More Thought on the Missionary Door

I was preparing to respond to a comment to my “Three Doors of Possibility” post when I noticed that it apparently has been deleted.  I think the writer raises an important point, however, so here it is:

Sanzi will be an interesting Rhode Island personality to watch going forward.

Really – will we see a change from the Op-Ed she wrote in 2014 praising the Gov’s first election as boding well for students. I think more she’ll be among the litany of single issue RI “reformers” who end up when push comes to shove still voting “D” and justifying it by saying this time it will different.

I think your option 3 is flawed in using the term “missionary.” Missionary gives the notion of conversion to a way of thinking (and acting) based on a very rigid set of beliefs. That’s part of the problem with RI GOP. It’s also a feature now of the no compromise progressive left in the state – a trait that should be exploitable in a majority independent voter affiliation state.

However, no change is going to come by offering some version – correct as it may be more often than not – of some conservative, right to work, free market state with a flawed (at best) national messenger. The independent majority public is not buying that to the same extent they are not buying (yet) the progressive message.

Take a look at the senate judiciary vote on abortion bill. While some headlines trumpet RI senate committee votes down abortion bill with the implication the majority do not support abortion, the real point is a a few democrats – who *still support* abortion and made that position clear – opposed the left sneaking in an expansion. This would have passed even with some nudging more if the left hadn’t gone for a home run instead of settling for a wall ball double.

You’re not getting rid of public sector unions. You can’t impose radical school choice on the current system, you only get this hodge podge of c harters, poorly regulated government subsidization of privates, and traditional schools that end up costing more with mixed results in a state with declining enrollment. You can’t gut the dependency culture of the state in one swoop.

The Janus decision may have been correct; however, it is also not a coincidence that the public sector unions in the year following in RI have pushed through major gains – indicating Janus was a wake-up call for unions more so than the “hey you’re free if you want to leave” call to members. Be careful what you wish for if you haven’t slowly built a foundation for that new house to sit on.

Missionaries are either very successful with their message..or they get killed. The GOP has suffered the latter. East Greenwich is case study 1 – and the GOP rewards the architect of that debacle with the state leadership chair. Running failed leaders repeatedly whose message seemed to be “I’m not her/them” isn’t a great strategy either in a state with a lot of people resigned to your Option 1.

So, instead of missionary..well, I’m not sure the right name..but the below from Scientific American makes the point.

“the very same thing happens in our experiment, which suggests that people have a pretty high degree of flexibility about their political views once you strip away the things that normally make them defensive. Their results suggest that we need rethink what it means to hold an attitude. If we become aware that our political attitudes are not set in stone, it might become easier for us to seek out information that might change them.”

To come full circle..if the GOP announced their platform would support changing the student teacher sexual assault bill, would Sanzi step up and support the GOP? Would the GOP step and support say a Dan McKee if on balance he would a better fiscally responsible Governor than say the likely other Democratic – especially when the GOP has *nobody* even remotely in a position to win.

Let’s start with the idea of missionary work, and my intended meaning when using the term to refer to staying in Rhode Island to work for change.  Missionaries often undertake their adventures in order to advance specific religious doctrines, but the rigidity will vary, and it isn’t the totality of what they do.  In order to draw others to their beliefs — to bring the truth of their beliefs to others — they risk their own lives and safety in order to live among the people whom they’re trying to convert, teaching them, preaching to them (yes), but generally trying to help them with the practical challenges of life.  The missionary goes somewhere in which he or she does not really belong in order to help the people and draw them toward a better way of life.

That’s the sense I have in mind.  Conservatives have a set of beliefs that we think will improve society and make people’s lives better.  It would be far more comfortable to live somewhere that those ideals are already in practice, or at least more likely to be advanced, but somebody has to be the avant-garde, breaking new grounds of possibility in difficult terrain.

If I’m understanding correctly, the commenter is suggesting a need to persuade people that their political attitudes should not be set in stone.  One possibility toward that end is, yes, to model the behavior by modifying one’s own attitudes.  Of course, that runs the risk of becoming a habit, as one convinces one’s self that the ease of agreement is worth increasing degrees of capitulation.  It also runs the risk of persuading the others that they don’t have to moderate their own views because you’re proving them right by moving toward them and reinforcing whatever capitulation they’ve done in the past.

The other option is to stand firm while remaining a fine, admirable person.  In this way, others see that holding differing views is, indeed, possible — with dignity even in the face of hostile opposition.  In this way, we model an alternative not in our willingness to capitulate, but in our ability to disagree and hold an opposing view without degrading ourselves.

Maybe, in doing that, we draw people all the way to our positions, but where there is rigid opposition, even just proving that disagreement is possible and that there are principles worth standing up for is an advance.

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