A changed mind starts with a respectful debate

Now this, this is how you write to your local MP to get them to change their mind on an issue. Even if your local MP is arch-conservative Jamie Briggs and the issue is marriage equality. See how Ryan Davidson politely and respectfully helps Jamie to see the hollowness of each of his pre-programmed responses, to the point where at the end Jamie’s mind is, if not yet changed, certainly troubled…

You have articulated a very strong argument, in a passionate and considered manner which does make me think hard about this issue… I continue to think about this debate and I appreciate the fact you have put to me information that challenges my current position.

Good on Briggs for being man enough to continue the discussion, but most of all good on Davidson for calmly, non-threateningly demolishing the MP’s lame “this is how it is” position. One that, remember, is officially held by 149 out of 150 MPs in the House of Representatives. Have a read, and remember how he did it.

As one of the commenters to that post notes:

Congratulations Ryan, a brilliant effort. Clear, articulate and absolutely spot on. You really made him think. Rarely do people change their minds in one go, but if you move them one step then that’s progress, because the next person who challenges them can move them one more step.

Exactly. A useful reminder for all of us who argue about politics. Of course, you’re never going to get any kind of concessions out of a sitting big party MP when conducting a debate in public, in real time, or in an interview – when they’re in that mode, the game is simply Stick To The Party Line For All You’re Worth.

But if you can get them in a reflective moment, when they can respond in their own time…

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17 responses to “A changed mind starts with a respectful debate

  1. narcoticmusing

    Although it was disappointing to see a commentor run the normal schtick of marriage being between a man and a woman due to capacity for procreation.

    Firstly, if that was the case, the Act should say that that is the intention ie. Marriage is between two people with the intention to procreate and/or raise a family.

    Secondly, that rationale invalidates many hetrosexual marriages for those who either choose not to procreate or who cannot naturally procreate (and either must resort to IVF or even can’t with the assistance of IVF).

    So according to these bigots rationale, you must be fertile and willing to procreate to marry. I am fertile but unwilling – is my hetrosexual marriage now void in their eyes?

    It is just a bullshit arguement and needs to be called out for what it is.

  2. I don’t think Briggs tried running it, but I expect Ryan was ready if he had.

  3. narcoticmusing

    No, I was referring to one of the commentors under the article you linked to. It was just disappointing to see people still try to run that BS arguement.

  4. uniquerhys

    We’ll have to wait and see if the troubled/changed mind has the guts to get up in parliament and table a member’s bill. I suspect not though. It’s easy to be for something in principle if you know you’ll never have to vote on it.

    I think the turning point in the discussion really came when Ryan mentioned that Howard’s law requires all weddings to state the principle of discrimination in the service, making many wedding attendees very uncomfortable. That in-your-face-ha-ha nonsense has to go.

  5. uniquerhys

    If the purpose of marriage is procreation, then I suppose we should allow lesbians who get pregnant via IVF or a good-male-friend to marry, right? Or gay couples with kids from a previous marriage? Won’t someone think of the children?

  6. “If the purpose of marriage is procreation, then I suppose we should allow lesbians who get pregnant via IVF or a good-male-friend to marry, right? Or gay couples with kids from a previous marriage? Won’t someone think of the children?”

    I think you’ll find the argument is along the lines that marriage is for the couple themselves to procreate, uniquerhys.

    Of course its nonsense, and I’m sure those couples who marry late in life must be overjoyed to know that some sections of the community obviously don’t recognise their marriage because they are too old to have children..

  7. “some sections of the community obviously don’t recognise their marriage because they are too old to have children..”

    I would suspect that the having children thing is the first thing that pops into a bigots head when they oppose gay marriage, see they’re ignorant (many of them are) and they don’t really think too hard. ;) Then there are those who throw up that ‘marriage is for having babies” canard who aren’t ignorant, I peg them as evil….

  8. jordanrastrick

    What we really need is a conscience vote. I suspect it would fail right now, but it would reveal the state of play within the partyrooms. As older MPs retire and younger MPs are elected, a clear majority in favour drawn from both sides of the house should be established.

  9. narcoticmusing

    Unfortunately I agree that a vote, conscience or party line, would fail atm. Only anonymity has any chance of saving it. Which is an indictment on the current state of not just our politicians but the public. This is a democracy and the politicians are clearly afriad of the public’s wrath that they believe is less if they do nothing compared to doing what is right.

    That being said, the constitution has a lot of issues and if one had to choose what was changed first, should it be gay marriage or acknowledgement of indigenous Australians? (some may add the republic here too but I don’t think it is important as discrimination present in the Act).

  10. jordanrastrick

    That being said, the constitution has a lot of issues and if one had to choose what was changed first, should it be gay marriage or acknowledgement of indigenous Australians? (some may add the republic here too but I don’t think it is important as discrimination present in the Act).

    These are very separate issues. The Monarchy is a part of our constitution and requires a referrendum to change. This is not true of gay marriage. The only real similarity is that they will both probably require bipartisan support to succeed.

    OTOH, while acknowledgement of indigenous Australians in the constitution is something I would support, it is a symbolic matter, not one likely to have practical legal consequences (at least not for the forseeable future.)

  11. narcoticmusing

    Jordan – one could argue that the minimalist republican modification would cost a huge amount but result in no practical, legal ramifications either and be essentially only symbolic also (as the head of state would be the gg with another name).

  12. uniquerhys

    “This is a democracy and the politicians are clearly afriad of the public’s wrath that they believe is less if they do nothing compared to doing what is right.”

    Public’s wrath? I thought that poll after poll shows that a majority of the public support gay marriage? It’s not the “public’s wrath”, but rather the wrath of an extremely vocal minority within the public that simply will not shut up no matter how many times their backwards religion-derived viewpoint is proven wrong (their argument is little changed from the same arguments made against interracial marriage 50 years ago).

    The media is only making this problem worse by reporting “a nut is nutty” as straight news, elevating the vocal minority to beyond it’s actual political impact. I’m really sick of media stories that balance “politician calls for equality” with a quote from a fundie or conservative priest. It’s like running to the KKK to get a balancing quote as to whether black people deserve civil rights. Supporting inequality is wrong, m’kay? Who cares what they think? Stop reporting it!

  13. narcoticmusing

    If the polly’s thought they wouldn’t lose a seat over it, they’d do it. So yes, they are afraid of the public’s wrath. They know that they won’t lose a seat for not doing it – mainly because the gay vote can be obtained through other mechanisms or just undermined by having them split between many parties and/or competing priorities. However, there are enough that would vote you out purely on allowing gay marriage to make it a credible threat – people that don’t care what their other policies are. It is what makes bigots voice so powerful.

  14. There seems to me to be an assumption on the part of Jordanastrick that somehow young people are more open to the idea of marriage equality than us over 50s “mouldy old figs”. I sort of resent this. In my job as a teacher I am constantly meeting young things in their 20s who are a lot more conservative than I’ve ever been or will be. Howard’s Generation, indeed. I remember a lot of youngsters being fascinated with ultra conservativism during the eras of Thatcher and Reagan, too. Probably what kept them in power for so long. Ditto Howard. Prime Minister Gillard is of my generation and I’m very embarrassed by her stance on this. So let’s be a little more sensible about assumptions concerning ideology and the aging, please.

  15. jordanrastrick

    Malky, I’m not trying to suggest all people in their 20’s are socially progressive on this or other issues, or that people in their 50’s or older are universally “mouldy”. I know plenty of people of my parents and grandparents generation who are totally supportive of gay marriage, and conversely people my own age that oppose it.

    However if you look at the wider statistical trends, the proportions for and against tend to be more favourable the younger the age cohort you sample. So all else being equal, a younger MP voted to power is more likely to support gay marriage than an older MP they replace, although of course its far from guaranteed.

  16. narcoticmusing

    Jordan – I’d be interested in reading more on where you are getting your trend data from. It doesn’t match my experience… it seems more like what one would expect to occur rather than what does occur. Like, I expected all my gay friends to vote Greens or some progressive type and ALL of them voted Liberal. ALL OF THEM. Sure they didn’t like the stance on gay marriage but their vote was based on other policies. I expected they’d vote progresesive but they all voted conservative. Regardless, I’d be interested to read or look at the trend data you refer to to see if my experience was the norm or what one expects is the norm. If that makes sense.

  17. jordanrastrick

    Its the consistent finding of every recent poll I’ve ever seen discussed on the issue, narcotic. The first reference that teh Internetz provides me with is a 2010 Galaxy poll comissioned by Australian Marriage Equality:

    http://www.australianmarriageequality.com/Galaxy201010.pdf

    As far as what party people end up voting for, there are way too many confounding factors to make solid inferences about single issues.

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