People Change Their Minds All the Time

There are a few pop-sci articles circulating that extrapolate from tendencies observed in small-sample studies of 19-year-olds to declare that it’s impossible to change anyone’s mind on their political beliefs. Even on individual issues. They’ll just get threatened and retreat further into their own madness. WE’RE DOOMED! DOOMED! THERE IS NO WAY OUT!

Except…these articles are obviously wrong. If large numbers of us didn’t change our minds all the time, we wouldn’t have to vote every few years. We could just do a headcount. Polls would be 100% accurate. Graphs of public approval ratings throughout campaign season would be straight horizontal lines.

You matter. Your words and actions matter. Changing someone’s mind isn’t always easy, but it’s always possible.

In 1825, in a letter to Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson explained why he’d bothered to write the Declaration of Independence when they were already at war. He said:

“Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent.”

So speak honestly. When you know the truth, speak clearly. You aren’t shouting into a void. There are times when words can do more than armies.