Start following conservative media, and remember how agreements between people and states actually work

Dear liberal American friends: please pair readings of liberal media with viewings of Fox news or other conservative media on the same topics. This will take work. They will say things you disagree with, using words you are unfamiliar with. You’ll have to stop scrolling down on Facebook and actively google phrases like “Trump executive order to protect America.” That may sound hard, but the integrity of your country depends on you doing it.

You’ve probably heard about the President’s executive order restricting immigration from seven countries, which lead to the mistreatment of legal visa holders and permanent residents of the United States in Airports. You probably also understand that there is a huge difference between ruling out new visas from those countries, and dishonoring existing ones. The latter is breaking a promise. Dishonoring agreements like that makes you untrustworthy, and that is very bad for cooperation. Right?

Well, hear this. The electoral college is an agreement. Collectives of human beings agreed with one another to form states that would represent and govern them, which in turn agreed to form a country with a particular means of representation. Today, as a consequence of that agreement, when you move to (or remain in) many urban areas, you are relinquishing some degree of your control over the governance of the United States, and deferring a disproportionate share of that control to your fellow Americans in rural areas. That is a choice you make, albeit confounded by many other factors like where you were born and where your friends live. That is simply how the prevailing agreement works.

Now, here’s what concerns me: I hear a lot of arguments saying that green cards should be honored because they’re agreements that people base their lives on, but I don’t hear many arguments that the electoral college should be honored. Be it acknowledged, to honor the electoral college may have undesirable consequences. But so also might the honoring of green cards. Even if you don’t believe that, some do, and in principle it is a valid consideration.

Sure, you might want to argue for a nation-wide agreement to dissolve the electoral college system. That would not be in violation of existing promises and commitments between people and states. But to argue that the electoral college be disregarded while it still exists is a very different move. I don’t think it’s very reasonable to say “f*** the electoral college; Clinton got the popular vote; Trump is not my President”, and in the next breath say “green cards are sacrosanct agreements between people and nations that must be honored”, except of course to signal civil unrest. So, as long as you possess the intelligence to do so, please try to keep your potentially-incoherent signaling behaviors (“Trump is not my President, but protect green cards”) mentally walled off from your intellectual arguments about how the world works and how agreements function.

In particular, here I am drawing your attention to a very important agreement that you may not like. I claim that, if you live in America, you are in an agreement with rural and conservative Americans whereby they now control the country that you live in. If you are part of a different demographic than they, it is in your demographic’s interest to understand the views and needs of the ruling demographic. You may appeal to them, but you may not make demands that their representatives consider unreasonable, except for those demands to be rejected. You may be okay with making demands that are rejected, for important signalling effects like holding open the Overton window and reminding people how you think the world really ought to be if we could all just agree on it. But meanwhile, your demographic must also seek out creative solutions to satisfy its own needs that are acceptable to the ruling demographic, or else the changes your demographic seeks are much less likely to happen. This may seem unfair to you, but it is implicit in the agreement of the electoral college until it is legitimately dissolved, just as a green card entitles a foreign national to permanent residence in the United States until it is legitimately dissolved.

This means that, if you’re not conservative, your demographic needs to understand conservatives now in order to thrive, and consuming conservative media is a good way to do that. Understand what conservative leaders want and represent. Understand what their constituents need and demand. And then, using some of your most creative thinking and problem solving, start thinking about how to give them what they want in a manner that you find maximally agreeable.

If you’re a liberal, you probably recoil at the idea of deploying your creative problem-solving skills to “prevent terrorism” when you know how few deaths are incurred from terrorism each year, and how they are sensationalized by the media in a cycle that only further incentivizes terrorism. But no matter how obvious it may seem to you that terrorist prevention measures are a mistake, you have not yet transferred this view to people who remain afraid of terrorism and wish to support leaders in favor of drastic immigration bans. If you do not share those fears, you must choose between appeasing those fears by your means or theirs, as long as those fears remain in power.

You may wish to somehow change who is power, but that too will require cooperating with people you disagree with on what feel like very fundamental facts and values. You are stuck on this planet with other humans, who believe things you don’t, and you have to understand those beliefs to engage with them fruitfully.

So, please, stop scrolling down reflexively on Facebook, and go read Fox news. Stop googling “court order to stay Muslim ban” and search instead for “Trump’s executive order to protect nation”. In doing this, do not lose sight of your own views and logic; those are perhaps even more precious when you are not in power. But do not remain so blind to the views and needs of your fellow Americans and their representatives that their only recourse is to forcibly overpower you.

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