Going High When They Go Low Isn’t How You Win; You Gotta Fight to Win

fight-to-winLiberals don’t know how to talk to or appeal to conservatives. And for whatever reason, they refuse to learn. Probably because they’re good Americans and in the words of that great American sage and cartoon character, Ed Wuncler, “We’re American. We don’t quit just because we’re wrong. We keep doing the wrong thing until it turns out right.”

There’s an interesting interview with cognitive linguist George Lakoff going around in which he discussed this problem. His thesis, essentially, is that it’s not so much policy differences that make Liberals so unappealing to conservatives. It’s that Liberals have erroneous ideas about how to win people over while Republicans have it down to an art form. He argues, and has been arguing for decades now, that Republicans are masters of messaging and framing while Democrats prefer to work from facts, idea and reason.

Basically, Republicans understand how people think about the world in real life because they approach politics from the perspective of marketing and communications. Most people reason from their emotions, their values and their worldview with facts, ideas and reason serving primarily to shore up what they already believe. If a fact, idea or reason doesn’t fit with their values, worldview or emotions, it will be dismissed or explained away because to do otherwise would require adjusting if not completely overturning the mental framework they depend on to function. Which is a much bigger upheaval than the simple admission of error and adjustment of opinion which liberals assume would be the response to encountering information which conflicts with current beliefs.

Liberals on the other hand, tend to rely on academic ideas about how people should think. The problem, of course, is that how we think things should work, generally has little effect on how they actually do work. It’s always going to be more effective to start with how things actually work and try influence change from that point of reality than it is to simply stand on how you think things should work and demand that everyone move to where you are. The Democratic insistence on working from facts, ideas and reason without learning the nitty gritty of messaging and framing which would allow them to show how their policies fit into or build on existing conservative worldviews dooms them to failure over and over again.

Probably the most glaring example of this failure on the part of liberals has to do with liberal’s unwillingness to fight. Somehow liberals seem to have decided that they are above fighting and they eschew it whenever possible in favor of trying to persuade or when persuasion fails, regrouping to try again. No where was this on more vivid display than during the aftermath of the election. Obviously, the election was close. And there were reports of serious discrepancies between exit polls and election results of the sort which are known to be possible indicators of fraud. And how did the DNC respond? They didn’t. It fell to Jill Stein to raise the money necessary to demand a recall in effected states. When it came time to execute the actual recounts, the RNC had lawyers crawling everywhere, challenging ballots and processes left and right while the DNC’s presence was barely visible.

After the recounts, there was still the hope that the electoral college might save us. Protecting the country from a foolish mob electing a despot is literally one of the reasons the founding fathers created the electoral college. We all know that if the roles were reversed, the Republicans would have mounted a coordinated, well funded campaign and media blitz to convince the electoral college to give the election to the winner of the popular vote. They would have been working it from any and every angle they could think of, no matter how outlandish. The DNC, however, did essentially nothing. Told us to accept that an apparently racist, unhinged, authoritarian con-artist would be running the country and move on for the sake of unity. What fight there was on that front came from private citizens and social media.

Not only is the unwillingness to fight bad strategy, it absolutely guarantees that conservatives will prefer voting for a dirty sock over a liberal. At least the sock has the temerity to raise a stink. Conservatives tend to place a very high value on community and loyalty. Part of that sense of community and loyalty knowing that someone’s got my back and will go to battle for me if need be. Someone who won’t even fight for themselves can’t possibly be trusted to fight for someone else. Liberals don’t know how to fight and they don’t want to fight. They seem to have eschewed fighting as somehow beneath them. They seem to have conflated fighting with “going low” and they want to be known for “going high”. But going high is NOT synonymous with refusing to fight.

The fear that liberals have – and I’ve gotten some of this pushback myself – is that by fighting we make ourselves no better than the belligerents who went to figurative war with Obama after he was elected. We’ll be seen as sore losers, they say. They worry that we’ll alienate people. And all of that is pure and utter rubbish.

From the conservative perspective, if you won’t fight, you can’t be trusted to defend. If you won’t fight, you’re not committed. If you won’t fight, you don’t really have confidence in what you’re saying. If you won’t fight, you’re not a person who can be trusted much less followed.

And yes, when you fight, you will be chided for being rude, for being stubborn, for sowing conflict. You will be accused of being a sore loser. You will be told that you’re alienating people and hurting your own cause. You will be told that you’re being unreasonable and pushy and unfair. You will be mocked and ridiculed and called names and told that you smell bad and your mother dresses you funny. Because that’s what fighting looks like; you put your truth out, people push back and see if they can get your to back down. So you double down, stand your ground and do exactly what your opponent tells you you must not do. In a fight you have to be indefatigable and creative and confidently certain as all get out. It’s a fight, not a prayer circle.

And here’s the thing about conservatives; by and large, they mean to be good people. They want to do right by people. They in no way intend to cause harm. And they want pretty much the same things that liberals want for themselves and our country. The problem is that on one side, you have this dishonest, manipulative, untrustworthy party who, by any reasonable measure, seeks power rather than the best interest of the American people. But they’ll fight you tooth and nail. They’ll wage a war on you that you aren’t even participating in and win three battles in the time it takes for you to learn chords to kumbaya or construct your next argument. They don’t care if their enemies get mad and say mean things about them. They’ll just use that as a badge of honor and a weapon to wield.

And whether liberals like it or not, whether they think it’s the way it should be or not, the reality is that fighting works. A lot of people simply feel safer throwing their support behind people who they can trust to fight for them in the face of threat over someone who may be right all the time, but don’t even have the wherewithal to fight for their own ideas and their own share of the power. It’s much easier to change the way people think by working with current reality than by just demanding that they change, after all.

So that’s the kind-of bad news for a lot of liberals. If they really want to win and have a shot at offering a serious counterweight to the unAmerican right wing radicals who have taken over our country, they’re going to have to learn to fight. They’re going to have to learn to absorb the blows, the criticism, the rejection, the accusations and nastiness that are part and parcel of fighting without shifting, moving or bending. They’re going to have to learn to dish it as well as they take it. And that’s damn uncomfortable for a lot of us.

A lot of people associate open conflict and the intense battles of a fight with those who are abusive, dishonest, manipulative and cruel. But you can be plenty abusive, dishonest, manipulative and cruel without fighting. It’s not the fighting that’s the problem. You don’t have to fight dirty, be dishonest, dehumanizing or even particularly harmful to fight. You just need to fight clever, judicious and strong. Because the good news is that if we fight, we’re going to win. The other side leans so heavily on dishonesty, cruelty and manipulation because what they’re fighting for is bullshit. Behind that strong, take-no-prisoners, fight to the death front, there’s not really much there that anyone actually wants.

On the issues, once you strip off the liberal label, the American people agree with us. They just can’t trust us or take us or any of our policies seriously. What good is having great policy goals if you don’t have the gumption to fight to enact them anyways? So we’ve got to step up and fight because if we don’t, we’re abandoning ourselves, our country and our neighbors to an abusive, dishonest, manipulative and cruel movement ruled by a racist, unhinged con-artist. If that’s not worth fighting over, I don’t know what is.

Advertisements

In Which I Own the Libraturd Title

I’ve avoided nearly all hot-button cultural and political topics around here for many years now. And I don’t write screeds about how terrible other people’s theology or morality is. Yet, somehow, the overwhelming majority of people who have responded to my writing are not, shall we say, politically conservative. I used to be conservative, but reading the bible has a funny way of changing that, it seems.  These days I’m a pretty flaming progressive. I’ll go back to being a conservative when we’ve dealt with our problems and have better traditions to hold on to.

I’m not remotely an ideologue. Ideally I’d love to see conservatives, liberals, progressives and (I guess) libertarians have a seat at the table and hash things out together. But as I’ve been saying for years, conservatives have so totally lost their way from a moral and ethical standpoint, that frankly, they need to be removed from the grown-up table until they can get their shit straight. (Hint: what you want to conserve, has to be worth conserving and can’t come at the cost of denying the dignity of some humans.)

Which isn’t to say that if you are conservative, you are unwelcome. Far from it. If you’re willing to put up with me, I assume you are wise and have excellent taste and want to engage with you. But I do find it interesting that, absent any liberal teachers or the influence of liberal theologians, just by following scripture and praying, I came to hold a theology which apparently appeals far more to people who are not politically conservative than those who are. I’m thinking that means something, frankly. I wonder if Jesus would be a libraturd too?

Why conservatives should have voted for Kerry

I’m about to break one of my family of origin’s cardinal rules: I’m going to tell you who I voted for long, long ago in the aughts. 

I grew up among very upstanding people who did not break rules and we all know the rules: no talking about religion, money or politics.  (They added in sex as well.  I think a lot of people did.)  And since those were the rules, they didn’t talk about those things.  And on the rare occasions that someone did mention politics, religion or money, they seemed to think that since they were already going to be breaking the rules, they might as well be rude about it.  Which meant that talking about such things seemed very rude indeed.  I never found our family gatherings to be very interesting.

So, I felt very extra brave when I decided to openly campaign for John Kerry in 2004.  (The qxh asked me not to put out lawn signs or window signs.)  I bravely wore my John Kerry for President button to the Y for the kid’s homeschool gym and swim class.  I talked with friends who were confused and frankly a bit appalled at me.  I live in a bedroom community in the great northern tundras of the USA.  I am a Christian.  I homeschooled.  I am pro-life.  I have too many kids.  I voted for Bush in 2000 and would do it again just so we would be spared the trauma of having to listen to the sound of Al Gore’s voice in the days after 9-11.  (Think heartbroken, angry country, smoking ruins, a megaphone and Al Gore. It makes me shudder.)  I was personally insulted by things my fellow campaigners said thinking that everyone there was of a like mind.  But I felt that strongly about it and it wasn’t about hating Bush.  For me it was far more fundamental than that.  It was about expectations; what do we have a right to expect from our government?  Me, I expect the government to make plans to secure weapons in their own war zone. Continue reading

Transcending Race and Delusional Conservatives

The candidacy of Barak Obama has inspired a great deal of talk, some of it self-inflicted by Sen. Obama, about the idea of transcending race. However, as the campaign as worn on, it has become apparent that “transcend race” is one of those phrases which means different things to different people. It seems to be a Rorschach test of wishful thinking in which people see it as meaning what they want it to mean.

I want to address how this issue plays out on the conservative side. The conservative perspective is the one which is closer to what I identify with and I think we have suffered as a nation because of conservatives’ refusal to look at and think reasonably about issues of race.

In regards to transcending race, on the conservative side, I have heard a fair amount of talk which indicates a wish for “transcending race” to mean eliminating race as an issue to which we need to pay attention to or offer consideration for. Because of this, conservatives have often reacted to things like the fact that Obama attends an Afrocentric church as a betrayal of his claim to be someone who can help us move past race. However, this perspective is based on a host of completely erroneous ideas.

The first problem with this perspective is that it presumes that in order to “get past race”, we must embrace a sort of “color-blind” nirvana and assiduously pretend that we have already reached such a place. In large part, this seems to mean that we ought to reject anything which conflicts with the idea that we are and should be completely unaware of race. Continue reading

Why we’re all a bit gaga over Barack Obama

Now, as some of you might have figured out by now, I tend to be pretty conservative in my thinking. Which means not that I’m always thrilled with Republicans, but that I typically don’t like Democrats so much that I vote Republican (although not for George W. Bush in 2004, I’m proud to say!). However, I must admit that I’m actually kind of excited about the prospect of Barack Obama running for president. I even find myself thinking from time to time that I’d like it if he were elected president. Which is weird because I disagree with almost all of the man’s policies. And I don’t think I’m alone. But I do think I’ve figured out why that is and why it makes more sense than it would seem. Continue reading