This is Often the Biggest Obstacle I Face When Debating Republicans

facepalm1Doing what I do for a living, it goes without saying that I frequently engage in back and forth “debates” with Republicans. And, as many of you might expect, most of the time I leave those debates feeling as if I had just debated someone who lives on some other fictional plane of reality.

Following these debates I sometimes ask myself the question Will Smith’s character asked in the movie I, Robot:

“Does believing you’re the last sane man on the planet make you crazy?”

Don’t forget, I live in Texas. Which means that I’m constantly surrounded by right-wing conservatives. There are definitely times where I’ve jokingly questioned my own sanity being surrounded by so many people who seem so impervious to things that I view as just basic common sense.

But no matter where I might encounter these Republicans (be it online or in person) there’s one common trait that almost all of them have shared: Their inability to grasp complex ideas. 

Sure, they can spout off any number of “bumper sticker” style talking points – but most of them can’t explain any of them.

If you think about the “big” issues most Republicans cling to, they’re all very simple:

  • Tax cuts
  • The Bible
  • Guns

That’s about it.

Their stances on abortion and gay marriage are derived from the Bible. While their beliefs on guns and tax cuts are typically driven by lobbyists and special interest groups who’ve managed to convince millions of people that guns don’t cause gun violence and that basic economics (demand creates jobs) has nothing to do with job creation.

Seriously, go ask a Republican to explain why a business would create a job it doesn’t need just because they received a tax cut. Seeing them try to answer that is often hilarious.

And I know some conservatives reading this will try to say that they’re “all about the Constitution.” But that’s complete b.s. Republicans use the Constitution as a prop. Whenever it supports rights with which they disagree (a woman’s right to have an abortion for example) they’ll gladly do everything they can to violate those rights.

Climate change is a perfect example of this small-minded approach to the world I see a lot of the time from Republicans. Every winter, it’s inevitable that several clowns on Fox News will point to a cold front as “proof” that climate change is all one big liberal hoax. Failing to grasp the reality that weather and climate are two completely different things.

Guns are another great example of this short-sighted approach many of them have to the world. Why do many people say they need guns? To protect themselves from “bad guys” with guns, right? Why is it these “bad guys” have guns in the first place? Well, because many of the same types of people who now claim we need “good guys with guns to fight bad guys with guns” are the ones who’ve made sure guns have been easily accessible to “bad guys” for decades. See, they created a problem that they’ve now convinced millions of Americans can only be “solved” by the very thing that’s caused the problem in the first place…

More guns. 

It’s kind of genius in a way.

Health care is another issue that puts on full display the inability for Republicans to see the “big picture.” Many Republicans seem unable to grasp that universal access to preventative care, which is achieved through true socialized health care, actually lowers health care costs in the long run. Even a simple reality such as that seems too complex for many Republicans. It forces them to think in the long term instead of right now. 

Heck, just look at how many of them still believe in the story of Noah’s ark. It’s much easier to believe stories that are geared more toward young children (Noah gathered up two of every animal on Earth to protect them from a giant flood) than it is to believe in the very complex nature of science and evolution.

Time and time again I witness Republicans rejecting ideological stances on issues because they’re simply too complex. It’s easier for Republicans to just oppose abortion entirely than it is for them to oppose abortion while supporting the right for other women to choose for themselves. It’s easier for them to “just go to war” than it is to exhaust all forms of diplomacy before sending our troops into harm’s way. It’s easier for them to just arm every man, women and child in this country than it is to use logic and common sense when debating sensible gun regulations that seek to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

This is also how the Republican party controls their voters – by keeping it simple. It doesn’t matter if what they’re saying or doing makes any sense, just as long as it sounds good. As long as it’s repeatable, and plays well to their audience, that’s really all that matters.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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  • cheetohman

    Great article, Mr Clifton. I often have the same situations in conversations and come away thinking …”It can’t be just me?” after I’ve tried to have an in depth talk with some of my right wing neighbors and acquaintances.

    I mean, I can seriously understand the right’s position if you were already a multimillionaire, but none of them are living anywhere near the upper middle class level.

    One of my friends actually admitted that HIS stance is that although he’s barely scraping by now, he’s Republican because his father is rich, and he DEFINITELY doesn’t want those damned Democrats to tax his inheritance.

    • Richard Mcgee

      That’s the American Way inherit your money and tell everybody else how hard you work for it

  • Jim Valley

    I interact with conservatives on online forums and comment threads on a daily basis, and I can tell you that this article is 100% correct. Half of my comments point out the grotesque over-simplification and lack of nuance that characterize conservative talking points. They see only surfaces, never the depths. This is why they are totally immune to irony, parody, and other forms of wit. This is also why there are no conservative comedians.

    How simple can they get? Well, take their energy policy: “Drill, baby, drill!”. Problem solved. Or their take on immigration: “Send ’em home!”. Or their prescription for dealing with ISIS: “Kill ’em!” Apparently two or three words, most having one syllable, are sufficient to cover any of the world’s problems, no matter how complex.

    This lack of sophistication, combined with their completely different set of “facts”, their constant deflection and projection, their endless straw-man arguments, and their inability to debate any point without BECOMING ENRAGED AND CALLING ME GAY-BOY!!!!!! do indeed make them impossible to “debate”.

    • Jerry Graybosch

      Agreed. As to comedy, the form they most employ is slapstick…laughing at the pain of others.

      • Jim Valley

        I was going to mention that but I thought my comment was already too long!

        Liberal humor consists of poking fun at the rich and powerful. Conservative humor consists of poking fun at suffering, powerless people. It turns out that this is sociopathic rather than funny. Hence, no conservative comedians or comedy shows.

      • Ivan Renko

        Quite obviously, the clearer path to success and riches in comedy is to commit to liberalism. Funny how that works.

      • Jim Valley

        I assume that this high-handed, opaque comment is intended as an insult. Or are you being funny?

        Could you name some successful conservative comedians and comedy shows, if you dispute my point?

      • Ivan Renko

        Been there done that, Jim. I’ll list them, you’ll say they’re burnouts, no longer significant, no longer funny, all the usual insults you can recite from rote from hanging out on liberal blogs. The fact is, your point that there are no conservative comedians is just not true. You’d recoil at a joke about Obama, simply because it just isn’t done and the first thing you’d think about is ‘wait, was that racist?’. And so would the audience. There’d be an awkward silence while everyone holds their breath, wondering if it was ok to laugh or not. The exact opposite with the cheap as hell Sarah Palin jokes. It’s cool to laugh at those. You’ll laugh just because you know you’re supposed to. It’s hip. It’s cool. It’s comedians going to the well, like they always do, for audiences that demand little more than that when it comes to political humor. Look how many blogs and liberal comedians rely on Fox News and whatever the latest outrage of the day is. It’s cheap and it’s lazy. Just like whatever point it is you’re trying to make. One you’ve read a thousand times from other commenters on several other blogs.

      • Jim Valley

        Wow. The sheer length of your highly defensive diatribe reveals clearly that I have struck a nerve with you. Good! You need to have your eyes opened to reality.

        I don’t “hang around on liberal blogs”, by the way. It’s boring. I prefer mixed forums where I can have interactions like this one.

        You say my claim that there are no successful conservative comedians is false, but of course you don’t name even one. Who are you thinking of? The notoriously unfunny Dennis Miller? When is HIS show on? Or are you counting Rush as a comedian? Is Ann Coulter amusing? I can’t imagine who you think is funny on the far right other than as a laughingstock.

      • Ivan Renko

        Seriously, Jim, is that the debate you want to have to prove you’re making a good-faith effort at trying to understand conservative viewpoints. Stack up a list of liberal comedians and another one if conservatives and see who is more popular? More successful? On order to prove what? You said it proves that conservatives only want to bash the downtrodden. That they “are totally immune to irony, parody, and other forms of wit.” Because they lack the ability to dig deep into an issue, you said. Lack the sophistication. That is a dishonest presumption and childish way to argue a point. The fact is, most comedians’ politics are all over the map, they’re just trying to get a laugh. As soon as they commit one way or the other, they turn off a majority if folks on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

      • Jim Valley

        In this comment, you restate some of my points without addressing them and again claim that there are successful conservative humorists without naming any of them. Is this the “debate you want to have”?

      • Ivan Renko

        Because lusting them to compare to your liberal comedic heroes in order support your contention that conservatives lack the sophistication and wit to appreciate humor is a dishonest one. A pointless exercise. An exercise that takes no thought on your part.

        I copied a comment you made on another blog about Fox News to highlight your dishonesty in how you argue. Can you explain what it was about the interview Steve Doocey had with Mike Rogers that you found so profane as to ask a question as to why anybody watches that show? As the deep thinker you claim to be, what was it that you found to be dishonest?

      • Jim Valley

        I find that show to be vapid and shallow. I was expressing my surprise that there are people who are satisfied with the fluffy nonsense purveyed there.

        Your steadfast, repeated refusal to name even ONE successful conservative comedian, supposedly out of fear of what I might say, is suspicious to me. Right-wingers usually say whatever they want without caring what anyone else might think. Why are you so timid about this? How about if I like totally PROMISE not to say a bad thing about whoever you name?

      • Ivan Renko

        I listed several.

        Did you even watch the video of the interview?

        If so, what upset you?

        If you didn’t watch the video, and all you were doing was being like every C&L liberal commenter there who only shows up to take mindless jabs at whatever that day’s Fox outrage is, doesn’t that show you to be just as vapid and superficial as you say Fox News and their viewers are?

      • Ivan Renko





        I’ve given you every opportunity to display your sophistication regarding politics, on your own comments no less. Where are you?

      • Ivan Renko


        Once again, what was it about the interview Steve Doocy had with Rep. Mike Rogers regarding the command given to security personnel on the ground at the Benghazi compound that compelled you to ask if anyone even watches that channel?

        You must’ve been quite offended by it. Why?

      • Jim Valley

        I have seen many excerpts of the Curvy Couch Crew on the “liberal media”. The vapidity is pretty obvious to me. This conversation we are having convinces me that the answer to my question as to who could possibly enjoy this show is close at hand.

      • Ivan Renko

        ‘The vapidity is pretty obvious to me.’

        Wow, this is you explaining Shakespeare to a toddler, I suppose.

        Ok, what was obviously vapid about that interview?

        You hadn’t even watched it before asking those questions, had you?

      • Jim Valley

        This is the last response I will be posting to you. Goodbye.

      • Ivan Renko

        Jim, thanks for your deep thoughts here on this thread. I feel bad for you that you try so hard to find conservatives willing to engage you on a serious level and time and again you find them unwilling to debate honestly. I wish you luck in your future endeavors. You’ve certainly taught me a lot here. Well done, sir.

      • Todd Heath

        Matt Stone and Trey Parker are not comedians and they are libertarians, not conservatives. Joan Rivers was a life long feminist and gay rights supporter, not a conservative. Drew Carey has some progressive views making him more a moderate than a conservative.

      • Ivan Renko

        On other words, like I said, most comedians’ priceless views are all over the map. The exercise is futile.

      • Julie Wickstrom

        Finally you answer the question. Todd is right on underneath. Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy are “redneck” comedians and funny. I haven’t heard any funny political jokes. Are we sure that they are conservatives? Maybe I didn’t hear any of those jokes.

      • Jim Valley

        PS. The fact that you are reduced to berating me for using two question marks in a row (something conservatives would NEVER DO!!!!) starkly reveals the threadbare nature of your argument.

        Shut ‘er down, Clancy, she’s a-pumpin’ mud!

      • Ivan Renko

        Two question marks and four exclamation marks means you’re struggling for attention. That’s ok, but there’s irony there in the fact you’re pretending to take the high road as you wonder why conservatives are so shallow.

      • Jim Valley

        No, the four exclamation points (and the all caps) were a JOKE making fun of conservatives. The fact that this went right over your head is EXACTLY the point of this article, and my comments.

      • Ivan Renko

        You placed two question marks at the end of a question on a prior post, having nothing to do with trying to be funny. Can you tell me why you did that, and why you felt that question deserved two question marks? Can you even tell me why you asked the question in the first place? What offended you about that interview?

      • Jim Valley

        This is like trying to explain Shakespeare to a toddler.

        The two question marks were used for emphasis, to express extreme incredulity. It is a tongue-in-cheek device used to establish an ironic tone. I have a feeling all this is going right over your head because you cannot see past the surface of what I say. This is, of course, the point of the article we are commenting on.

      • Ivan Renko

        Again, I’m asking you what you were incredulous about over that video? You got four up votes for your efforts, yet you can’t explain to me what it was about that interview that has you upset about it.

      • Jim Valley

        I’m not “upset about it”, I am scornful of it. You consistently misunderstand my statements and misstate my positions.

        In the clip, Doocy pushes a particular point of view from the very beginning and when the guest does not follow his lead is unable to shift to a different stance. This is by no means the worst clip I have seen from this shallow, empty program, but it does exhibit the reliance on pre-determined talking points that characterizes the channel as a whole.

      • Ivan Renko

        Doocy knew that Mike Rogers had an alternative explanation, because he had spoken about it already yesterday. It wasn’t a surprise to Doocy. In fact, that’s why they asked him on the show.

        You just followed along with the other commenters.

        So ok, you were ‘scornful’. Why were you scornful? Fox wasn’t afraid to bring a Republican on who wasn’t going to call that a formal ‘stand-down’ order, even though he didn’t deny that those men were mistaken in having been told not to engage, as Heather from C&L claimed. In any event, Fox provided some balance to the story. Why would that make you scornful?

      • Stephen Barlow

        I would have thought it a typo, not a mission statement.

      • Stephen Barlow

        NO, we laugh at sarah Palin jokes because she is such an inspiration to comedians EVERYWHERE. She is a frothing overflowing comedy well. The Quitter, the three time failed media personality.

        Even her kids are jokes!!! How’s levi’s baby? Even her kids are media failures.

      • Stephen Barlow

        Funny how so few comedians give a rat’s ass about politics. I mean was Richard Pryor a Democrat? George Carlin was not.

      • Ivan Renko

        That’s an over-simplification and false generalization. It’s no wonder you don’t understand conservatives. Like this blog article, the point is not to ponder, explore, or seek common ground, but to denigrate. And you do it dishonestly, employing the same characteristics as those you describe conservatives doing.

        It’s east is east and west is west. It’s that simple. If you want to make it more complicated or sophisticated than that, then what good does it do you to moan about it with people that are going to say and do the same things you’re doing? That makes no sense. At all.

      • Eugene Berkovich

        It’s almost never “east is east and west is west” and that is the problem. Just like the article correctly states that a cold front does not mean that climate change is a hoax. But it is an easy statement that many people would just accept at a face value.

        I’ve done a lot of debating with conservatives and I rarely hear anything beyond one-liners coming out of them. Now, there certainly are conservatives who are intelligent and knowledgeable. But is it a surprise that there aren’t too many of them? After all, it has often been said that Academia is “filled with lefties”. You know why? because that is where brains are.

      • Jo Clark

        No false generalization at all. I can literally count on one hand the conservatives I’ve come across in six years that do NOT denigrate the poor, the weak, the unfortunate, the African Americans, the Hispanics, any immigrant, women, pro-choice folks, any member of the LGBT community OR anyone who supports them. You name it, whatever their puppet masters tell them to hate, they go full bore on. You try to engage them in conversation, ask them to name one example of such and such, and that’s where Mr. Clifton’s referenced point of “inability to grasp complex ideas” is reached. You can see them stop dead in the water because they don’t possess the critical thinking skills to process.

        Take the pro-choice movement for an example. I guarantee you, 99% of conservative voters haven’t a clue why they’re against it other than their leaders tell them it’s good to be against it and use the bible as a crutch to defend that position. They don’t even know why. It’s the epitome of ignorance.

      • Ivan Renko

        I don’t denigrate any of those groups, Jo. I hope that doesn’t run your count over to your other hand, so you can continue repeating that silly falsehood.

        You sound like Pauline Kael, bewildered as to how Richard Nixon won the election,

        “I can’t believe Nixon won. I don’t know anyone who voted for him.”

      • Jerry Graybosch

        See? Can’t take a joke!

      • Bill Fisher

        You’re being dishonest, Ivan. Conservatives don’t argue, they don’t seek common ground. I have yet to talk to a conservative that doesn’t end up screaming something purely asinine about President Obama or Socialism. ps: I don’t believe conservatives are Christian, either. I also don’t believe that are reasoning human beings. Nor are they in any way, American.

      • Stephen Barlow

        YEAH, and your not the only one who saw it either Bill.

      • Stephen Barlow

        When your kind deserve more than denigration you will get what you earn, but not until then. When you have been worthy of praise you will get it.

      • ErnestineBass

        Imagination is the wellspring of experience.

      • cheetohman

        Bill Maher often points out that good comedy aims its barbs upwards, to take down those in power above you.

        Bad comedy (i.e. conservative comedy) aims downward, belittling the have nots.

      • Jim Bean

        Like all the jokes they made when Cheney accidentally shot his hunting partner? Ignorant shit like that? Is that what you’re talking about? Oh…wait!!! That was YOUR tribe doing that, wasn’t it? Bummer! Well, when you did you reach the conclusion it was unbecoming?

      • Jerry Graybosch

        Who said slapstick can’t be funny?

      • Jim Bean

        The Left. They said it can’t be funny if their loved one is the butt of the joke. Otherwise, however, they approve wholeheartedly.

    • FD Brian

      Dennis Miller is a conservative comedian. Although he’s become less comedian and more douche bag.

      • Jim Valley

        Yes, I was thinking more of comedians who are funny.

  • Grand1

    Cafeteria Constitutionalists: noun, the ability to pick and choose which clauses and amendments to the U.S. Constitution that a person or groups want to believe.

  • The only thing I disagree with here, and it is actually a semantic issue, is “derived from the Bible.” No, those assumptions are from their misinformed ‘understanding’ of the Bible. I can’t tell you or anyone what the exact meaning of, or interpretation of, such writings is, but to take any book, whether it be fact, history or fiction, ‘literally’ is just a mistake in the beginning.

    People who base their every step and move on a book, good or bad or not, need to question that book and belief daily, even at every moment.

    If I were to base my every decision and consideration on whether and how it aligns with a book such as the Bible, I will be questioning it constantly and relentlessly.

  • Avatar

    Look at Afhanistan (under Taliban rule), Somalia, and few other failed states that are run on absolute theocracy religion ruling, guns, and near to zero taxes. Corporations took huge advantage of that by easily bribed officials and operate with zero impunity in these countries by strip the resources and pride from native people.

    Republicans want that in America too.

  • Dustin Neumann

    To be fair . You suck at talking to us liberals also . Even tho once you agreed and i pointed out i was right you just blocked me . lmao lame!

  • Jim Bean

    A business would create a job it currently doesn’t need if incentivized to try to expand its business horizons in order to make more profit. No new sustainable jobs occur otherwise.

    If guns caused violence, the incidence of violence among the Amish would be greater than the general population. “Sensible gun control?” How does limiting magazine capacity ‘keep the gun out of the hands of criminals?’

    Warm front, drought, tornado, flood, hurricane – all climate change. Record cold temperatures somewhere – weather. (Current explanation for flat temperatures? The oceans are secretly sucking the heat into depths so far down that scientists can’t measure it. Sort of the global warming enthusiasts version of ‘the dog ate my home work.’)

    Diplomacy only works when you have a strong, respected, and feared, diplomat to deliver it. None available, currently.

    Many countries have universal socialized health care. When infected with the Ebola Virus, you’ll fly over those countries and land here. Need an MRI in Vancouver preliminary to hernia surgery? No problem. Free. Wait time unlikely to exceed one year.

  • jonjstrine42

    A while back, about a year after the ACA was signed into law, I got into an argument with a typical right-winger where she said that President Obama was a socialist. I asked her to name one things he’d signed that fell under that category, and I even gave her the actual definition of socialism per the online dictionary at Princeton (not the right-wing definition, which is “Anything and everything Republicans disagree with on any topic”). Her reply was, of course, the ACA.
    I went through point by point, explaining to her that the ACA is in no way, shape or form socialism. Her reply was that as far as she was concerned it’s still socialism. See? She got proven wrong, so she just changed the definition for fit her needs. Typical from people like her. But it gets better.
    I then cited figures about how much the ACA was estimated to bring down deficits in later years and how much it would cost to repeal it. When she derisively asked me where I got my information, I gave her links to the CBO reports. Not articles about the reports. The reports themselves, fresh from the CBO dot gov website. Her reply? She wasn’t even going to bother clicking on my Liberal propaganda. Facts given and dismissed. Again, quite typical.
    If ignorance truly is bliss, then Republicans and their followers should be the most blissful people on the planet.

  • Stephen Barlow

    It simply not enough to point out how easy it is to usurp another persons RIGHT TO BE IGNORANT. It’s easier to STEAL a person’s RIGHT TO VOTE than it is to teach that person how to decide how to vote and who to vote for. What are the Republicans going to do WITHOUT a black Democrat on the ballot? My bad, Hillary has a vagina, they can use that as an echo chamber for their prejudice.

    What REALLY gets Me is how vociferously Republicans DEFEND their right to be wrong. Come hell or high water, Obama is ruining the Country single handedly, without ANY HELP whatsoever. The absentee Congress, the voters, the media… NONE of them are helping him destroy America. Not that a 250% in the fair market value of was actually any of his doing. Nor the ending of Osama Bin Laden. Or the saving of how many lives by NOT invading Libya.

  • FD Brian

    One thing I’ve read about the main difference between the right and the left is that the left is interested in making policy and the right are ideologues who aren’t interest in policy. The left are compromisers and the right stick to their theories and don’t compromise.