net worth with true worth. This extends to discussion about what, in an existential sense, really matters. Even in this you are directing attention away from superficial chatter about new cars and other materialist froth, and towards what, perhaps, we might call our legacy. How will our descendants judge us?

  •  great diary, heywaitaminute! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Skyye, ban nock, JerryNA

    When fate puts you into interaction with a Republican, you have to decide what your goal is-- do you want to defeat them and win a debate, or do you want to leave them unconsciously a little more open to a Democratic position? It's extremely unlikely that you can achieve both.

    Your process of regular conversation that establishes a lot of similarities between them and you, caring about kids, wanting fairness, love for the great American tradition of government of the people, by the people, for the people, etc, interspersed with gentle casual reminders of true things that undercut the republican talking points, and all done just in the normal give and take rythmn of social hanging out is the most effective way to create the possibility of them shifting their view a little.
    When people are put in the position of overtly defending their ideas they almost always automatically move to unthinking rigidity and will be less likely to change than if you had never spoken to them at all. In fact, when you are in the business of trying to persuade people to agree to something, one of your first priorities is to try to keep them from making any definitive statement out loud until they are ready to agree. Beating someone in a debate almost always means losing them as a potential convert.

    There was an additional tactic that someone had in a diary a few weeks ago that struck me as having a lot of promise. They described a tactic of causually observing that tv was not like regular life, that tv is meant to be entertaining and dramatic and not like what really happens. It hadn't ever occurred to me before, but I'm trying to incorporate it in my conversations with right wingers now. I'll try to find a link.

    Thanks for this diary. I completely agree that one on one, in person conversations are one of our best opportunities against ALEC&crew.

  •  In 1994 I listened to Rush all morning and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    not a lamb

    Dr. Laura all afternoon. Why? Because knowing what the people around me were talking about was important (especially in forming rebuttals) and at that time, two decades ago I don't remember them being nearly as bad. That was back in the days of "dittoheads." (In the car CD players would skip too much on the dirt roads to play music in that day.)

    But, (and it's a big one!) the main reason I had them on at all was because it was THE ONLY RADIO STATION that came in when I was driving delivery through the mountains and river valley. It kept me awake and slightly annoyed, which was good for concentration and making good time, as I was a somewhat fearful driver in a rickety van.
        I discovered am talk radio in the same way. One night in a terribly icy snow storm I was inching down the hill and listening to a financial advice show that kept me distracted enough to forget my rising panic at the road conditions. (this guy was giving people a really hard time about "go get a 2nd job then" and I had never heard that kind of harsh treatment of listeners to a call-in show before)

     At home back then I used a somewhat similar technique for exercise: walk the treadmill in front of O'Reilly and go faster the more I wanted to reach out and smack him.

    But please, understand that the public choices were extremely limited. At home we had really good TV like Stanford University Nobel Lectures on Genetics that I would watch for interest and pleasure and to counteract the general local culture.

    So basically, sure- there have always been progressives out there blending in until teachable moments with friends come along. This should not be news, but unfortunately it's just as hard to get some democrats to listen to the rest of the people as it is to change a republican's mind.

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 05:14:17 AM PST

  •  Excellent! (0+ / 0-)

    This is how it will be done.

    Canem Praeteri, Cave Modo Hominem. (Never mind the dog, just watch out for the human)

    by T C Gibian on Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 08:17:35 AM PST

  •  I appreciate the tone and... (0+ / 0-)

    intent of this diary and have tried this approach for many, many years.  On another forum mostly populated by conservatives going back to 1999 and in person amongst coworkers, neighbors and friends.  You may sway a person here or there but for the most part it is temporary if that.  

    Perhaps I'm more jaded living in a very red district of a very red state. My experience has been trying to get a died in the wool conservative to change his/her mind is for practical purposes almost impossible.  

    I politely confronted a conservative friend who complains about 'lazy people on welfare' about the fact that she had her kids on our state's CHIPS Medicaid program.  At first she insisted it was a private insurance company.  I provided evidence it was not.  Then she insisted that the $30.00 a month she paid for her TWO kids to be on the program was sufficient compensation and therefore she was not 'using' a federal benefit.  She still believes that and will continue to for the foreseeable future because it's how she copes with her cognitive dissonance.  

    Jonathan Chait ran into this brick wall recently:

    They rationalize, ignore or duck into their ideological fox hole and there they stay.  As with my friend I sometimes get them to pause within their conservative think hamster wheel for a moment, but it's not long before they are rationalizing and spinning again.  

    "When someone shows you who they really are, believe them the first time" ~ Maya Angelou

    •  It must feel like a Sisyphean task at times (0+ / 0-)

      Red District? You seem a rose among thorns, or if a masculine analogy is required, a stallion among nags.

      Some listeners are, in fact, too ideologically calcified, too ideologically addicted, too coddled by the company they keep, or derive too much of their identity from what is really a superficial political bias, a brittle mask that hides as it constricts. I'll warrant their limited social skill sets and marginal interpersonal intelligence make them poor company. Let them live, then, in their own private hells. Arrested development, self-induced, is self-abuse.

      And, of course, some people may knowingly try to bait you, to get a rise out of you. It is a twisted kind of entertainment for a diseased minority.

      Better, it seems, to guard your own mental health and surround yourself with more stable, mature and well-balanced adults. Let such diseased people prey upon their ideological peers. They will all soon tire of each other, having traded poisons and found no sustenance.

      The social gatherings I tend to attend include individuals from what appear to be a broader spectrum of political leanings than you might routinely experience. Your description of a few social interactions gives me the impression they have been more toxic than what I will tolerate. I pick and choose my battles, and the playing field.

      I may reply to rather rude and thoughtless delusions spoken by conservatives with, “Wow. How did we get on this topic? I thought I was at a birthday party. I'm just here to enjoy the company of family and friends. What are you here for?”

      When conversation truly degenerates and the social contract is flagrantly violated by a sociopath who has ripped off his mask of civility and bared his rotting soul, it may be best to calmly hold up your hands, smile, and say, repeatedly if necessary, “Wait, wait. Stop, stop. This is clearly a topic you need to take up with your psychotherapist.”

      The ensuing pause in the conversation will permit you to seek more pleasant company.

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