Arguing for the opposition

When I’m with my extended family, on the political spectrum I’m probably one of the more liberal members. When it comes to talking about current events, this means I often end up arguing the liberal position, even though I don’t really share it. My family does tend to like to talk about current events so all the topics of the day come up.

I am biased of course (in favor of myself), but I think I am fairly adept at arguing the liberal position. Even if you disagree, how well do you think you can argue the opposition position? From my years on the Dope, I definitely think there are some that can do very well, and a whole lot that cannot. I’m curious to find out based on self assessment.

I’m terrible at it. I’m currently in college and sometimes have to write from a position with which I don’t agree, and it’s a struggle.

Are you kidding? I’m horrible at arguing the points I agree with, let alone those I don’t.

The key to arguing the opposing viewpoint is to say “On the other hand. . .” and repeat what point had been made two points previously.

Most people can’t remember what they said two points earlier.

I can usually understand views I disagree with, and probably explain them fairly well (abortion, guns, taxes, whatever). The exception is support for Trump. I honestly can’t comprehend it, although I’ve tried.

I always try to understand the viewpoint of people I disagree with. I want to know what the bases are upon which their beliefs are built. (If nothing else, it gives me a new avenue to undermine their argument.)

So I feel I can present the opposite side of the argument.

I think I’m pretty good at it

I often find that arguing for the opposition is necessary, because those who embrace the opposite opinion are too inarticulate or illogical or unknowledgeable to do it themselves.

There is a sure-fire method to succeed with these arguments but it involves sufficient strength to lift and place a body into a wood chipper.

I am real good at being Lucifer’s Barrister. I tend to study the other side in the same depth (or more) than I do my own which gives me a good feel for their basis/opinion most times. There are exceptions but they are few and far between.

I am a bit surprised at the lopsidedness of the poll results thus far (16-2 in the affirmative). A follow up would be how well you think others you engage with are able to do the same. It could be one of those situations where most people think they are above average drivers.

There was a time when I was pretty good at arguing both parties’ positions, but you can’t argue a position when there’s just a position and no rational argument behind it. So since the Tea Party took over the GOP, it’s become nearly impossible to argue the GOP positions, and in the era of Trump, the ‘nearly’ has bit the dust.

Yeah, I was wondering about this myself. The thread I linked to above, started by Shagnasty, looked like it would be an interesting exploration of that, sort of a “put your money where your mouth is” smackdown for showing off ability to enunciate the opposition’s viewpoint.

I’m totally guilty of thinking those I debate with are nowhere near as good at reiterating my viewpoint as I am at voicing theirs. People either totally don’t get what I’ve said or caricature it and oversimplify it into strawman constructs that are easily dismissed.

The “totally don’t get it” is often due to me not being very clear, but it’s also often due to “people haven’t already heard that viewpoint”. In GD here on the Dope, there’s a strong tendency for people to engage primarily with viewpoints they’ve already encountered while ignoring people who post from unusual perspectives, as if the debate thread were a first-past-the-post popular-vote election and everyone was picking sides between likely winners and ignoring 3rd party candidates, or something like that.

Perhaps the Dunning Kruger effect is at work.

As for me, I’m a former conservative who became a bleeding heart liberal in my old age. I understand the opposition pretty well, but I suck at arguing.

I’m not voting for now, because I don’t really argue the opposition position much. I understand why people think it’s important, but I think there are other ways to achieve those benefits.

That said, when I talk about current events with my students, I try real hard to represent both sides of the discussion fairly. Today I talked with them about Graham-Cassidy, and I laid out the two sides very briefly as:

  1. Some folks believe the government shouldn’t be able to make people buy insurance, because that forces people to do something they don’t want.
  2. Other people believe that if the government forces people to buy insurance, it can help make it possible for more people to pay for going to the doctor.

Fair? I mean, super-simplified, because I had five minutes, and they’re eight, but fair?

FWIW, I can argue almost any position I can comprehend because I separate emotion from intellect and argue from the latter. Even if I hate what I’m saying, I can say it with perfect apparent sincerity because I’m normally so introverted that any “human” interaction you get from me is fundamentally acting. If I’m acting, I can act any way I judge I need to.

The “sincere” “real” me doesn’t argue at all. I believe what I believe, I know what I know, and if you don’t agree, whatever.

If I’m arguing, it’s all play-acting so there are very few limits.

I am pretty much incapable of arguing the opposite view, because:

  1. I am not comfortable with confrontation and will avoid an argument at almost all cost
  2. I have either:
    A) researched the issue extensively, come to my conclusion and, therefore, rejected all other conclusions. Why on earth would I argue for something which I have soundly concluded against, or
    B) have not researched the issue thoroughly and am going mainly on gut instinct and/or common sense. There is no way I could argue the opposition side of an issue when I couldn’t even argue my own
  3. If the opposition can’t argue their own side, they should lose. It’s not like the argument is going to change anything anyway.
    There, I did it. I argued the opposition side. Convincing?:stuck_out_tongue:

Isn’t it more:

  1. Some folks believe that each state should be able to set it’s own priorities, for example whether or not people in that state should be required to buy medical insurance.
  2. Some folks believe that we must require all states to adhere to certain minimum standards, for example that everyone should be required to buy medical insurance.

The only way I can argue the opposition is if I argue in a dishonest manner, because I already will inherently know all the reasons what I’m saying are incorrect. If I didn’t, then what I’m arguing wouldn’t be the opposition. Sure, maybe there are arguments that the opposition makes that I don’t (yet) know the problem with, but, then they would inherently be ideas I was unaware of, and thus not things I could argue.

I don’t really think it’s all that useful on a general scale. I think it may be useful to have someone like that to argue against for practice in some situations, and thus someone who is actually good at it can be beneficial. But this is rarely necessary, as usually you can just go out and argue online with someone who is actually on the opposition. It only makes sense like in Presidential debates, where you need someone to pretend to be a specific person.

In other words, it’s a skill like good acting. Most people can’t do it well, and that’s fine, since it’s not needed often.

I also do not believe it serves any purpose for me to do it. I don’t see how it helps me understand someone’s point. I do that when I am arguing with them in the first place. And, if I disagree with their argument, that means I’ve determined their point and reject it. Going the next step and arguing it myself is pointless, since I already know all the flaws.

And, anyways, unless I was doing a performance in front of the opposition, who is in the position to determine if I did a good job?

To answer the OP: The only way to know would be to argue as a liberal here, and see if people think you are doing a good job. Doing it with your conservative relatives tells you nothing.

Would I believe you actually held that opinion if you gave it (without knowing anything else about you)? Sure. It’s not logically inconsistent, and contains no obvious tells that you are arguing the opposition. Do I think it’s a good argument? Not really.

The first thing would just be a personal hangup. As your own argument, that’s fine. But, as an opposition argument, it inherently implies that you think that we don’t like to argue, but most of us do have very strong positions and are willing to argue them. You leave out the idea that maybe we do like confrontation.

The second asks a rhetorical question. Why would you do it? That’s open to a bunch of reasons being presented. To actually argue why it’s bad, you’d need to argue why those reasons aren’t good. I argued, for example, that it doesn’t deepen my understanding of an argument, which is usually the reason it is presented as good for people to do. I also argued that it’s something only a professional might actually need, since anyone who needs opposition can just go find someone who really believes it.

The third is again recounting a personal issue: that you often believe things for only gut reasons, and don’t actually check into them to understand if your gut reaction is the right one. However, this time you argue it as merely a possibility, so this is your best argument.

The fourth seems incomplete. They should lose. But you left out “And, by arguing the opposition, I may help them win by mere repetition. Unless I debunk my own argument, I’m actually helping the side that I clearly believe is factually wrong.” And, hence, the argument does matter. If it didn’t matter, that’s when it wouldn’t matter if I gave an opposing argument.

And then I’d probably add to all of this: “So, since I don’t support this type of argument, I never really learned how to do it.” Though, to be fair, I should have included that at the end of my post above. Without it, I’ didn’t actually answer the question the OP asked!

Still, I admire you for trying, and realizing that only those who are on your opposition could possibly judge how good your argument is. I hope my judgment is helpful.