In political debate or discussion, it is generally useless to resort to the use of such terms as “reasonable,” “fair” or “right” in an attempt to sway the opinion of people with views opposed to our own. Here is why.
There are always a few people, often in positions of significant influence, who know perfectly well that the positions they advocate are neither fair nor reasonable, neither just nor right. They do not care about that; they are driven by their lust for more power or money, and right or wrong plays no part in their agenda. Indeed, “wrong” is generally more productive. An appeal to reason or fairness is lost on a person who cares nothing for either. We can be thankful that such people have never been more than a small, albeit dangerous, minority.
Most people sincerely want to be fair and reasonable, and they believe that they are. They would not want to hold to a position they did not believe to be fair and reasonable, and they consider themselves to be fair and reasonable. The problem with that is that we tend to mold the definition of fair and reasonable so that it encompasses what we believe. Therefore, an appeal to someone to be fair and reasonable, to see the correct side of an issue, is only an appeal to be more firmly grounded in what he or she already believes.
For us to say, “If they only understood our position!” is likewise pointless. They understand it, they disagree with it, and they wish that those with other views could find some way to be “fair and reasonable.” As Homer Simpson once told his daughter when she said he didn't understand, "Just because I don't care doesn't mean I don't understand."
Any change of thinking on either side of an issue requires more than simply understanding the opposing view. It requires that one side come to an understanding of why the other side is correct, or more correct, or why one's own view is in error. That cannot be accomplished by shrill appeals to be fair and reasonable, which almost everyone thinks himself or herself to be. It can, at times, be accomplished with resort to facts and logic, accompanied by a clear presentation of why the facts and logic compel the conclusion. That, of course, does not work when the facts are unclear or disputed, or where personal feelings and emotions, rather than rational analysis, drive the views.
And, there will always be people who will cling to their positions even after being shown clearly that they have no basis in fact or logic. It is best to avoid discussing anything significant with such people; it is as pointless as trying to explain quantum mechanics to a fencepost, and leads only to ill feelings while accomplishing nothing.
When the opportunity arises to have a civil discussion based on fact and logic with a well-intentioned person who is capable of understanding those things, however, it can be productive to debate significant issues. Such a discussion can help us understand one another’s positions, and may even bring about a change in views. Indeed, we may even find the changes coming within ourselves.