As we wander through the landscape of the post-election dystopia searching for answers to our Republican defeat, it seems that there aren’t enough fingers to point.
Romney this, Ryan that, liberal/conservative, in a bubble, outside the beltway, need a big tent, too moderate, too conservative, ORCA failed, Obama promised free stuff, Hispanics, blacks, Asians, cities, counties and voter suppression/fraud – none of it explains the loss of a businessman who was promoting a clear message that the size of government matters to a big government liberal incumbent with a four year record of failure, selling nothing but sweet smelling unicorn flatulence.
The real reason that we are losing has nothing to do with any of this. It actually has nothing to do with politics at all; it has its roots in logic – or in this case, illogic.
We are losing because we are fighting an asymmetrical intellectual war with people like the Jamie Foxx’s and Sandra Fluke’s of the world. We make a mistake to believe that they obey the same rules of debate as we do. Anyone who has tried it will tell you that arguing with these folks is like trying to shovel sand with a pitchfork – they are so scattered and disconnected that you can’t keep a bead on them long enough to shoot them. This intellectual warfare is actually quite similar to fighting the asymmetrical wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The enemies follow no particular organization or structure, they wear no uniforms, they are indistinguishable from non-combatants, they are willing to sacrifice innocent lives to advance their goals and they adapt quickly.
We have been conditioned to accept the thesis that so called political “moderates” and “independents”, the two classes that national elections seem to rest on, are principled, fact based thinkers who look at problems from a different perspective. As we saw in the last election, the antithesis is true – they are people who look at problems, not with a different set of perspectives but a malleable set of principles…in fact, they stretch the definition of the word “principle” to the point that it is virtually meaningless.
When broken down in simple terms, these modern “moderates” and “independents” are nothing but liberals who lack any degree of conviction and essentially believe in nothing concrete. If they do, the ADHD kicks in pretty fast and they decide to move to another fad after about 5 minutes. They have no guiding core principles because they have been taught that everything is relative and therefore no decision can be considered permanent – they “evolve” but the “evolution” is based on external factors like political pressures and en trende movements and not internal factors like character and conviction.
We see perfect examples of this in our contemporary version of Ozymandias, Barack Obama. He:
- Voted against increasing the debt limit; then supported raising it.
- Campaigned against the Bush tax cuts; then extended all of them.
- Promised to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term; then proposed trillion dollar deficits.
- Vowed the unemployment rate would be below 8% if his stimulus was passed; but then it broke 10%.
- Promised shovel ready jobs; then admitted they weren’t shovel ready.
- Said if you like your health plan you can keep it; but then threw seniors off Medicare Plus and employers are now saying they’ll dump people onto the public exchange.
- Promised to have health care negotiations on live TV, but then reversed himself.
- Indicated Bush violated the Constitution; then carried out warrantless wiretaps, indefinite detentions, secret renditions, quadrupled drone attacks, and kept Guantanamo Bay open. Voted against the Patriot Act, but then supported its extension.
- Said lobbyists wouldn’t work in the White House; then gave them waivers to work there.
- Vowed to take public financing for his 2008 campaign; then refused public financing when he realized he would receive more money without it.
And yet, Obama was re-elected. Selective memory and political amnesia abound. The things that they hated during the Bush years are somehow now brilliant. Drone strikes, the Patriot Act, unilateral war (Libya), executive orders and signing statements and the unitary executive are all now pretty cool. Filibisters in the Senate were the very conerstone of democracy, now – no so much. Power sharing to avoid the tyranny of the majority – really trendy during the Republican dominated Congress – now Harry Reid wants to change the Senate rules to shut out Republican amendments…even rule changes were dangerous then but now are necessary tools.
It seems clear who the tools are.
“Moderates” and “Independents” are also selective listeners burdened with confirmation bias. That is why advertising has such a disproportionate impact on them. They are believers in intentionalism rather than textualism, they assign value to what is said rather than what is actually done. If what is said agrees with their pre-existing bias, they simply do not question when it doesn’t actually get done because obviously, the speaker meant well. They ignore any evidence that is contrary to their bias.
You can’t have a discussion with someone who believes in nothing and yet everything at the same time – but I guess after all, that is the definition of cognitive dissonance, one of the three requirements to be a “progressive”. I’ve stated that one cannot win an argument on purely intent alone. Not one of us can see what is in someone else’s heart or mind. We must judge that through evidence – results of the intent, just like in a courtroom. In order to defeat this flaccid form of “principled” thinking, we simply must aggressively challenge these soft intellectual arguments and force them to a conclusion. It will sometimes be uncomfortable and unpleasant but it without the intellectual equivalent of a military surge, there will be no breakout and without a breakout, there can be no victory.
Time to step up, not step back. Time to develop a harder edge. Arguments must be driven to a conclusion.