It’s no secret that we live in a world of political division. Not only are liberals at war with conservatives, but both sides of the political spectrum are at war with themselves.
While my preference is unity, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon, judging by social media. Since that’s the case, then people need to at least, learn how to debate effectively.
Here are four things to remember before getting into your next political debate:
1. Stop letting your opponent control the language
Until pregnant, pro-choice women start having fetus showers on a regular basis, it’s not a “fetus”. It’s a baby.
Until guns jump off the table, run down the street, and start shooting people on their own, it’s not “gun violence”. It’s just violence.
When you let your opponent control the language, you let them control the debate. You allow them the opportunity to soften their position through less controversial verbiage, making their position sound almost reasonable.
Call a spade a spade. Catering to politically correct double-speak is a form of soft tyranny.
2. Know your opponent and their tactics, then call them on it
I learned this one watching Ben Shapiro take on Piers Morgan in an interview regarding the 2nd Amendment. Ben had researched Piers’ tactics, and at the beginning of the interview, called him out on them, pointing out that Morgan has a tendency to resort to name-calling vitriol, ad hominem attacks, and attempts to paint his opponent as low intellect Neanderthals, whenever he ran out of talking points to support his position. Shapiro went on to say that he trusted that Morgan wouldn’t engage in those same tactics in their debate.
Morgan was instantly taken aback, batted his eyelashes innocently, and went into full denial mode. The interview went smoothly for a while, with Morgan refraining from his typical tactics, but true to form, reverted to his normal attacks when Shapiro had him backed into a corner, giving him the ammo he needed to point out that he was correct in his initial assessment of Morgan’s tactics.
I’ve implemented this strategy in many debates, and without fail, it’s been effective.
3. Don’t go on defense
It’s inevitable. In any debate, on any topic, your opponent is going to spend the bulk of their time, telling you why your position is wrong and why you’re a bad person for holding it. All too often, I see good people take this bait and retreat into a mode of defending themselves, rather than defending their position, or going on offense against their opponents position.
It’s a natural reaction to try and defend your character, morality or ethics when they come under attack. However, the second you do, you’ve just handed the debate to your opponent.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been called a “gun nut that doesn’t care about children”. Until I learned the tactic of not taking that bait, my reaction was usually “I am not a gun nut and I love kids”. Now, my reaction is “If being a proponent of the basic, human right to self defense, not only for me, but for the protection of children, makes me a ‘nut,’ so be it. What I think is nutty is being opposed to those things.”
Guess which one of those reactions is more effective in winning the debate.
4. Don’t allow deflection
When people are losing a debate, they tend to drift into side topics. It’s not unusual for a pro-abortion advocate to drift into healthcare as a whole, or for a gun control advocate to drift into government provided “safety”.
Don’t follow people down these rabbit holes. Drag them right back out, and force them to stay on the topic of hand. The moment you start following them is the moment you’ve given them control to lead you to separate topics, control the debate, and muddy the waters of the original topic.
Debate is a healthy thing when done right. It’s done right when the right strategies are applied. So engage, but engage to win. I assume your position is worth it.
Conservatives cannot be afraid to press the culture war
There are many reasons Conservatives have been reticent to press the culture war. Many of them were acted upon by Mitt Romney only for those conventions to be blown away by Trump winning in 2016. The Republican Party hates running on culture issues instead wanting only to use issues like abortion as shiny objects for show votes. But we must remember, Trump won and Romney and McCain lost. Trump ran on a culture issue: immigration. He won. And in my opinion, Trump made it highly difficult for him to win, not because of the issues he was running on, but because of his personality. So let that be encouragement.
For a Rainbow jihad fatwa will come after you if you aren’t attracted to a man in drag. They will pass legislation to make possessing certain guns illegal. You will be called a racist. They are already passing legislation protecting infanticide. If we do not press these issues, we will lose. If we stay silent, as Erick Erickson so famously said, we will be made to care.
But Wait! The economy is doing great
Republicans will want to focus on the economy and there is nothing wrong with that. To quote The Road to El Dorado, “both is good.” There is no reason we cannot do both. Reasonably speaking, it means we are going to have to sacrifice certain talking points. I nominate the Russian Hoax, as people are already tired of hearing about it, whereas, cultural issues such as Brian Sims dominated Conservative news cycles. People are motivated by cultural issues. Guns, illegal immigration, and abortion are among the top single issue voting groups. In 2012, Republicans ran on jobs, jobs, jobs and lost, lost, lost.
Trump can press the economy in 2020 and use it to get people to reelect him as they would any other incumbent. But reelecting Trump to maintain the economy is not a win so much as it’s not a defeat. Because let’s be honest, if the Republicans pass a balanced budget with a plan to pay off the debt in say twenty years, the economy would contract. We would undoubtedly go into recession and unemployment would rise due to a reduction in public sector jobs. Are we, as Conservatives, willing to bite that bullet? I hope so. If so, the message of austerity contradicts the message of the economy, why should the economy be our main focus? Recessions are temporary and a natural part of the business cycle as our economy evolves. The Great Depression only lasted as long as they did because of the intervention from progressives like Herbert Hoover and FDR. The Republican Party is unwilling to bite this bullet. They aren’t fiscally responsible. Coincidentally, they aren’t willing to defund Planned Parenthood, despite how they donate to candidates who run against them. Let me take that back, it’s not a coincidence. If we look at the Liberty Score of Republicans, you will see that the most socially conservative are also the most fiscally responsible as well. I am hardpressed to find an exception. Socially liberal fiscally conservative doesn’t exist in the real world today. Why? Because being fiscally conservative requires a socially conservative worldview. My evidence for this assertion is Congress.
In order to get these ends, we need to engage in the culture war as a means. Increasing spending does not earn a Republican a primary challenge. But being soft on illegal immigration will. Marco Rubio didn’t win the nomination in 2016. So it’s safe to conclude that illegal immigration is a more energizing issue than national debt. Once again, going back to 2012, Mitt Romney floated self-deportation in the primary but steered clear of illegal immigration in the general. He said he was pro-life, but ran ads to assure people he wouldn’t act on his pro-life stance. But enough using Romney as a punching bag for being a loser. Ron DeSantis in Florida ran on a Trump platform in Florida, without the Trump personality and upset Andrew Gillum in what was supposed to be a blue wave. Kim Reynolds, in swing state Iowa, signed a heartbeat bill into law in May 2018. She went on to pull perhaps the most surprising upset in the 2018 Midterm Elections in what will be a swing state in 2020. Meanwhile obvious RINO Martha McSally couldn’t beat one of the most overtly anti-American candidates in Kyrsten Sinema, in a mild red state.
But let’s look at this from the Left’s perspectives. Indiana and Texas are roughly comparable in terms of the GOP’s advantage. Beto O’Rourke came close while the “moderate” Democrat in Indiana got owned, double digits despite polling ahead, against who in my opinion was a shaky candidate. Back on the right John James ran a solid campaign in Michigan, despite losing, meanwhile the Republican in Wisconsin got trounced. Energy is the name of the game and when Conservatives bring it, we perform better. Conservatives bring that energy by fighting the culture war.
Are minorities more socially conservative then the Democrat Party? Yes. Do these same minorities tend to economic liberals? Yes. So which is the best way to reach minorities, by emphasizing the issues we have in common or by arguing that we need to roll back entitlements. I’ll take the former, because the Democrats are a confederacy, and social conservatism stands a better chance at weakening the confederacy.
Politics Downstream From Culture
The Andrew Breitbart quote is beyond true. Previously I wrote that our society was fiscally irresponsible, therefore why should we be surprised that this same society elects Lindsey Grahams and Mitch McConnells. The ideals of the American Revolution were preached in churches years before 1775. The 2nd Great Awakening preceded the abolition of slavery. Progressive theology preceded progressive policies. Cultural leftism has so far preceded socialist policies. Look at Marianne Williams who was a thought leader for a new age cult long before she was a socialist candidate. So what am I saying? Socially conservative policies will precede fiscally conservative policies.
A Caveat of Trump and State Governments
Now the first objection to this claim is that Trump has implemented some socially conservative policies. Let’s take immigration, for example, where Trump is most willing to make a bad deal with Democrats to resolve the issue. A border wall is not worth amnesty. DACA should not be kept under any circumstances. Furthermore, Trump is far too easily swayed by Ivanka and Jared Kushner who will only lead his governance astray. But if there were a Congress full of Conservatives, we would see far fewer weaknesses in the President. Congress is supposed to be the most powerful branch. If they sent Trump a balanced budget, Trump would undoubtedly sign it.
State governments, by their smaller nature, are often times ran more fiscally responsible and have balanced budget requirements in their constitutions. In fact, many legislatures either meet every other year or session that is a segment within the year. These relics of a more agrarian culture that placed high esteem on limited government are hard to undo. But legislatures like that in Annapolis will do their damage within their session.
Conservatives shouldn’t cater to people who don’t exist, rather they should fight the culture war because there are gains in this war that will lead to a culture more willing to accept austere measures. We can only win the culture war if we fight for it. We can only end abortion if we fight for it. We can only end illegal immigration if we fight for it. Play offense. Make the left defend infanticide and ask the average uninformed American: do they want that person in office? Make them uncomfortable by sending illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities, so that they will feel the cost of their own ideology. Make them admit that they believe black Americans are less competent than white Americans. Have them explain the difference between a semiautomatic and fully automatic firearm. Maybe then we can finally eliminate policies such as the outdated and cost burdensome Social Security or end the long failed war on poverty.
If politics flows downstream from culture as American history has long shown, in order for Conservatives to win, we must win the culture war.
Limiting government is almost always the answer
We have plenty of government. Too much. Some may look at it on the surface and surmise the problem is too many layers of government. From local government bodies all the way to DC, there are so many layers it’s often hard to know who has jurisdiction over what.
The problem isn’t with the layers of government. This is actually a good thing. The problem is that the “top” layer – the federal government – has enjoyed an incessant increase in power and scope over the decades, so much so that it’s now far too dominant. In a true federalist republic as it’s detailed in the Constitution, the federal government shares responsibilities with the states to handle much of the administrative requirements to operate the nation. The rest of the responsibilities fall to the people and are to be administered by individuals, families, communities, cities, and counties.
When we look at the problems we face today, most of them are directly or indirectly caused by TOO MUCH government, not too little. Americans have grown accustomed in recent years to expecting all solutions to be handed down from DC. This is due in part to the government inserting itself into situations where it doesn’t belong, but some of the blame can fall on the people. We have allowed this to happen. Instead of saying, “help us,” we should have been saying, “stay out of our way so we can help ourselves.”
The independent spirit exemplified by our founders and reaffirmed by countless Americans for over two centuries is what made our nation exceptional. Today, we’re losing that spirit. We’re willfully enabling (and often begging) DC to get involved when it shouldn’t.
To solve this problem, we need to remind Americans that the seat of power is in our hands, not in DC. We need to remind politicians they are our representatives, not our masters. We need to tell DC to stop expanding and start shrinking immediately.
We don’t need more government. We need to be limiting government’s reach and scope. Some of this means putting decisions back in the hands of states, local governments, and individuals. Education, for example, is an area that requires limited participation (if any at all) from Washington DC, yet the Department of Education reigns over our schools in ways that simply don’t make sense. We have the ability to do what’s best for our kids if government would get out of our way. We can improve education by localizing more decisions, putting choices back in the hands of the parents, and holding school districts, teachers, and even parents more accountable. Today, problems in schools are pushed up the ladder where DC bureaucrats attempt to solve problems through a national scope when the real solutions are available at the local level.
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of examples of extreme federal government overreach that point to one logical conclusion: we should be limiting government, not expanding it.
Both parties in DC are bent on expanding their overreach. The biggest reason we need to build the American Conservative Movement is to reverse the trend by the GOP of adopting big government philosophies from the left.
Petition Capitol Hill for Term Limits
Sign the petition. We demand Congress immediately put together legislation that spells out term limits for themselves. Americans need to know who is willing to suppress their own power for the sake of the nation. This can only happen by bringing legislation to the floor.
Will you help revive the American Conservative Movement?
Limiting government is really about localization
Everyone other than the most hardcore communist in America has experienced a negative run-in with overreaching government. There are laws that make no sense, regulations that make our jobs harder for no apparent reason, and unnecessary layers of bureaucracy that slow us down. Anyone who’s ever been to the DMV has probably experienced all three of these annoyances at once.
I believe in the tenets of limited government as they’ve been laid out in the Constitution. That means we embrace two different ways to limit government. The first is the easiest to understand. There are elements of our lives in which we should have a realistic expectation of complete non-interference from a governing body. A straightforward example of this is government-free internet. Very few Americans want the government telling us where we can go online. Most don’t even want the government knowing anything about our online activities. As long as we’re not breaking the law, it’s none of their business how many times we watch the baby panda sneezing video.
Limiting government from a Federalist perspective needs a bit more of an explanation. Our primary push to limit government can be best described as removing the federal government from various aspects of American life where it simply doesn’t belong. Starting around the turn of the 20th century and bolstered by actions taken by FDR, Washington DC has been in a state of continuous growth. They’ve reached into arenas they have no business being in as society gives into their overreach little by little.
Every new generation for over a century has seen a more powerful federal government than the generation prior. They take a little more and we accept it. They take a lot more, then some people object, then eventually we accept it. Young people growing in America today are being taught to rely on government for just about everything. This should terrify any cognizant American who can still remember when personal responsibility and self-governance actually meant something.
The reason we fight for limited government is because the ever-expanding federal government is the root cause for so many of the problems facing the nation. Health insurance is getting more and more expensive because government got involved. Cultural lines have been blurred because government has increased its reach into such areas. The public education system is yielding worse results despite massive funding at the national level because schools now look to DC for answers to just about everything.
To be a Federalist means to uphold the Constitutional barriers set forth by our founders. They restrained the national government specifically to prevent the overreach we’re seeing today. We have to learn what they knew all too well over two centuries ago. Then, we need to take that message to the masses.
One of the primary concepts I push for is localization. This means reminding people that the top level of government isn’t on Capitol Hill, the White House, or the Supreme Court. The top level of government is in our own homes. Individuals and families are at the top of the government hierarchy… at least we should be. What the individual and the family cannot handle should fall to the community. Issues that have broader scope should work their way down the line to the city, county, state, and lastly to the national level. The federal government should be the last line of defense, not the tip of the spear as it is today.
The time is now to draw the line in the sand and say, “No more.” We have to halt the expansion of Washington DC’s power. Then, we have to push back until the federal government is back in its limited box.
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