J. Scott Wagner, who lives half time in Yreka, is a local author whose first book, “The Liberal’s Guide to Conservatives,” was published in October. Over the past six years, he has logged thousands of miles and completed hundreds of interviews to write a book about understanding political polarization in America.
Wagner is a management consultant and social psychology researcher with degrees in sociology, business, and psychology. His book is a scholarly work, filled with information from neurology and the behavioral sciences. But it’s not a book just for scholars. The author writes with a style, wit, and humor that keeps any reader engaged throughout.
For those who want to understand how a family member can hold political opinions that seem completely opposite of their own, Wagner’s book provides a lot of insight for gaining that understanding. Though Wagner admits to being a “liberal,” the title could almost have been The Conservative’s Guide to Liberals. That is because he uses the findings of science to bring balance to an emotional subject area.
The book begins with a comprehensive look at what neuroscience has learned about how the two sides of our brain process information and infer conclusions from that information. In the opening chapter, Wagner reveals the statistical correlations between personality, political positions, and the two hemispheres of the brain. Wagner’s revelation that most conservative traits correspond to the left side of the brain, while most liberal traits correspond to the right side, is an eye-opener. His exploration of this research will help any reader better understand that friend or relative whose political views are nearly opposite their own.
After laying a strong foundation of scientific research in the first seven chapters, the author spends the last four chapters explaining how we, liberals and conservatives alike, can move toward finding common ground.
For anyone ready for a dialogue with that friend or relative on the other end of the left/right political spectrum – these chapters provide a training tool for such a dialogue. If you want to understand, appreciate, and communicate better with that brother or uncle who holds political views opposite your own – read Scott Wagner’s book.