by Monsieur Voltaire
In the last half-century, we Conservatives have let ourselves become the “other” in our own culture. Controversial, outmoded, extreme, Neanderthal, medieval: these are the qualifiers we hear constantly associated with our views–in news, entertainment, social media, the classroom and even conversation among peers. The Liberal viewpoint has become the default position; Conservatives must rely on guesswork and coded behavior to recognize each other among strangers–a roll of the eyes at the name of a certain politician, a “God bless” at a sneeze, etc. On the other hand, Liberals feel more than free to howl out their groupthink views loudly and inconsiderately in all these venues, secure in their illusion that everyone else must bay with them in unison–and that those who don’t are idiots, have sinister motives, are brainwashed or all of the above.
The fault, however, lies as much with us as with them. While Liberals were busy taking over all or most institutions of public opinion, with the patience of a colony of termites hell-bent on consuming an ancient mansion, Conservatives have taken the intellectual high road, thinking it a waste of time or outright uncouth to engage in “the fight” on the often muddy turf chosen by our political opponents. Or, we were simply too busy leading normal lives, raising families or doing honest work while the opinion-leaders of the other side were burning bras, suing God out of the public square, manufacturing and pushing the hagiography of homosexuality and enshrining it all into the PC code. The result is where we are today: we, marginalized, they bandying their ideas around like fashionable accessories that “everyone who’s anyone must have.”
What to do? Somehow, we are in the bad habit of looking at politicians as potential messiahs who will sweep in, top-down, to restore America to its founding values of God, family, self-reliance, patriotism and the rule of law. If we could only get politician X elected president, goes the conventional wisdom, he will end the madness. That’s never going to happen for two main reasons: a), as a Beltway outsider by necessity, this politician would be most likely marginalized or taught to march in step with the establishment (Rubio, anyone?); and b), elected politicians are only a small cog in the behemoth government apparatus as we have allowed it to grow. No, if we have to have a “government of the people, by the people and for the people,” we must look at the people first. And we are the people.
The battlefield of ideas starts with the person you look in the mirror every day. Do you have the intellectual conviction to stand by your ideas even in an environment where they are treated as a sort of mental disorder? We should. Because we Conservatives have an advantage over Liberals in this regard: just like with our respective views of society, we are self-reliant, while they are not. We tend to build (and therefore elaborate, understand and refine) our own ideas, whereas most Liberals tend to hold their hand out and wait for talking points to be placed there, which they then spend like welfare checks at any possible opportunity. Which is why, when the two currencies come in direct contact in an honest debate, ours tends to hold a much greater logical value.
Therefore, while I would be the last to advocate social (or even professional) self-immolation, we Conservatives must at least agree on and start doing the following first baby-steps:
1 – Stop going underground with our beliefs. Our family, circle of friends and social media interlocutors (at the very least) must know that, as they, we won’t tolerate our ideas belittled, our idols spat upon and our beliefs treated as mental backwardness. Tolerance is a two way street, and we are retaking our voice in the public discourse.
2 – Pick which hills are worth fighting on. In a world where everything is politics—where even football stars and fast-food chains are being appropriated by political camps–we must be selective on where we draw the first lines. Traditional Christian values, the traditional family, the Second Amendment and a sane immigration policy are my own personal “hills.” Yours don’t have to be the same, but make sure that they are fundamental to the Conservative position and (especially) that you have elaborated a coherent theory on why you think the way you do about them.
3 – Be polite, firm and don’t deviate from the central philosophical position unless you must. Liberals love to get mired in the smoke-and-mirror of red herrings, strawmen, changing the subject and attacking, phony statistics and other verbal guerrilla tactics. Don’t play the game. At the very least, state that you and your Liberal interlocutor are like two doctors who are trying to make the patient (America) better–you are on the side of traditional medicine, while he believes in alternative cures; that you greatly resent being belittled or thought of as dishonest, and that your theory on issue X is perfectly coherent from your point of view if only given a chance to articulate it.
4 – Don’t proselytize, but be armed with resources to back up your positions. One of my favorite lines is “if your interest in the matter is more than emotional, I can point you to some resources that show X fairly conclusively; at least, you can see where I am coming from.” In my case, for instance, Government crime statistics before and after the passage of must-issue concealed-carry laws have gotten me at least a “wow, I didn’t know that.” And the moment you lose your tin-foil hat (in the mind of your interlocutor), is the moment you start making inroads.
5 – Have the patience to explain the Conservative position on any issue in a few compelling points. Remember: all Liberals know about our ideas are the distorted caricatures they learn from traditional channels. It must be up to us to clarify the real points, in a few, logically-compelling and well-stated sentences.
How does this work in practice? In the next few issues of my article, I will address different parts of the national discourse with regards to this template, starting with defending traditional Christianity. For now, though, I wish my reader to be proud of his Conservative ideas, not to be ashamed of defending them before the trashy onslaught of today’s vulgar culture, and to think about which issues are dearest and closest to his heart.
Part 2 of “Reconquering the Discourse” can be found here. • (2158 views)