Recently I was talking about Hamilton at my day job and mentioned that I’ve been pretty much obsessed with it for about five months. A co-worker jumped right in and said, “No, it’s been way longer than five months.”
Okay, I guess I’m starting to get on people’s nerves with this. Don’t worry, I just started listening to the soundtrack for Be More Chill. Get ready for all the blog posts that will inspire.
Yes, I have listened to Hamilton a lot. And it’s in the listening and re-listening that I’ve learned so many things from it. Today, I want to talk about the cabinet battles one and two, and what they teach us about a proper debate.
Let’s start with Cabinet Battle One. It’s between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. It’s a debate about whether or not a national bank should be established. Basically, should we centralize all of our money and consolidate our debts?
Jefferson’s argument is that we founded America to get away from a bigger government. He also argues that it’s not fair for his own state of Virginia to have to pay the debts of other states when they have none of their own. He claims that Hamilton’s plan gives him too much power.
Hamilton’s arguments as follows. Virginia has slaves, and that’s why Virginia doesn’t have any debt. Jefferson wasn’t in the war, he was off in France while everyone else was fighting. Jefferson isn’t assertive enough with the president.
And this is why Hamilton lost the cabinet battle. He does the very thing that so many people do online. He attacks the person, not the actual argument.
Jefferson is on the wrong side of things, in my opinion. We needed to centralize our banks in order to strengthen our government. Jefferson gives arguments against this. He doesn’t attack Hamilton personally. He talks about actual, valid reasons that it’s a bad idea to create a centralized bank.
Hamilton doesn’t even bother to argue against any of Jefferson’s arguments. He attacks Jefferson personally, essentially calling him a coward, slaver and at one point calling James Madison ‘mad as a hatter’, and ‘in worse shape than the national debt is in.’
That’s not how we win arguments, though. It’s what I’m trying to teach my kids when they disagree about something. Once you start calling names, you’re the one who’s wrong. Even if you were right to start with.
What we learn from this cabinet battle is to stick to the facts. Here is what was said, here is what the truth is. Here are solid numbers for or against what we’re talking about. We don’t need to call people Nazi’s, racists, bigots, sexists. While these things may be true and accurate things to call someone, it does your argument no good to say them. Someone can be sexist and still have a valid argument. If all you can do is call them a sexist, then you need to do better.
Now, let’s look at Cabinet Battle 2. Again, between Jefferson and Hamilton, it’s regarding whether or not America should go to France’s aid against England for their own independence.
Jefferson argues that they stood with us during our war. We signed a treaty agreeing to help them when they needed us. He points out that Hamilton isn’t secretary of state, so shouldn’t have as much of a say.
Hamilton points out that we were too fragile to get involved in another war. He states that they signed a treaty with someone who’s now dead and that France doesn’t have any sort of established government to back.
In this case, I agree with Jefferson. By breaking our treaty we hurt our credibility with all other countries and gave up a chance to weaken England when we were still not on good terms with them. But Jefferson didn’t argue any of those points. He argued from emotions, and what he felt was right and wrong.
This is a basically flawed way to argue.
We don’t all have the same emotional reaction to things. We don’t all agree on what’s right and wrong. We can argue about our emotions and feelings about right and wrong, but it will ultimately get us nowhere. No matter what you say, you’re not going to change anyone’s emotional reaction to something.
But you can change someone’s mind by using logical argument.
No, probably not in Youtube comments. And probably not right away. Oh, and also not everyone. That should be well understood.
Why am I so concerned about writing persuasive writing? I mean, it’s not as useful for creative writing, right? Well, that can be true. You might be able to use these positive arguing tips in your creative writing if you have a persuasive character. Or, if you have a character who’s all passion and no persuasion.
I do have another reason to talk about positive arguing techniques, though. We have a problem. There is a split in America a mile wide and it’s not getting better.
Pointing fingers and making snide comments are really entertaining. People who agree with you will laugh, clap, like and share hateful comments like mad. A good political meme can spread all over the internet in a matter of hours. And while I love a good angry meme, I’m trying to not be part of that anymore.
Because it doesn’t do anything worthwhile. It just leads to more hurt feelings and closed minds. Who wants to listen to the arguments of someone who’s calling them a Nazi?
If we’re going to make a change, we all need to learn to argue better. We need to focus on facts and figures, not knee-jerk emotional reactions or name calling.
No matter what side of things you’re on, we’re all citizens of the world. We need to start acting like it and learn to argue better.