Rightwing Rules of Engagement

ReaganThumbby Deana Chadwell    4/26/14
It’s true that, at this point in American history, our future looks bleak; the media is backing an unconstitutional president, the moral fiber of the nation has gone slack, and the economy does not look hopeful. Yet, the tide just might be turning.

I get such a kick out of arguing with those on the left. Nearly every move they make waves a white flag of surrender, and they don’t even know it. All of their weapons have been knocked out of their hands – either by clear-thinking, articulate conservatives, or, more likely, by the jaw-dropping, visible failures of their own policies. The government, as it sidles ever leftward, trips over the smallest stumbling blocks – failing to build a workable web site, or to successfully make a desert rancher pay his grazing fees. The left has turned into the keystone cops, staggering about in a dark of their own making, and I have to feel a little sorry for those afflicted with such a hollow and contradictory point of view.

These folk have nothing of substance left (pun unavoidable) with which to argue. They have to call us names, fill their voices with condescension, lump others into mindless wads of segregated humanity, and point haughty fingers. There is nothing else for them to do. I know that nothing I or anyone else can say will cause any Marxist to do the necessary face-palm salute and say, “Duh. How’d I miss that? You guys have been right all along.” But we can call trump and we can do it with kindness.

Little by little as I’ve been writing these last few years I’ve developed a mental list of stances to which I will not resort. I think it not an unusual list – it grows naturally out of a conservative, Christian mind-set, but I find it useful to write it all down. I hope you will find it helpful to read:

The no-lump rule:  While, yes, the human brain is a pattern-seeking device, and we will look for similarities and motifs, we still must be leery of slapping people – each a unique product of the love and ingenuity of God — into unwarranted categories. I’ve known more than a few black people in my life, but so far as I can tell, they don’t seem to be any more homogeneous than any random bunch of white people. Though Christians theoretically have some beliefs in common, we are each very different – hence the huge number of Christian denominations and the refusal of many Christian churches to affiliate with denominations at all. We, as conservatives, must be so careful not to fall into the leftist trap of saying things like, “all you people.” Statements like that are rarely useful and even more rarely true.

The no name-calling rule: This is a corollary to the no-lump rule, but it goes a step further: names, like all nouns, can have either negative or positive connotations, but when we are being so arrogant that we feel we can herd people into groups (generally, people who have less power than we do), we rarely use positive terms. Avoiding the use of collective nouns is tricky and I don’t always find a way out of it, but I find the best approach is to stick to discussing the ideas and not the people. Some of my favorite people are liberals so I try to keep in mind their good points as I argue against them. We can talk about what the leftist mindset is, or what the left’s “morality” might be, but not about what all liberals are or do. We must limit ourselves to attacking the ideas, not the individuals who hold those ideas.

The watch-your-tone rule: I was listening to a West Coast radio talk show the other day – the host was interviewing people he encountered on a university campus. One of the people interviewed was a college professor and one, a student. Neither appeared to make any effort to control the tone of derision  in their voices – it was like venom, drippy and thick. The professor – a specialist in environmental science – leaked a goo of condescension, though she made no effort to present convincing global warming information. The student delighted in referring to Fox News as “Faux News.” The talk show host asked for a specific instance of Fox fabricating a news story. This, the student couldn’t do, but he continued the name-calling as if he were really proud of having come up with it. I was appalled. I can’t remember the last time I heard a conservative speak in such snide terms.  You do hear Rush Limbaugh tease about “Dingey Harry,” or Greg Gutfeld crack his crazy jokes about the latest left-wing debacle, but you don’t hear them sneer. Conservatives don’t need to sneer.

The check-your-facts rule: This one is hard to do – every fact has buried within it another layer and then another layer until it appears to be “turtles all the way down.” We’ve all been inadvertently mistaken about something we thought we knew, but as best we can, we need to know. We have the facts on our side and we don’t need to lie.

The every-person-is-God’s-creation rule: Right or wrong, we all belong to        Him. I’m sure that there are evil people, but not many folk are actually in league with the devil. Many are deluded, mistaken, or just not awake. None of them need to be hated – “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34). If Jesus could say that mid-crucifixion, then we can adopt that attitude about those who merely indulge in erroneous politics. Eventually this nation will need to heal and that process will be easier if we haven’t done too much emotional damage to begin with. Just because the left can’t discuss things calmly and graciously doesn’t mean we have to follow suit. We can be firm without being nasty; it’s not easy and I don’t always manage as well as I might, being able to do that is a goal I hold dear.

The use-your-own-words rule: If all I can do I spout talking points and slogans, I find myself out on a rotted branch where I have no support when the winds of argument start to blow. If, on the other hand, I think ideas through and then carefully choose the words I use so that they line up as closely as possible with what I’m thinking, then I can support what I say, I can restate my ideas if my first attempt doesn’t adequately connect with my audience, I can answer questions. If I use my own words then I own the argument and I can mold it into a point of view that might be winning enough to convince someone; I can avoid the kind of vituperative viciousness the left so often falls into.

Do I always live up to these guidelines? No. There is, with each piece I write, room for improvement. It would be pleasant if both sides adhered to these standards, but it can’t happen – the left is standing on an entirely different footing and it’s getting shaky. It does no good to complain about the double standards in the media, or to bemoan the invective that pollutes the political air. It does, however, get us somewhere when we hold ourselves to the highest possible standards. We can’t win the race by tripping our opponent; we can only train harder and run faster and straighter. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com. • (1870 views)

Deana Chadwell

About Deana Chadwell

I have spent my life teaching young people how to read and write and appreciate the wonder of words. I have worked with high school students and currently teach writing at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. I have spent more than forty years studying the Bible, theology, and apologetics and that finds its way into my writing whether I'm blogging about my experiences or my opinions. I have two and a half moldering novels, stacks of essays, hundreds of poems, some which have won state and national prizes. All that writing -- and more keeps popping up -- needs a home with a big plate glass window; it needs air; it needs a conversation. I am also an artist who works with cloth, yarn, beads, gourds, polymer clay, paint, and photography. And I make soap.
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15 Responses to Rightwing Rules of Engagement

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    As for the “no-lump rule”, this is why I differentiate between generalization and stereotyping. What I call the First Law of Generalizations is that there are always exceptions; by contrast, stereotyping allows for no exceptions. We might think of it in today’s terms as generalization on steroids.

    One way to think of the liberal reliance on personal abuse and sneering (I refer to one virulently liberal SF fan, Darrell Schweitzer, as Darrell Schweitsneer) is the old legal advice which I’ve seen in a variety of forms, my favorite version going: “If you’re weak on the law, argue the facts. If you’re weak on the facts, argue the law. If you’re weak on both, bullshit the jury.” This is what liberals do, and one of the most effective ways of combating them may simply be to point that out.

    As for name-calling, I’m afraid that I’ve been doing that with politicians for several decades now, ever since a friend mentioned that a Richmond paper (he went to the University of Virginia) had referred to George McGovern in 1972 as “George McGrovel” for his Van Ackerman-like approach to the Soviet threat.

    But these certainly are some excellent rules. Even in my name-calling, I often come up with my own terminology (such as the “synoptic media”, a term which comes from Biblical studies), though I’ll happily use other people’s versions (such as “Slick Willie” — coined by Paul Greenburg) if they seem suitable. (One thing I rarely use is the “gate” ending for scandals; I generally prefer “scam”, since that’s what most of them are.)

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    If “playing nice” was politically effective, the RINOs would be winning and everyone would be voting against the harsh and impolite rhetoric of the Left.

    Politics is war by other means. And preemptively surrendering to “politeness” is no way to win it.

    And that’s what we’re inevitably talking about. Any tactic that starts with “Don’t offend anyone” is waving the white flag and ceding to the opposition the very ability to define what it is we are to be offended about.

    We quickly box ourselves in by this mindset, for the propaganda of the Left will make it very offensive in the minds of people to speak and hear just common truths.

    As for not calling the Left idiots, dumb-asses, ignoramuses – fine. Point taken. But what about calling them, where appropriate, Communists, socialists, Marxists, race-baiters and plunderers of future generations to pay for the resources to buy votes and constituencies in the here and now?

    Note that “politeness” regarding certain truths boxed out McCain and Romney from calling Obama the Marxist that he is during the presidential campaign. In America. In a race for the office once held by Lincoln, Reagan, and Washington. Both were polite losers. And note that when someone does take a rather harsh rhetorical stance against the Left – Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz – they are instant rock stars. There is much to be gained by speaking frankly no matter who says that such language is impolite, offensive, or even “hateful.”

    It’s a myth that Reagan was polite and gained popularity by being a nice guy. He was a fighter. He called the Soviets “the evil empire.” And he had nothing but blistering words for socialism and those who tried to foist it on us.

    His secret was in having many arrows in his quiver. He told jokes and could instantly switch into a jovial, congenial demeanor. But the RINOs of today think the congenial arrow is the only one they need. And thus they preemptively surrender to the enemy who has no fear in attacking who they see as the enemy. And by doing so they set the ground rules for what is “polite” in the first place.

    Like any good movie or novel, it doesn’t work without a clear black-hatted villain. And in this case, we have plenty of them. But we’re not allowed to talk about them lest it upset the very people who have been propagandized to be upset by revelations about the Left.

    If one doesn’t understand this box that “politeness” has put us in, we will never advance our cause. As Rush mentioned about the failure of George W. Bush (his extremely low ratings at the end of his presidency), via Karl Rove’s strategy to be liked (aka “compassionate conservatism”), Rush said something like “Welcome to the new tone.” Bush preemptively surrendered the Republican cause by not engaging his adversaries. Whether this is because he believed a “new tone” would gain adherents, or whether he just didn’t disagree with their statist orientation, is unknown. But what is known is that a focus on “tone” is a losing proposition.

    Battles are won by the bold. And we are indeed in a battle. And people are watching. And they will not align with a side that seems timid and weak, concerned more with “tone” than with calling a spade a spade – or a Marxist a Marxist.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      We need to behave ethically, but we also need to realize that modern politics is indeed war by other means (the reversal of Clausewitz). The best way to follow both concerns is to call the Left out for their viciousness, especially when it’s hypocritical by their own alleged standards (such as their hyper-insincere calls for a civility they never demonstrate).

      Increasingly, I’m inclined to think that the problem with RINOs or whatever isn’t their political moderation, but their failure to realize that this is indeed a political war against ruthless enemies — though the moderation on issues does tend to go with moderation (and thus ineffectualness) in tactics. Oddly, they’re quite willing to attack intra-party foes harshly in a way they’ll never do against the Demagogues.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        The best way to follow both concerns is to call the Left out for their viciousness, especially when it’s hypocritical by their own alleged standards (such as their hyper-insincere calls for a civility they never demonstrate).

        No, you’re missing the point, Timothy. Calling people out on their “tone” isn’t going to work if it’s the other side setting the parameters of this “tone” by not being particularly worried about their own tone.

        This is why I often compare the Republicans to kidnap victims suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. They begin to identify with their captors

        I don’t want the Left “called out” for their tone. I want to fight fire with fire. And we don’t even have to make up the kindling. It’s there, and dry, and just waiting to be lit. It’s funny listening to Rush go on about the Republican’s lack of belly for a fight. Forget about whatever principles the GOP officially holds. Rush notes that given the unpopularity of Obamacare, it’s a perfect issue to drive to electoral victory – even if you don’t give a flippin’ fart about socialism one way or another.

        That is, you’d think that just narrow partisan politics would energize the Republicans to drive hard against all the abuses of the Democrats. But they don’t. They seem more concerned with “tone.” They are, in effect, acting like hostages to the Left.

        Why this “moderation” should be is interesting and worthy of further discussion. But it is. And it’s a loser in today’s fight against statism of all varieties. And if libertarians could get their heads out of their pot and out of their bon mots of kooky ideas, they could join the battle against the Left — as could members of our own cause.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I’m concerned with ethics (which in this case mostly means honesty), not “tone”. No one who has read my polemical writing would ever accuse me of being soft on liberalism, or on liberals. I regard Inner Party liberals as thoroughly evil, and Outer Party liberals as (mostly) decent people at heart, but quite willingly duped. One cannot understand the Outer Party without such words as “ovine” and “psittacine” (to use the sort of language Buckley might have used).

          But I do like to counterattack, and highlighting the bottomless pit of liberal hypocrisy is a great place to start. Why not challenge those who prate of “malefactors of great wealth” (or the modern equivalent phrasing) for their own wealth (and links to rich radicals such as George Soros and Tom Steyer)? Why not challenge those who prate of a “war on women” for their own failure to treat women equally, and their hostility to movies such as The Honor Diaries? Etc., etc,. ad infinitum.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            I don’t disagree with your call for ethics…and wasn’t addressing that point. Where I am silent, you might indeed assume agreement, at least in your case.

            Speaking of a “war on women,” that’s a perfect example of how the Left sets the “tone” and causes the wimpy GOP to climb back into their tone-based Stockholm Syndrome box lest they upset anyone’s feelings (feelings in the context of the “tone” set not by them, or even reality, but by the Left).

            As they say, great work if you can get it. What we have to stop doing is simply critiquing the Left and saying the equivalent of “tsk tsk.” We must engage them in the battle of ideas. If they have their “War on women,” let us tell of the Left’s “War on children”…the many children who will be left holding the debt we are incurring to pay for today’s entitlement luxuries.

            Let us tell of the “War on children” whereby perfectly healthy children are discarded as a means of birth control.

            And let us tell of the “War on workers” wherein misguided environmental wacko policies (and I stand by those words, and they should be used often) shut down needed oil and gas pipelines.

            Folks, it’s time we stop gazing at our navels and parsing rhetoric and actually engage in some: hard-hitting but honest rhetoric. We need to learn from the Left, and that is how to market our ideas. And you don’t get your ideas across by being shy.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              I think a fundamental reason your suggestions don’t presently work is simply because too many of the Republicans are not in it for principle, but for self aggrandizement. To formulate and defend conservatism one generally has to believe in it. To explain why short term gratification is normally harmful to long term stability and comfort takes thought.

              It might also be helpful if more of the Republican politicians practiced what they preached. But perhaps I am asking too much.

              I am waiting for the politician to come out and say, “Why am I a conservative? Because government is at best a necessary evil. Of course, it is needed in some areas of life, but a free people should be very wary of giving politicians and bureaucrats ever increasing power over their lives. Do not believe everything that is said. Do not trust unconditionally. Remember what Lord Acton said, “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Sarah Palin does all of that, but unfortunately lacks the experience needed to be more than just the GOP equivalent of the Crimson King, Barry Screwtape Obama (and, for that matter, Hillary the Fire Witch).

    • Brad — I guess I wasn’t as clear as I should have been. I’m not advocating “playing nice.” Nice has nothing to do with it. We have to be firm, brave, and absolutely honorable. We cannot stoop to their level and win the game. Nor can we win playing their game. That’s what the GOP old guard has been trying to do. That, I agree, can’t work.

      When David walked onto the battlefield he had no intention of fighting Goliath on Goliath’s terms. Goliath assumed he could control the rules of engagement. He came prepared to fight dirty — his giant brothers were lined up behind him; his shield bearer was at his side; his armor was in place, but David redefined the fight. He didn’t use the methods Goliath was used to and good at. He came armed instead with 5 pebbles — one for Goliath and one for each brother; he wasn’t being a Polyanna about this fight, and he was armed with confidence in his abilities and with the knowledge that God was on his side. He won.

      What I’m trying to say is that we must win the moral war, the integrity war, as well as the political war. In fact, we can’t do one without the other. No right thing can be done in a wrong way. We are right and we don’t have to lie, we don’t have to attack people on a personal basis, we don’t have to mess with the language, or operate from a platform of arrogance. We may have to hurt the people who have arrayed themselves against the foundations of our religion and our nation — but we can only do so out of our love of our country and our desire to protect home and hearth, never out of the kind of seething hatred we see coming from the left. We have better ammunition than that.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Deana, I disagreed with little of what you said in the detail. But I think the overall was something I’ve heard before and that could be summed up as “Play nice.”

        I’m glad you brought David into this, because that is apt. Or perhaps the early Christians living inside a heavily statist Rome is more apt. That’s where many of us are today. We will more and more be trying to stay under the radar — or at least trying to live inside the belly of the beast without being consumed.

        And for those who confront the beast, they will be martyrs. Maybe it will not mean walking into the flames. But the state, and the obsequious and immoral population being formed in and around it, has truly become a Leviathan.

        It goes without saying that in advancing our politics we shouldn’t lie or cheat. And I know of no one who thinks we should do as the Democrats do and stuff the ballet boxes, slander our opponents, and lie about what they are doing. We don’t need to lie. We simply need to speak the truth. We need to send those proverbial stones at Goliath. In that context, I’m not sure why your warnings are even apt.

        The gist of it is that I’ve had one too many discussions on Facebook with RINO-types (and/or “centrists”) who have lectured me on how we must “play nice.” And “playing nice,” in practice, equates to letting the Left set the agenda.

        That may not have been the intent of your article, and I’m sure it wasn’t. But I think you need to understand the general vibe that is out there. Instead of telling people they need to play nice (again, I don’t know of anyone on our side who thinks we should cheat), we need to tell people that the kind of change that we can believe in is going to involve taking a lot of hits from some very unsavory people.

        Forget David. It’s the early Christian martyrs (or Colorado ranchers) who will be the cutting edge of this movement. It will be the bakers who declare their own right to not serve a ridiculous notion such as “gay marriage.” It may one day even mean entire states nullifying federal law, which I think is inevitable, especially when California completely crashes from its excesses and expects the rest of us to bail out their liberalism.

        I think our job is to give courage to other people by example. It’s okay to, say, call something such as affirmative action a racist policy, which it is. It’s okay to tell people that the supposed “war on women” is a dastardly sort of politics drummed up by people who deal in paranoia as a matter of course.

        And I’m sure you probably agree with most of that. But also note that “tone” is the rallying cry of the accommodationists — the collaborators. I also fundamentally disagree with the premise that usually sits behind it. And it is that we must be perfect lest one slip mean our entire cause is kaput. That is how successful the Alinskyites have been at establishing their agenda. One of the “Rules for Radicals” is to use people’s own rules against them. This they have done.

        I really don’t expect anyone to be perfect. We don’t need to be perfect. We just need to have better ideas and then show some confidence in them.

        • I think, Brad that we differ here only in the terms we use. “Nice” is not something we have to be. Honest? Yes. Objective? Definitely. Kind? (which I see as very different from “nice). Every time we can be. But we must also be firm, and furious — righteously furious, and dedicated and not willing to compromise if our principles are at stake. It is incumbent on all of us on the right to demonstrate the superiority of our argument be refusing to use any of the left’s shoddy tactics. Our argument can hold its own without that — it is our ace-in-the-hole, because the left can’t do it.

          We can tear up the Temple, we can get right in the face of those who oppose us, (Jesus was so good at that), we can fight back. I do not advocate the wimpiness we saw from Romney during the debates, nor do I advocate compromise when principles and laws of economics are clear. I advocate honor and dignity and truthfulness even when our opponents are not fighting by the same rules. We have God on our side.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Yes, truth is the key. There is always the danger that we conservatives could sink to the disgusting level of liberals, given that we (like they) are imperfect. But as long as we hold resolutely to devotion to truth and basic ethical standards, we should be able to escape that fate. “In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side” — truth is good, lies are evil.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Yes, I’m good with being righteously furious. And that’s an odd idea coming from a Christian of today. Most Christians seem to have bought into the “nice” paradigm. Rather than upholding sane and reliable standards, it’s considered unkind (if not outright bigoted or racist) to buffet anyone’s feelings regarding their behavior by declaring that such behavior isn’t good or healthy. As Dennis Prager sums it up, it’s become a matter of feelings replacing standards.

            The old “Onward Christian Soldier” has been replaced by The Wimpy Non-Judgmental Nice Guy. And although there are hazards involved in upholding standards (it is true, for example, that some people do pucker their butt cheeks just a bit too tightly regarding what others are doing), few acknowledge the real hazards involved in being the wimpy non-judgmental nice guy (which is the place where feeble libertarianism empowers and interacts with the Left).

            So…I’m just saying, Deana, that the gist of what you’re saying — as those waves are broadcast and spread out into the wimposphere — will likely be lost or misinterpreted without a discussion of just how disastrous the Bush/Rove emphasis on “tone” was. It resulted in disarming conservatism under the guise of being “nice.” You may not mean that, and I’m sure that you don’t. But there’s no way this topic can be fruitful without noting the actual history regarding attempts at “tone.”

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I like your “Happy Warrior” slant, but must point out that we are in a battle for the country and warriors are sometimes called to fight and hurt others.

    The left has turned into the keystone cops, staggering about in a dark of their own making, and I have to feel a little sorry for those afflicted with such a hollow and contradictory point of view.

    The Left may look like the Keystone Cops to many conservatives, but over the course of this presidency, they have advanced their agenda to a point where the country is at the edge of the precipice. They have damaged this nation tremendously and I cannot have any sympathy for them as long as they are willing to continue this course.

    I’ve known more than a few black people in my life, but so far as I can tell, they don’t seem to be any more homogeneous than any random bunch of white people.

    It is advisable to modify quantitative statements about people with adjectives such as most, many, some, a large number, etc. But I can tell you what the vast majority of black voters have in common; they vote for the Left. Human experience is varied and it is true that the only thing we all experience is life and death. But when 90-95% of any particular group do the same thing in a particular instance, I take that as a pretty good indication of their thoughts and intentions regarding the the particular subject in question. The same applies to college professors, media figures and union bosses. Reality forces me to accept the statistically proof of this. Of course, when dealing with individuals, statistics can fall apart.

    We must limit ourselves to attacking the ideas, not the individuals who hold those ideas.

    This can be the case in many circumstances, but if the ideas simply resided in these peoples’heads, there would be no problem. They problem is that the vanguard Left try their best to implement these noxious ideas which when implemented create a noxious environment for everybody. I see nothing wrong in attacking such people as Obama, Hillary, Reid, Democrats ad infinitum for their dishonesty and active work to change our lives.

    we need to know.

    I agree 100%. I am constantly telling people to check their facts with multiple sources and to also use a little logic when considering something is true or not. This is particularly important when sourcing “facts” from the internet. We must be smarter and more careful than the left. But more importantly, we must not fool ourselves into believing poppycock simply because it makes us feel good.

    We can be firm without being nasty;

    This can be tricky. The Left has succeeded in labeling any thought, with which they disagree, as hate speech. Therefore, on basis of their rules, we are already being “nasty”. While I agree it is generally better to be courteous, there are times when this appears as a sign of weakness. When a Leftist lies to my face and I stand back and just calmly disagree with him, he will likely take this as a weakness. More importantly, anyone who is watching could take it as a sign that I do not have the courage of my convictions and that the Leftist does. There as times when one must call people out for dishonesty, duplicity and stupidity.

    If, on the other hand, I think ideas through and then carefully choose the words I use so that they line up as closely as possible with what I’m thinking, then I can support what I say, I can restate my ideas if my first attempt doesn’t adequately connect with my audience, I can answer questions. If I use my own words then I own the argument and I can mold it into a point of view that might be winning enough to convince someone;

    Again, I agree 100%. This is part of, what I consider to be the most important action which is needed to turn this country around, i.e. conservatives of every stripe must get out and sell conservatism to the people. Most people don’t have the time or interest to pay close attention to politics. As a result, the country is being sold down the river while the public is concerned with other things. It will be a long, hard slog, but it is the only way out of our present situation.

  4. Timothy Lane says:

    I just read a piece on HotAir about the Fascist Messiah bad-mouthing his country (or so he claims) in Malaysia. Nothing unusual, he does that every chance he gets. But his particular complaint was about US civil liberties, and he mentioned press freedom specifically. A good counter-attack would be to point out that he’s right — but by his own doing. It seems a bit much to attack civil liberties in America so you can use those failures to attack the country on foreign soil.

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