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The Missing Conservatives
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Joined: 20 Jan 2004
Posts: 148
Location: Boiling Springs, PA

PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2004 7:06 am    Post subject: The Missing Conservatives Reply with quote       

Here’s an important question that I know is on many of our minds: Why are so few conservatives involved in NCDD, and in dialogue and deliberation in general? How can we attract more conservatives to this work?

I’m very interested in hearing people’s ideas and thoughts on this.


Sandy Heierbacher
Convenor, NCDD
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Wally Clausen

Joined: 11 Jul 2004
Posts: 12
Location: Weston, MA USA

PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2004 4:48 pm    Post subject: Musings on Conservatives Reply with quote       

This resonates with recent discussion on the main listserv about convening bush supporters and republicans for dialogue with others about Fahrenheit 911, or otherwise during the political season. But it’s broader too. Some musings:

I’d like to hear from people who can offer more nuanced definitions, but my definition of a conservative would have him/her being concerned mainly about preserving traditional, relatively unchanging values. This conservative’s orientation would be toward assertive advocacy and, with those who disagree, debate. Why inquire, if I’ve decided I know the answer? What’s to dialogue about? – let’s debate!

If I were a conservative and wandered into this e-space, I’d feel the chill of a foreign land or an unfriendly climate. Most of the exchanges have embedded values that would differ from mine. If I were feisty and had time on my hands, I might start battling. But barring a way to intentionally converge on quite specific issues and options, opening the way to a bounded exchange, I’d say “I’m outta here.” And they probably do.

But then we have the chaps who Jim Lehrer talks with most nights. Those are certainly thoughtful, balanced conversations. Suspect that is partly preselection of quite thoughtful, mature people, and mostly the presence of Lehrer as moderator. Quite different from an open-ended, unmoderated forum.

This is not usually very relevant to me as a practitioner. Either I’m involved with a conversation that is mostly in liberal territory, or the format is relatively a-political and my main concern is to temper extremes on both ends of the spectrum through norms and groundrules.
Wally Clausen
Clausen Associates — Consultant
Partners of the Americas — Volunteer
781-894-0793 Phone/Fax
[email protected]
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Joined: 20 Jan 2004
Posts: 148
Location: Boiling Springs, PA

PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2004 8:33 pm    Post subject: An Example of a Right-Friendly Dialogue Announcement Reply with quote       

I just got this announcement today from the Public Square (www.thepublicsquare.org), a Chicago organization that has been running some innovative dialogue programs. I was struck by the way they framed this dialogue about the Patriot Act (“the evolution of civil liberties,” “important but sticky territory,” etc.). I imagine that conservatives would not be afraid to attend this dialogue, and I wonder if part of the problem is that our skills at framing things even-handedly often fall short because of our own personal views and values.

NCDD Convenor

Here’s the announcement:

The Patriot Act provides a number of important programming guidelines for organizations concerned with public policy issues. However, many institutions fear that their operations might put their federal and other government funding in jeopardy. Some go so far as to censor themselves out of fear that might or might not be founded. Is this fear real? Does the Patriot Act erode individual and organizational free speech? What are the benefits and pitfalls of working in such important but sticky territory?

Join The Public Square Saturday to discuss the evolution of civil liberties under the Patriot Act.

This event is free. Reservations are recommended, but not required. If you would like more information, contact The Public Square at [email protected] or 312.993.0682.

This program is made possible in part by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the General Assembly.
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Joined: 09 Jul 2004
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2004 9:29 pm    Post subject: are the conservatives really missing? Reply with quote       

I realize that there aren’t many conservatives among the set of people who consider themselves national advocates and experts on dialogue and deliberation. But let’s face it, we could probably all fit in a large-sized phone booth, and we are pretty homogeneous in all kinds of ways (not just ideologically).

It also seems like some of the national advocates are interested in D&D mainly because they think that, if citizens simply talked more and learned more about public issues, they would become more ‘enlightened’ and more likely to adopt left-leaning views. I think this bias comes across when they try to promote D&D. (It also makes me wish that all of us who advocate D&D nationally had the opportunity to organize one little neighborhood-level D&D program – you learn pretty quickly that you can’t keep this kind of bias if you want to recruit a broad range of participants.)

What do we know about the ideological affiliations of the people who actually participate in D&D projects at the community level? My sense of it is that this set of people is much more ideologically diverse than we think. (I worked with a suburb of Rochester a couple of years ago where every single man, woman, and dog seemed to be a card-carrying Republican. They approached D&D with all the same questions, reservations, and – ultimately – enthusiasm as the residents of every other community I’ve been to.)

I’m sure some of you out there must have done some actual research on this – I’m just relying on anecdotal experiences. What can you tell us about the ideological diversity of D&D participants? (Of course, if you have anecdotal info to share, that’d be good too.)
Matt Leighninger
Democracy Workshop
Senior Associate, Study Circles Resource Center
2 Beulah Avenue
Hamilton, ON L8P 4G9
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chris lang

Joined: 07 Dec 2004
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 6:29 pm    Post subject: Dialogue vs. Prayer Reply with quote       

Here’s an interesting perspective I have run accross which may account for some people who do not value the dialogue. It turns out that some people try to resolve disputes by praying about the dispute. The basic idea is that people do not really understand the world and will not really listen to each other–only God can show anyone the truth, so dialogue is pretty much useless.

The only answer I can give to this problem is interfaith dialogue (see the session from NCDD). Note that this kind of dialogue brings in a different crowd because the published purpose of the event is to share different religious perspectives, rather than to have dialogue. Telling someone we need them to represent the conservative perspective might not be as persuasive as asking them to represent their religious perspective.
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Rex Barger

Joined: 19 Aug 2004
Posts: 14
Location: Hamilton, Ontario

PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 2:34 pm    Post subject: Prayer vs. dialogue Reply with quote       

As a qWaker myself, I’d agree that “only God can show anyone the truth”, but I see that as all the more reason for D&D. Why? Because the God I believe in (which I also refer to as Reality) never reveals the whole truth to anyone, so we very much need to share our little glimpses of the truth about Reality with each other in order to get a fuller picture. 
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Howard Ward

Joined: 03 Mar 2005
Posts: 2
Location: Ventura Co./ So. Calif.

PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2005 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote       

I just went and asked one of my Conservative co-worker friends this question of why she doesn’t participate in dialogue groups.

The basic answer, in concise form was: Why bother? It doesn’t accomplish anything other then giving people a chance to express their opinions.

She also said she would likely find it an unpleasant experience, as having to listen to some of the views other people have is upsetting.

Having spent the last several years trying to promote dialogue, it’s clear to me that many people, left right or center, feel “talking is a waste of time.”

I certainly don’t feel I have the answer, but the two things I’m always looking for more effective means of communicating are:

#1 – Cooperative Dialogue is not the same as the frequently unpleasant and unproductive experiece most people have of debate or argument.

#2 – Without a ‘change in understanding’, nothing changes fundamentally.

Unless we change the perception conservatives and others have about dialogue, I don’t see much change in participation occuring any time soon.

I also feel that one of the most important ways of changing that perception is done by being a living example of that change. When and if we are priviledged to have a ‘skeptic’ join us in dialogue, the ‘dialogue experience’ needs to reflect that difference we are talking about in character, it seems to me. If the dialogue still resembles debate, it will simply reinforce the skeptics opinion that ‘talking is a waste of time’.

That’s how is seems to me.

Regards – Howard
Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation, but as a question – Neils Bohr
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Joined: 09 Mar 2005
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 4:14 pm    Post subject: framing the invitation – and choosing the topics Reply with quote       


In my humble opinion, this is one of the most crucial issues facing groups who advocate for ‘open, balanced, civil discourse’ under the guise of ‘nonpartisan’ intentions. If the conversation doesn’t include a diverse set of perspectives, any D&D effort misses the point.

I have a couple thoughts to throw in the mix, both build on previous comments in this thread. (To be clear, none of this is grounded in anything legitmate, and I admittedly am using terms loosely.)

New organizations/methods/ideas are ‘different’, whether they are actually new or are merely being recycled. I would put the truely new, original ideas, and those who pursue them, in the ‘progressive’ category.
Progressivism is quickly (and wrongly, but understandably) being associated with liberalism. Why? Because more crazy liberals are out there trying new things – and their friends come along first. Participating in something ‘different’ is not something a stereotypical conservative jumps up to do. Many D&D efforts are started by people willing to dream up and try something new. The element of risk and ambiguous/untangible ‘return on investment’ in such a project isn’t usually attractive to the conservative crowd.

That said, there is a whole heck of a lot of conservatives who yearn for exactly the type of discourse being promoted by progressives on all sides. (Again, I have no scientific evidence that this is true, just two years of seeing hundreds and hundreds of conservative students at James Madison University respond positively to The OrangeBand Initiative, a student-led effort to enage the campus in discussion.) The issue, though, is they can’t necessarily trust the D&D groups to really be nonpartisan because they are full of lefty hippies.

The challenge for D&D groups, then, is to choose and frame their purpose, process, and discussion topics in a way that gets these interested-but-wary conservatives over the hump. If they get involved, so will their friends. My suggestions: the website/brochure language shouldn’t be all fluffy and feel good, the benefits to discussion should be made explicit and tangible, the discussions should focus on more than race relations and poverty (not that those aren’t worthy topics!), the invited participants should include the Catholics and Young Republicans.

But forget what I think: ask the conservatives! If conservatives can be recruited to coordinate events/forums (i.e. choose the topics, title, and speakers), there is a higher probability that it will spark more interest in their peers. Indeed, if they can be enlisted to craft the very mission, vision, and strategy of the organization, there is potential for diverse involvement. Seek out the people who don’t respond so positively to the work your D&D organization does – they have your (our) answers.

Getting to the point: the liberals are going to come whether you want them there or not, whether you advertise with them in mind or not. They are predisposed to attend a discussion – whether they are invited or not. Therefore, I suggest putting focused energy into getting conservative input for all parts of a D&D organization. Every couple conservatives who get involved will become trusted advisees to like-minded peers who are considering getting involved themselves. Some might think this sounds underhanded, but I would argue it is vitally important for any group that wants to remain inviting to a broad spectrum of folks.

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