SIO17: Dialogue with Trump Supporter Dr. Robert Price

Today’s episode is my attempt at a calm, rational dialogue with a Trump supporter. I knew Dr. Price supported Trump as a candidate but I was unsure how he would view the first month plus of Trump’s presidency. I ask him about that, and some debate and discussion follows. I don’t want to give anything away about it, but please listen and I’ll provide some comment after.

If you’re interested in Dr. Price’s work, check out his website.

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19 Replies to “SIO17: Dialogue with Trump Supporter Dr. Robert Price”

  1. The obstructionism that Dr. Price is complaining about is EXACTLY what McConnell and Boehner swore themselves to for all eight years of the Obama presidency, and boy, it’s a whole different deal when the Republicans are on the receiving end. The “slowest economic growth since the Great Depression” was aided and abetted, if not caused, by the Congressional obstruction of anything and everything Obama wanted to do to stimulate the economy.

    Dr. Price is not stupid, I’ve listened to his podcasts off and on for years. He’s just playing stupid, probably as a misdirection device to try and divert attention away from Trump’s monumental incompetence and pathological personality disorders. “Oh, c’mon!” is not is not a valid response to well considered, well put questions about Trump’s failures and inadequacies.

    Let’s not ASSUME Trump is going to be corrupt? He turns his business interests over to his kids who remain advisors to his administration? Yeah, right.

    Everything Dr. Price said was straight out of the Limbaugh/O’Reilly/Hannity phrase book, just right wing talking point after right wing talking point. On this topic, I didn’t hear any ideas of Dr. Price’s own. Thomas was trying to do an interview and Dr. Price was auditioning for a position on Trump’s staff or maybe a half hour spot on Fox “News.”

    I lost a lot of respect for Robert Price during this interview. I will now always wonder if his expertise in religious history is of the same caliber as his expertise in government policy and recent political history.

  2. No part of me believes it is worth revisiting this with Dr. Price. During the interview, he displayed a complete lack of interest in your questions.

    There was a particular point, when answering a rebuttal you posed (it might have been the part about Trump corroborating something he’d previously dismissed as fake news), wherein he seemed somewhat flustered and panicked, before ultimately talking himself out of having to consider the question. I felt like that was the closest he came to genuinely listening, but to my mind, the mental processing in that moment was “how am I going to not be nailed down on this?” as opposed to “could I be wrong about this?” Aside from that, it felt like he mostly parroted talking points, deflected with falsely-equivalent criticism of liberals, and couched his responses in a sort of folksy, affable “I’m no expert” evasions before then proceeding to speak with blunt certainty about complex multifaceted issues.

    I think you did a good job breaking down the point about President Obama’s misspoken number being a distinctly different thing than Trump putting out an easily disprovable claim, adapting that claim when challenged (“I meant Republicans”), and then blaming someone else without actually acknowledging that the claim was false (“It’s what I was told. I’ve heard it other places.”). Again, not to belabor the point, but Dr. Price’s response to this left me less than optimistic about future engagement (i.e., he presented an “equivalent” talking point, and when challenged, muddied the conversation by saying “I don’t think it’s meaningful, but then again, why would he say it? But really, I don’t care. He did say it though.”).

    I genuinely expect, even if presented with thoroughly resourced facts from right-leaning publications, the response would be “that’s not what I’ve read in other places,” “those are details, you have to look at the bigger picture,” or “of course they need to print anti-Trump articles, or else liberals will shut them down.”

    I agree that the statement about Kent State was disgusting, and I appreciate you commenting on it. There has been a troubling amount of tough talk (as well as proposed legislation) from the right about making it legal to hit protesters with cars.

    As to the larger question, maybe there are options outside the echo-chamber which aren’t a series of interviews with the prototypical Trump supporter. It might be interesting to hear from people involved in civil rights/anti-trump organizations who are motivated by their faith or even conservative ideology.

  3. On the subject of Trump’s Infrastructure plan, as far as it has been minimally described, it is actually pretty terrible, and that is coming from someone that works in my state DOT. The core of his plan centers around privatizing roads, which is frankly a terrible idea; this would, as a matter of market forces, push all new construction to new interstate construction; the interstate system is some of the best maintained of the roadways and is the least in need of further investment, so this would do little to improve the condition of the roads in the country. Furthermore, toll roads have a lot of shady business around them, and profitability usually centers on offloading the cost of construction onto the public in some form or another. This derives from the fact that roads are simply incredibly expensive; a simple two lane road costs approximately $6,000,000 per mile. Even if private business were not to offload that cost, they would be heavily incentivized to cut costs as much as possible, which leads to unsafe roads.

    Dr. Price’s Kent State comment was repugnant; thank you for taking the time at the end to mention it.

    While it never directly came up, I’m curious as to what his sources of information are; I think it would be safe to assume that they largely consist of Fox News and entities similar to Breitbart. His comment that Snopes is liberal propaganda was, aside from jaw-dropping, indicative of this; I am really starting to think that the ‘echo chamber’ concept existing on both sides of the political spectrum is a false equivalency. There is certainly an echo chamber on the left in the sense of it being easy to insulate oneself with only agreeable opinions, but the attributed equivalent on the right constructs a fantasy world around themselves out of alternative fact building blocks. Our apportion of this is simply foolish people; the right’s version are fools.

    1. “. . . alternative fact building blocks . . .” is a very good term. I’ve been listening to the “arguments” put forth by Dr. Price for at least fifteen years. I know because I remember where I worked when I used to get these “see, I told you” emails all the time from my Republican colleagues (they, too, thought Snopes was a communist plot—in the early 2000s). The names of the players have changed, of course, but the tropes and diatribes have not. The wording of the talking points is nearly identical to the stuff I was hearing in 2004.

  4. Also, on the 57 states comment, I would tend to agree with you that it was simply Obama as a tired candidate simply misspeaking when he meant 47, but I’d point out that there are 57 entities within the US. There are 50 states, 6 territories, and Washington DC; you’ll see 57 pop up regularly when things like DOTs or other governmental agencies at the state level are discussed. Just a bit of trivia.

  5. Price lost when he started insulting Thomas – and he did it repeatedly. He also came off as a Trump apologist, not budging on any issue no matter how minor or obvious it was and then reidrecting everything back at Obama.

  6. I got through about 20 minutes of this. Just a gish gallop of nonsense. I don’t think I can take Price seriously as a scholar any more.

    Thomas at least made the attempt, so props for that.

  7. I think this was a great interview. We got to hear an intelligent person give his honest conservative views to us straight. I’m not from the U.S, so I’m completely lost when it comes to some of the specific details regarding the U.S. political system. But putting the fact disputes aside, this interview made it really clear what some of the more general differences in opinion between the left and the right actually are.

    As a conservative, Price is against using taxes to even out the vast economical inequalities, he believes in harsh discipline and order in order to preserve a certain social fabric, he is more concerned with the problems a few immigrants may cause than with the many lives that could be saved and, perhaps most importantly, he prioritises jobs and the wealth of businesses before almost everything else including the issue of sustainability.

    These are not opinions to be particularly surprised or outraged by. Nor can they all be dismissed as based on erroneous information. They are just actual, honest, non-sugarcoated conservative opinions. We as a society could decide to use more violence against riots. We as a society could decide to sacrifice the environment for the sake of people who work in the fossil fuel industry. Those choices exist and it’s up to us to decide what society to build. As a left-leaning person, I can only conclude that my opinions are the polar opposite from all of these. Believing the opposite of this is what being left means. Hearing the difference so clearly and calmly was great and it made me more certain of my own views.

    1. “. . . putting the fact disputes aside . . .” That’s kind of what you have to do, isn’t it, for Price to make any sense at all. If you’re not from the US it might not be obvious to you, but little to none of what Price said is considered opinion; it’s all canned rant. You can hear all of it on right wing talk radio any day of any week for the last fifteen years—maybe twenty. Price is not a conservative. He is a Republican. There is a big difference.

    2. The fact Dr Price is holds a conservative view is not the issue, its his hypocrisy and blanket refusal to apply equal standards to both sides of the issue. He is being irrational, and regardless of political leanings that makes his opinion untrustworthy, for example, He believes that the extra scrutiny applied to the blatantly unqualified cabinet nominees is democrats refusing to allow the president to do his job but the republicans stealing a supreme court nominee is just good politics. He is not just espousing conservative talking points and defending them with reasoned arguments, he is ignoring blatant facts that damage is case and trying to it up with bland generalities. If we just going to ignore the facts then why have a discussion? you can argue about the number of angels who can dance on a pinhead, that doesn’t mean they actually can, or do, or even exist.

  8. Thomas

    I can only assume you have been brushing up on Be Reasonable, as i can’t believe you maintained your demeanor in the the face of rank hypocrisy and idiocy. I would have to echo the sentiments that revisiting this topic with this lack-wit had has no value. He comes across very much as an apologist not a supporter, frankly he is as delusional as any other fundamentalist.

  9. This was a commendable attempt to engage someone from the other side and that you were able to make it remain as cordial as it was is frankly impressive.

    You and Price were talking past each other, and there was a simple reason for this, the two of you were engaged in two different exercises. You were trying to utilize anything in your disposal – facts, arguments, and miniscule potential areas of agreement to try and pry out of him an admission of being wrong or to realize a change of mind. In contrast, he spent an hour using rhetorical tricks and rebuttals to prevent you from doing so. So your goals were different, and so were your arsenals you brought to the table – because for him, to defend his position he can lob any sort of loaded statement to misdirect, stunt, or rebut any point you’re trying to make – which lets him draw from an array of ideological arguments (rather than just factual) to defend himself.

    A constructive criticism for you is to be aware which conclusions you draw are from journalistic investigations and which are from political propaganda – the whole question of Trump-Russia ties are really hard to parse here. But actually Price’s point about Flynn’s communication with the Russian ambassador were correct – and the reason he was fired was because he lied to the FBI and to Mike Pence about it, not that he did it. And there are plenty of other areas related to these ties that are far more questionable. That Flynn ‘committed treason’ is not necessarily true and really the product of people more interested in smearing Trump (no matter how admirable that goal is) than what the truth is.

    One problem with your idea of getting purely Republican sources to counter Price is that he will easily dismiss them as being the product of #neverTrump political propaganda – and he’ll likely phrase it in terms of a desperate establishment trying to maintain its grasp on power that the electorate took away from them with their choice of Trump, the outsider. So while a good idea, probably will result in a pretty similar outcome and leave you just as frustrated.

    Ultimately, the question of is there any point in engaging a Trump supporter doesn’t hinge on the question of whether you can convince the supporter you’re speaking with to change his or her mind, but for the potential 3rd party who is neutral, undecided, or less ideologically rigid to see the exchange for what it was, and for them to reach a conclusion about a person like Price’s intellectual dishonesty. If this is something that you think reasonably could happen, then I think it’s worth continuing.

  10. Totally fucking nuts. The thing is, I have a family member who thinks like his clown, but a mutual love and respect for each other means I will listen quietly, and gently – piece by piece – open up the discussion. Also, it means the shit slinging is barely there. This family member is still stuck in the goop of religion too, so I have simpathy for the whole situation.

    The difference here is Dr Price should know better, and was being an asshole. He came across like the kind of person who has read one too many pieces of religious text and forgotten what side of the parchment to wake up on.

    You handled everything well man. As you said, you could have been more prepared etc blah blah but I don’t think you were expecting to have a conversation with someone so unashamedly one-eyed. Honestly, this is the kind of talk you’ll overhear in a room and just walk away from.

    The only entertaining factor of this whole train wreck was listening to the dispare in your frustrated voice, haha I did chuckle at a few points mostly with my jaw on the ground, otherwise, yeah, I just walk away when I hear people talking like that.

    Save your carefully chosen words and energies for people other than fools.

  11. The problem with Price is that he has “0” interest in what anyone but himself has to say. He gives the distinct impression that he is completely un-persuadable and revels in that fact. Hard-headed and proud of it.

  12. Finally listened to this a few days ago. Thanks for sharing, Thomas.

    The most disturbing aspect of the interview was coming to realize that someone who is a skeptic, who has a career of critical thinking toward the Bible, can also be easily brainwashed. Like others, I found myself wanting to ask what his primary sources of news are. It is kind of obvious that he has been influenced by people luke Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. It’s not enough to disagree on policy — you have to hate and demonize the other side for these people, and adamantly refuse to believe you could be wrong about something.

    It was also quite upsetting to hear how rude he was to you. So many of them are like this. They have no problem calling you insane and stupid, but we are supposed to be polite and thoughtful. Having too many talks like this has led me to simply ridiculing a typical Republican. It is clear that they are brainwashed. Facts and reason are out the window completely. I like Ishmael’s stance: when they go low, I go lower. If you ever have Bob on again, give him a taste of his medicine and watch what happens. Guarantee he will freak out and act like a victim.

  13. Just so disappointing. I used to listen to RMP’s Bible Geek podcast, but drifted away when he got more political. I can deal with right wing politics, but not when a supposed scholar is regurgitating Fox News talking points, with complete credulity.

    Sure grandpa, Obama is coming in a black helicopter to take away your hunting rifle, make you gay marry a Muslim, and force the two of you to adopt a terror baby. Yes, I’ll get you your pudding, grandpa.

    It’s so farcical, so painfully simple minded.

    It’s hard to take anyone like this seriously. Price’s basic and irrational understanding of politics undermines the mythicist project. It makes me doubt a lot of the claims I’ve heard him make that I took on his word rather than double checking, if he can be so 100% sure about claims that are demonstrably false.

    The worst part is seeing him act like such an ignorant, rude ass. Makes me realize a lot of respect I had for him was really misplaced.

    Sad.

  14. I only found out about this podcast after the disaster with a certain UK youtube guy who is often referred to as “Carl of Swindon.” So I am now just catching up.

    I found the conversation with Price to be just like talking to my dad. Fortunately he lives 1500 miles away, so we do not have to spend Thanksgiving with him.

    I know that lots has happened since this was posted, and I am sure Dr. Price has not changed his mind even though the other Dr. Price had to quit the Trump cabinet due to too much private flying. But today I caught this article about how much the wealthiest actually are worth compared to the rest of us plebeians:
    http://www.seattlepi.com/business/article/The-wealth-of-Bezos-Gates-and-Buffett-exceeds-12345952.php

    It is quite startling on startling that three people are worth more than the bottom half of the USA population.

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