Robert B. Reich: Why I preach to the choir

Several people have asked me why I spend so much time and energy on this column, which is read mainly (if not exclusively) by people who already share my views and values.

“Why are you preaching to the choir?” you ask. “Wouldn’t your efforts be more useful if you tried to convince people who aren’t already convinced?”

I doubt I’d be more useful if, say, I went on Fox News. Even if I presented everything I provide in this column, I doubt I’d change many minds. In my experience, people who have a deep emotional or intellectual investment in seeing the world one way are unlikely to change their minds by seeing or hearing someone who challenges that investment.

The people who need to be reached are those who remain reachable — whose minds are still open to evidence and argument.

Even if you already agree with me — even if you’re already in the “choir” — you still may benefit from two things I can offer.

The first are data, arguments, logic and analyses.

I’m often surprised how little of this can be found in the mainstream media, which makes so much effort to achieve “balance” and offer the views of “both sides” — or report on who’s “winning” or “losing” — that the underlying arguments are often lost.

My abiding hope is that the data, arguments, logic and analyses help you make your case to others in the range of your voice — to friends, family members, and acquaintances whose minds are not closed, and who could be persuaded of the truth.

My faith is that there is no better way to spread the truth than one-on-one — among people who talk and listen directly to one another.

The second thing I wish is that these weekly columns give you confidence that you’re rational and not alone.

In today’s incendiary society, it’s sometimes hard to remain confident of one’s views. When many prominent people are telling lies, and when those lies are amplified on Fox News and right-wing radio, and then repeated by people you know (perhaps even inside your own family), it can be challenging to remain sure of oneself.

I don’t mean to suggest that you should hold on to your views if they are contradicted by evidence or that you should remain steadfast in the face of reasonable arguments to the contrary. In fact, I’ve often told my students that the best way to test their views is to talk with people who disagree.

My point is that at a time such as we’re in, “preaching to the choir” is not a waste of my time. I sometimes think it’s the most important thing I can do.

Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of “The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It.” His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.