What to say to your friend who tells you they’re voting Republican this year

To start this off correctly: human beings respond poorly when you confront them and try to get them to change their mind about something. Being proven wrong is upsetting and people often respond as if they’re being physically attacked. Moreover, when talking about something less concrete and more nebulous, people find it easier to dig in and refuse to change their minds. So when Uncle Steve rolls up to your house in his Trump-themed pickup and tells you about how immigrants are stealing drugs and doing jobs, he’s unlikely to change his mind when you say that maybe that’s a load of bullshit.

But other people simply haven’t had time to sip from the neverending faucet of nightmares, so they might be underinformed. Underinformed people – people looking to fill holes in their knowledge – can be swayed. Here are some things to sway them.

“Don’t Republicans want to lower taxes?”


Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida says that poor Americans don’t have “skin in the game” when it comes to the federal government because they generally don’t pay income taxes. His pitch is to establish some form of minimum tax – the same kind of thing the Biden administration recently established for corporations to stop them from avoid income tax – that could add billions to federal coffers on the backs of the lowest-income workers.

Republicans have been itching over this for a while. Famously, 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney was caught in a ‘live mic’ situation lamenting that roughly half of all U.S. households pay no income tax. A lot of those folks are seniors and the rural poor, both of which are key Republican constituencies.

Back in 2010, Republicans were enamored with the idea of a national sales tax, which could transfer some of the tax burden off wealthy folks and onto lower-income households, too. In 2012, Herman Cain reworked this into the 9-9-9 Plan, which reduced the income tax to 9% and created a national 9% sales tax. Economist Jared Bernstein said the plan would have an obvious impact on lower-income households, where much of the money earned from work (which is subject to the 9% tax) is used to buy goods (subject to the 9% tax), which the Washington Post determined ultimately meant lower-income families would see a higher, not lower, tax burden.

The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, championed by and enacted during the Bush administration, helped rich Americans get far richer. The conservative Tax Foundation noted in 2010 that the percentage benefits were generally better for lower-income earners and it’s only “if raw dollar amounts per person is what one measures, then the higher-income the person, the more benefits the tax cuts delivered.” And yet the reverse logic is used now to pitch a minimum income tax: sure, your income tax will go up a little bit, but if you think about it’s nothing compared to how much rich people pay – in pure dollar terms.

What Democrats have done: In addition to the aforementioned corporate minimum tax, Democrats attempted to expand a child care tax credit designed to help families pay for child care (which lowered their tax burden to do it). That plan was killed when West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin opposed it, but it would not take much to restart it – if Democrats can win at least one more Senate seat.

“I want to ensure local control over our schools.”

That’s very reasonable! Republicans do not want you to have that.

No, really. Republicans have repeatedly taken steps to strip local school districts of authority. Maine GOP nominee for governor Paul LePage wants the state to be able to strip funds from schools that offer “woke” curricula. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has barred public schools from teaching about racism or racial division in American history. Arizona Republicans want to limit the state’s public schools because of “distractions” that one politician called “inherently evil and immoral and backwards” which are things like learning about racism and sexism.

Republicans have a pretty straightforward plan here: eliminate public education.

It’s not just that they want to take away your local control. They want to force you into publicly-funded private education, where schools can discriminate to their hearts’ content. Those students left stranded in public schools will have a neutered education that prevents them from learning anything in opposition to conservative orthodoxy, even if conservative orthodoxy is factually wrong. Texas only started teaching that slavery caused the Civil War in 2019 and conservatives are desperate to claw that back.

What Democrats have done: Nothing, really. Look, I don’t know what you want here. Republicans are trying to take away local control, Democrats are not.

“I’m worried about the economy.”

Oh, me too. What are Republicans going to do about it?

No, really. What… what is their plan? Voters say they trust Republicans to handle the economy better than Democrats and this has been consistent for decades.

Annual GDP growth has been relatively consistent, excluding the 2020 COVID-impacted economy and the 2021 recovery

But there’s just no basis for this. GDP growth did not change substantially in the past decade. The unemployment rate declined steadily under the Obama administration in the years following the 2008 recession and continued to decline in the Trump administration. Both of these statistics are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic but both have been recovering under the Biden administration.

The unemployment rate declined from a high of 9.3% in 2010, during the second year of the Obama administration and amid the aftermath of the Great Recession. It briefly surged to 8.1% during the COVID-19 pandemic, which necessitated widescale layoffs.

If Republicans were “better” at handling economic situations, wouldn’t that be reflected in the data? Even the most immediate reminder of economic fluctuation – gas prices – doesn’t show any obvious differences between Democratic and Republican presidents.

Average U.S. retail gasoline prices in the U.S., unadjusted

“I support free speech.”

Cool! Conservatives don’t.

You’ve probably noticed almost all of these come from one Twitter account: The First Amendment, which dutifully and thanklessly explains to people on the Internet when the First Amendment applies and when it doesn’t.

Liberals don’t always get it right, either.

Still, it’s telling how often Republicans try to use state power to silence free speech. Idaho and Florida have gag rules to stop college professors from discussing abortion and racism, respectively. Though conservatives complain about ‘cancel culture,’ a conservative group at George Mason University lobbied for the university to punish another group that spoke out against them. When The Walt Disney Company criticized a Florida law prohibiting the discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in classrooms, the state responded by dissolving an entire municipality and forced Florida taxpayers to pick up the tab for the company’s park infrastructure.

And, of course, the biggest bugbear for conservatives: Section 230.

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1)

Section 230 restricts the liability for platforms that allow user-generated content. But it’s become a lightning rod for the right, even though without Section 230 it’s likely more conservative and right-wing content would be axed from platforms. The way they see it, Section 230 doesn’t go far enough, because it still allows platforms to remove material they consider to be “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected” and this includes a lot of fascist-type talking points.

Don’t get it twisted: Republicans have been calling for the removal of online pornography for decades and, despite a 2018 Politico feature alleging that Republicans “gave up on porn,” it still comes up as a campaign issue in 2022.

Pornography is protected by the First Amendment. When it comes to matters of ‘free speech,’ though, conservatives are more interested in ensuring their speech is free than that all speech is free.