How To Win An Argument With Another Progressive

Are you too busy to respond to every comment on your blog? Do you have a difficult time coming up with quick retorts during debates in local activist meetings? Is your pet position being ignored by your progressive friends and colleagues? Are there still progressives who have the gall to not follow every last bit of your advice on politics? If you face these or any similar problems, then you need my guide on how to win an argument with a fellow progressive. It is quick. It is easy. Also, if my experience in receiving literally dozens of criticisms of my own writing on a daily basis is any indicator, it would appear that literally anyone can follow this guide and still feel absolutely self-righteous.
These simple rules should allow you to win pretty much any argument with a single progressive, or a group of progressives. Just remember the following:
  1. Someone disagrees with you only because of his or her demographic background. The only reason any progressive holds any position that different from yours is because s/he is one or more of the following: white, suburban, non-union, upper-middle class, from a different region of the country, heterosexual, homosexual, male, female, a Baby Boomer, not a Baby Boomer, secular, religious, or from a specific type of religious background. If you are in a disagreement with someone on a topic that somehow particularly affects any given demographic, simply argue that the reason that person is disagreeing with you because s/he hails from the demographic group viewed as the oppressor when it comes to that given issue. When making this sort of argument, it is particularly helpful to point out that you are a member of the oppressed demographic. Of course, since you probably aren't a member of that demographic group, it is almost as good to point out that all of your friends from that demographic group agree with you. This tactic can also work against entire organizations if the membership of an organizations is not properly diverse.

  2. Someone is only a progressive if they focus on the same issues as you. You may have noticed that not every so-called "progressive" focuses their work on the same topics as you. The reason is, of course, that those so-called "progressives" with different areas of focus are not really progressives at all! How could a progressive not focus all of their attention on the same issue you focus you attention on? They can't. Make sure you open up any discussion on your pet issue by pointing out that not enough so-called "progressives" are focusing on that issue, because that will help squelch any dissent from the start. After all, progressives want to be progressives, and will do their darndest to make sure that your issue, no matter what it may be, is not ignored. This has the added benefit of getting your diary onto the recommended list at Dailykos. It can even come in handy when you find yourself out of your depth in a discussion outside your topic area. Instead of caving, just say that the person who disagrees with is wrong for even focusing on that issue at the expense of yours in the first place.

  3. What would Ghandi do?. If you happen to be in the unfortunate position where your given position is considered "fringe" by the majority of progressives, always close and open any discussion on that position with Ghandi's saying "first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Since Ghandi is the progressive Jesus, this tactic will work about as well among progressives as quoting Bible verses works among conservatives. You pull out a Ghandi quote, and you skip straight to stage four in any argument. Also, while this particular phrase is most effective when you are being ignored and / or laughed at, no matter what stage in Ghandi's progression you are actually in, claim that you are already at stage number three. After all, if you are in an argument, then someone is disagreeing with you, and thus in a sense fighting you. It really is the same thing as British troops throwing you in jail for a decade after beating the hell out of you for a non-violent protest.

  4. Since when are they so perfect? Remember, you are not arguing with Martin Luther King or a participant in the Orange Revolution. More importantly, make sure remind whoever you are arguing with that s/he isn't Martin Luther King, or a participant in the Orange Revolution. His or her failure to be Martin Luther King and / or a participant in the Orange Revolution immediately takes them down a peg or two, and discredits what s/he has to say. After all, if someone wasn't one of the leaders of the civil rights movement, or if someone failed to overturn the results of a fraudulent Eastern European election, what business does that person have suggesting courses of action to other progressives? This argument is greatly enhanced if you can point out that you were at some watershed progressive moment, such as the 1968 Chicago protests of the DNC. Of course, participating in such an event makes you such an authority on all things progressive, that it helps to state you were in attendance, even if it isn't true.

  5. You've got cred, man. This is similar to the previous tactic, but better used in a more specific circumstance. Remember that you were the top volunteer for a local campaign for a disappointing Democrat in your area, even if you only went out canvassing only once. Hell, you were beyond a volunteer--you were a staffer, maybe even the campaign manager! Remember that you donated to every campaign and every blog fundraiser, ever. You were at every rally, ever. You had every prediction right, ever. You have been there and done that, no matter where "there" is and what "that" may happen to be. There isn't a single, specific situation to which your endless activism does not apply. Remember that the person you are talking with isn't nearly as active as you are on that specific issue, and did not have as much foresight as you did. You earned your cynicism and / or the right to be an asshole--they didn't. Make sure you point out both of these things to that person.

  6. You are too good for them anyway. If all else fails, just remember that whoever disagrees with you is either a corporate, DLC-lackey or a self-destructive, know-nothing McGovernick. You can end any argument in this fashion and still win it, because in the end you know that their tactics will lead to failure. Hell, not only will it fail, the person who disagrees with you is probably getting bought off by Rove, or some corporation. That is the only possible explanation for disagreeing with someone like you, who is made up of pure light. Except, perhaps, that you are arguing with a rank amateur who doesn't have the proper historical context to understand why liberals must be quiet at all times, lest conservatives dominate the country is even greater numbers. Some people are too naïve to know what is for their own good.
With judicious application, these rules can help you win any argument with a fellow progressive without ever presenting evidence, or developing a cohesive rational for your utterly progressive position. The merits of an argument need not ever be involved. When applying these principles, it helps to find the worst thing someone has ever said or done, and only focus on that one thing at the exclusion of all others. Everyone has stumbled. Everyone has made a mistake. Don't let them get away with that--exploit it. These steps will show you the most effective means of doing just that.

Of course, I may have left some out, so if you have any tips on how to win an argument with a fellow progressive, let it rip in the comments.

Update: First people ignore my misspelling of Ghandi, then they laugh at my misspelling of Ghandi, then they fight my misspelling of Ghandi, then my misspelling of Ghandi wins. I'm already on stage three.

Tags: Blogosphere, Ideology, meta (all tags)



Re: How To Win An Argument

Chris, I already wrote this list up and posted it on Kos, like, 3 years ago.

by clarkent 2007-01-29 03:47PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument
Yeah, but your poll didn't have an option for my vote.
by Chris Bowers 2007-01-29 03:47PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument

That didn't mean that you had to troll rate it!

by clarkent 2007-01-30 04:59AM | 0 recs
you have so much more cred on this issue

by msnook 2007-01-29 05:56PM | 0 recs
Yeah but...

...somebody had already diaried it three years and one day ago. Please go to the archives, delete it, and then consult the FAQ.

by BlueinColorado 2007-01-29 07:45PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv
But everyone knows that the Mayor of Albuquerque doesn't blog about labor enough.
by Chris Bowers 2007-01-29 03:50PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

I have an addendum: always remember that being jaded was better last year.

by aip 2007-01-29 03:50PM | 0 recs
Great post Jerome...
Stellar work as always.
by Jonathan Singer 2007-01-29 03:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Great post Jerome...

Ya, but if he's Jerome, who are you then...

by michael in chicago 2007-01-29 04:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Great post Jerome...

Just giving myself kudos through some sockpuppetry.

by Jonathan Singer 2007-01-29 04:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Great post Jerome...

Man, am I clever or what?  So clever in fact, that I'm going to give myself a 3 rating.  Jonathan-self, feel free to reciprocate to Scott-self.  Or not.  Whatever I feel like doing.

by Scott Shields 2007-01-29 06:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Great post Jerome...

You guys are cracking me up today, normally these diaries don't interest me because I'm: so well educated/have been online forever/have read it all before/know the words to kumbaya.

by Robert P 2007-01-30 05:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Great post Jerome...

None of this actually addresses the issue of liberating people from slavery.

And, of course, I am borrowing this login from the original "owner", since I am actually Spartacus.

by BruceMcF 2007-01-30 06:31AM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

7.  write a self-righteous blog column that makes generalized complaints about the straw-man arguments made by self-rightous, generalizing straw-man complainers?  (~friendly grin~)

Meta diaries are fun.

by Transmission 2007-01-29 03:54PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

I am offended by your blatant racism.  You just HAD to inject color into this, didn't you.

by Transmission 2007-01-29 04:04PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

You just had to play the "race card".  That is so uncouth... all of my minority friends agree with me.

by maddogg 2007-01-30 05:02AM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

This is not pulling the race card. All my Congolese friends agree that its only Western Africans that are really "black" black. So its really pulling the ethnic card.

by BruceMcF 2007-01-30 06:33AM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

My gut reaction is to balk completely at this discussion. You can't pay attention to what every agoraphobic idiot  out there has to say. There are a lot of lonely girls (and boys) in the internet sea.

by sb 2007-01-29 04:14PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv
That is actually a sub-rule. If someone online disses what you say, point out that what people say online is pointless.
by Chris Bowers 2007-01-29 05:00PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

It's only pointless because Jerome paid you to say that with money he funneled through ForwardTogether, which in turn came from the Rand Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires.

Also, you are Jerome.

by Adam B 2007-01-29 05:22PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

The FEC is going to quote you on that.


7. You used to be cool.

by Bob Brigham 2007-01-29 07:01PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

Because people online live in an echo chamber. They don't understand what real people think.

Only I actually speak to real people in the real world and understand ...

by BriVT 2007-01-30 02:07AM | 0 recs
You left out the real No. 1.

Get in the last word.

The online world belongs to those with broadband and leisure time.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-29 04:19PM | 0 recs
Hey! You don't understand me!

You only listed white! There are plenty of people I can claim to not understand because they are black or from Asia or whatnot. I can't believe that even an old (in blog years) arrogant elitist urban northern middle class blogger could be so wrong!

I am so disappointed in you!

PS: Ghandi? According to the latest political compass test, my political views are a near perfect match with Ghandi's.

Except I don't abstain from violence.

by MNPundit 2007-01-29 04:20PM | 0 recs
Spelling Nitpick


by RT 2007-01-29 04:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Spelling Nitpick

You can't criticize him for spelling Ghandi wrong... you don't know Sanskrit!

by Les Izmore 2007-01-30 03:46AM | 0 recs
You cannot Edit Commnets as at TPM Cafe no matter how hard I try something always sneaks through.

by MNPundit 2007-01-30 03:46AM | 0 recs
Re: You cannot Edit Commnets as at TPM Cafe

No biggie.

by RT 2007-01-30 06:07AM | 0 recs
I just starting mocking them

Which entertains me, defangs and infuriates them, and amuses onlookers.

If that doesn't work, I start drawing cartoons.

Fear the toon.

You might wind up like John McCain, here. :)

by cskendrick 2007-01-29 04:25PM | 0 recs
You misspelled Gandhi

And repeatedly. What kind of progressive are you , you racist scum!@#:=)(@$*!!!!

by Pravin 2007-01-29 04:29PM | 0 recs
re: Gandhi

My Indian room mate tells me that in Hindi, "Ghandi" (as we Americans pronounce it) is a lewd word for some lewd body part, but he's too proper to tell me which.

Chris, by calling Gandhi something lewd (what exactly, I have no idea), you have brought me to another rule for arguing with progressives: the other person is always a racist, sexist, or other form of bigot. They just don't "get it". I bet you misspelled his name on purpose!

by msnook 2007-01-29 05:57PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

Argue that arguing is divisive, martial, and competitive. Competition is capitalist. Your opponent needs to be more open minded.

by demondeac 2007-01-29 05:30PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv


by Albert 2007-01-29 05:34PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

Aha. I'm beginning to see that my impatience with meta posts like this in progressive discussion forums is due to my simply having seen all of it before on Usenet and BBS's in the 90's.

None of these observations are new. Yes: there have been online discussion foruns that preceded the existence of the Web(!), and yet had the same social dynamic. This particular post doesn't actually contain anything specific to political discussions, in fact. I mean, replace 'progressive' with 'Illinois Nazi' and 'Ghandi' with 'Henry Gibson', and it's all just as true.

I'm not really complaining; probably I'm just writing this for my own benefit. Anyway...

by lightyearsfromhome 2007-01-29 06:02PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

As someone who's watched online discussions since 1995, I have to believe that each community has to go through these moments for themselves. No, really. I think only wikipedia (partly because there were so many ex-USENETters) really "got the jump" on a lot of this stuff and described these things within their community before they became prevalent.

Best, best coverage ever of this sort of thing is the Meatball Wiki, which has a lot of wisdom about online communities. It's hard to navigate and rather ugly in style, but gems like Sources of conflict or Healthy Conflict are very polished and enlightening.

by sdedeo 2007-01-29 08:33PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

I'm trying to figure out if this is ironic or not ...

by BriVT 2007-01-30 02:14AM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

Update: First people ignore my misspelling of Ghandi, then they laugh at my misspelling of Ghandi, then they fight my misspelling of Ghandi, then my misspelling of Ghandi wins. I'm already on stage three.

I assume your continued misspelling of "Gandhi" constitutes your "win"?

by amitxjoshi 2007-01-29 06:31PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

7.1 Storm off and form an even better progressive agency that doesn't need anything from those lame mean lamoes. Except for this ashtray. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that's all I need. And that's all I need too. I don't need one other thing, not one - I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that's all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.

by writerofag 2007-01-29 06:33PM | 0 recs
you're so dumb...

you didn't even think of the ulimatest winning argument ever!!  but you probably don't even care, because you never reply to my comments.  So I'm not gonna tell you.  Because you don't have what it takes to reply to me.

See?  I told you you're dumb.

I knew it.

by Mike Stark 2007-01-29 07:02PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

It's not just that you're not interested in what I'm interested in. It's that you're interested in what you're interested in, and, you know, yawn.

It's your job to keep me amused.

by jmhm 2007-01-29 07:07PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument

8. Point out that their house is way too big and therefore immoral and unprogressive.

by DrFrankLives 2007-01-29 07:56PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument

There you go injecting class warfare into this.

by Carnacki 2007-01-30 06:23AM | 0 recs
my favourite variation

This argument is so ridiculous that everyone involved in this argument is ridiculous enough that their opinions on this argument can be discounted. Except me.

by sdedeo 2007-01-29 08:29PM | 0 recs
Hey, I like to quote...

A very fun, and funny list. I particularly like the mentions of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr...since after all...I like to quote them too in progressive discussions.  :)

by Demo37 2007-01-29 09:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Hey, I like to quote...

Corollary to Godwin's Law:

As an online discussion on a progressive forum grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Gandhi or Martin Luther King approaches one.  When this happens, the discussion is automatically over and the person who brought up Gandhi or MLK has lost the debate.

by Old Yeller 2007-01-30 03:35AM | 0 recs
How To Win An Argument


Why dont you just do the right thing and put Al Gore in the straw poll?  If you were from New England you would recognize that Al Gore belongs in the straw poll.  You may think you are a liberal fat cat, but unless you are willing to put Al Gore in the straw poll, you are not a real progressive.  Gandhi would put Al Gore in the straw poll.  Well, some people are willing to stand up against injustice and change the world, like MLK, but you cant even be bothered to put Al Gore in the straw poll.  Back in high school, when I was a volunteer for local Democratic candidate, I had to campaign for a true progressive Democrat in an overwhelmingly GOP area, so I guess I know what its like to stand up for what is right even when the fight is hard.  But whatever.  I know that as a Hillary mouthpiece you would never put Al Gore in the straw poll.  Maybe you should post another screed about how Democrats should give up on gun-control.  

Did I win?

by Winston Smith 2007-01-29 11:07PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

7. This place has jumped the shark.

by BriVT 2007-01-30 02:14AM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

by Michael Bersin 2007-01-30 03:17AM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

My best comment here - ever.

by Michael Bersin 2007-01-30 03:18AM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

Chris, you forgot a key argument that can actually be used in conjunction with several of the above.  It's that my issue, position, or demographic that I am advocating is actually reflective of a "silent majority" of Americans whose level of support cannot be measured through "traditional" polling methods.  

The reason?  Just pull literally anything out of your ass.

by Phlip 2007-01-30 03:28AM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv
Your tactics are too difficult for a Very Simple Bear such as myself.
I prefer "beer, meet face".  Then I run really fast, because I'm not much of a fighter.
by brendan 2007-01-30 03:32AM | 0 recs
If a comment falls in the forest...

You forgot one classic, that has led to many a flame-war on this site:

Why bother arguing? You know that X is just a troll anyway, so just use your mojo and make that last comment "go bye-bye"? If the rest of the world can't see the comment then you've already won!

by Alex Urevick 2007-01-30 05:15AM | 0 recs
Re: If a comment falls in the forest...

"make that last comment "go bye-bye"? If the rest of the world can't see the comment then you've already won!"

That is probably the No.1 technique since the blog software promotes it.  A few bloggers get together, "recommend" each other and the software then allows them to delete the posts that prove them wrong.

by BrionLutz 2007-01-30 07:48AM | 0 recs

you indirectly brag about how much of a badass you are by having the ability to delete comments, without coming out and saying so.

This improves your credibility among your progressive blog-readers.

by NCDem 2007-01-30 01:11PM | 0 recs
I would like to respond to you point by point

but I am far too busy doing real work in the real world, unlike all the rest of you keyboard commandos...

Just think of all the elections Republicans will steal why you are all posting online!

by Nazgul35 2007-01-30 06:51AM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win ...

When all else fails, take your ball and go home.

by Undercover Blue 2007-01-30 07:08AM | 0 recs
Grandfather's Advice

Here's how my grandfather taught me to look at an opponent in an argument:

If a man knows not (what you know) and knows not that he knows not, he is a fool. Shun him.

If a man knows not (what you know) and knows that he knows not, he is a child.  Teach him.

If a man knows (what you know) and knows not that he knows, he is asleep.  Wake him.

If a man know and knows that he knows, he is wise.  Follow him.

The trick is to make your opponent think you're in the last category and that he is in one of the first three.  Smooth sailing from there.

by my2petpeeves 2007-01-30 09:29AM | 0 recs
Don't forget

to point out that you've been around since the "Anonymous Hero" days, and laugh derisively at the newbies who don't know what that means. This improves your street cred. And then recommend a diary for the sole purpose of watching it hit high on the "recommended" list on your sole recommendation... then take the recommendation away (pointing out that you advocated for an "unrecommend", like, 3 years ago) to show how you've influenced the blogosphere in a good way. Then brag that Jerome (you're on a first-name basis, for whatever reason) owes you a beer, and is paying up shortly... And after all that... state your position on whatever position from your self-made position of authority.

by NCDem 2007-01-30 01:07PM | 0 recs
First you crave mojo

Then you laugh when your mojo is high, then you fight for more mojo, then you delete 5,000 comments, then you spurn mojo and don't give two shits...

by NCDem 2007-01-30 01:09PM | 0 recs
All-Whiteness Raises Inference Against Groups

When I say that it is time to end the 43-term eclusively white male monopoly of the US presidency, many people tell me that a white male monopoly of the presidency is not really a problem, as long as we always elect the best white male for the job.

At some point, a Black person with an ounce of brains will realize that it the answer to this question depend a great deal on the person who is answering it.  Even in this century, there remain some people who believe that an all white male presidency into the forseeable future is acceptable and that, in any case, there is nothing that should be done in the immediate present to prevent that eventuality.

Very few African-Americans believe that the white male monopoly on the presidency is acceptable, and there are many women who find this problematic as well.

I will offer no reasons here for objecting to the white male monopoly of the presidency. Anyone who cannot see a problem with it, and who cannot see anything that would be gained by ending the monopoly, is a person who is beyond any argument that I might be able to offer.

I submit to you the following:  Anyone who does not believe in working toward ending the white male monopoly of the presidency is not really a progressive.  They may be a Democrat, just as southern Democrats who opposed integration were Democrats.  But diversity is a progressive value just as breaking down divisions based on skin color and gender is necessary to achieve the Democratic unity required for sustaining unions, implementing national health care and addressing global warming.  

Anyone who believes that we can pursue those goals while operating from all-white blogs and while electing all-white male presidential tickets is not really a progressive in my book.  I say more about this at my new
blog ( ), but I will not say any more here because I suspect I am outnumbered here.

As for diversity of blogs, I think that blogs need to be as diverse as the Democratic Party if the are to lead the Party in a direction that necessary groups will be willing to support.  I am a member of a necessary group and I am raising my voice against lack of diversity wherever it exists.  I am not a demographer of blogs, but I think we all need to look inward and ask ourselves whether we are taking the steps necessary to promote the cohesiveness of our Party.

by francislholland 2007-01-30 02:51PM | 0 recs
Weighing Different Factors Deciding Who To Support

Francis, I cannot speak for others, but as for me, I agree that electing a non-"white male" president is a progressive goal. I think Barack Obama, perhaps not in this election, but eventually, will be elected President of the United States.  And that will definitely be a progressive triumph on many levels.

It is also, true, however, that this issue is perhaps a little bit more complex that it first appears.  Supposed the Republican nominee in 2008 were Condeleeza Rice as some pundits are predicting.  Would we progressives feel the need to support her? Even if she were running against a progressive white male Democrat?

This example can serve to illustrate the fact that reasonable people can disagree about the urgency, the "right here right now" aspect of electing a non-white male president.  If this was your ONLY goal as a progressive, and Condi were running against a progressive white male democrat, then you would jump to support Condi.  Other progressives would find doing this perverse.  They would say that you are satisfying one value, and violating about one million other values.

In the present field of Democrats running, if your overriding goal as a progressive is to elect a woman president in THIS election, then you would help Hillary Clinton, even if, perhaps, she did not match your beliefs in other areas.  Similarly, if your overriding goal as a progressive is to elect a Hispanic President, then you would help Richardson, even if you did not like his policies otherwise.

My sense of politically active people is that they are all a little different.  Each person has a number of different factors that they take into consideration when deciding which candidate to help.  Additionally, each person attaches more or less weight to these factors than other people.  

So, for example, some people feel that a candidate's position on Iraq is the DECISIVE thing they care about. Others simply throw the stance on Iraq into a much larger mix of factors. And others simply clear the table and say we MUST elect a Hispanic President in THIS election. That would mean they must help Richardson win THIS election.  And still others are convinced that of the present candidates in the field, only Edwards can win in the electoral college in 2008, and since they want to win, they must support Edwards. That is okay too.

As I see it, everyone is going to be a little different.  And that is okay.  We can still speak to each other...and with civility...try to persuade each other to change candidates.  

As I see it, progressives are all family.  Like every family, there will be disagreements, sometimes spirited. But in the end, we are still family.  

by Demo37 2007-01-30 07:47PM | 0 recs
Re: How To Win An Argument With Another Progressiv

by francislholland 2007-01-30 02:51PM | 0 recs


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