Today I will tackle a major quandary for those of us on the right. How our side perpetually loses the battle on social issues, across the board. It doesn’t seem to matter how much we try, or how passionate we are, the left always seems to prevail in the end, on the fundamentals of the issue. Why is this? Are we too wrongheaded in our thinking? Are we that out of touch with mainstream America? Have the Progressive liberals brainwashed so much of society that we can never get them back? Or is America just not as socially conservative as we like to think? These questions and more will be answered!
I will get straight to the point here, the main problem is the inability of those on the right, to recognize what is happening to them. The framing of the argument is established by the left, and from there, the right attempts to make their case against the prejudiced backdrop. Case in point, the so-called “immigration reform” issue; We don’t have an immigration problem. Most of us recognize that immigrants are what have built this nation, and most of us come from immigrant families at one point in our genealogy. No one on the right is opposed to foreign immigrants coming to America, it is the foundation of our nation and epitomization of liberty itself. Almost immediately, we see the terminology is established, that the right is against foreigners, racist bigots who hate people who aren’t from here. We attempt to defend our position which we shouldn’t be put in to begin with, and the left has a field day with it.
They pull the same trick with religious freedom, abortion, school prayer, gun rights, gay rights, etc., etc., etc. It just goes on and on, they set up the false parameters of the argument, place the right squarely in the corner of defending an indefensible position, and the right comes out swinging under those pretexts. The next thing you know, some Senatorial candidate has uttered some idiotic point that shouldn’t even be made, and the liberal allies in the mainstream media jump all over it. It’s as if we never learn, we just keep right on falling in this trap, and getting nailed every time. So what do we do about this?
Well, we could start by taking a step back from the arguments themselves, and recognizing core conservative principles. We do not need some massive federal legislation to deal with the problem of illegal immigrants streaming across our borders, we need to demand that laws already on the books be enforced, and our borders secured. Period, end of argument. If, after doing so, someone wants to propose something to make it easier to come here, or to address the 20 million who are already here, we can have that debate. That should only be discussed after we have begun enforcing the law and securing the borders.
Campaign finance reform was another issue we capitulated to. After Reagan steamrolled the left, and later, the Gingrich Revolution swept Congress, the left began to establish one of their infamous arguments, the corruption of the process by big money contributors to campaigns and such. They established the parameters of the argument, placed the right in the indefensible position, and John McCain quite simply, capitulated to the demands of his captors, as you would expect a John McCain to do. The right jumped right in there to fight this battle, which was established on false pretext to begin with, and we ended up with campaign finance reform, championed by the “bipartisan” support of McCain and others. Now, what has been the result of that? Massive federal bureaucracy, more regulations and restrictions from the power base in Washington, and the emergence of 501(c) groups, who simply replaced the ‘public record’ contributors to campaigns. Before CFR, we could look at who contributed to a given candidate, and know exactly who was putting that candidate in their pocket. Now, we have to speculate, because the Big Money hides itself inconspicuously behind the mask of a group or organization. Has the left stopped screaming? No way! If anything, this has given them yet more ammunition to lob at the right. More indefensible positions to place the right in, and set up false pretexts with, and ultimately, beat our brains in with, in the end. Why? Because dumb ass Republicans will eventually take the bait and try to argue from an indefensible position they shouldn’t even be in to begin with.
The key to turning this around for the right, is to learn how to counter-manipulate the arguments. Take them off the table by rendering them obsolete in terms of how we think. Rather than jumping to propose some action by government, stand on the principles of limited government, and the rights of states and people to determine their own destiny. Why should government be telling people how to define marriage? Whether it’s traditional or open to homosexual couples, shouldn’t be something the government decides for individuals. The same could be said for the issue of abortion, or gun laws, or anything else the left wants to create as a social wedge issue. We should be making the argument that a government who can tell you that gays can marry, can also tell you that gays cannot marry, and that’s not what “liberty” is all about, to an individual. A government who can establish abortion as a constitutional right, can also establish it is not a right at all, and the rights belong to the unborn. The “solution” is to allow the people and states to set their own social boundaries at the local level, not by federal mandate or judicial fiat. If the people of your state want to legalize pot or prostitution, we stand for your right as people of a state, to make that determination on your own, regardless of our personal beliefs on the subject.
Whether you are on the left or right, regardless of how passionate you may be over a given issue, if the question of Constitutional rights are involved and you feel it is something that must be dealt with at the Federal level, we have a process for that. It’s called Amending the Constitution, and it has been done numerous times over the years. Take your issue to the people, lobby for a change, be as passionate as you like within the confines of our system, and stop demanding that government step in and dictate what we should all do. The right constantly loses on these social issues because we try to out-liberal the Liberals, and we’ll never be able to do that and remain true to core principles. So why do we keep doing it?
Our arguments for conservatism and smaller less intrusive federal government, can only work if we stick to core principles and stop being baited into superfluous arguments made on false pretexts. Social issues should be settled by society and culture, and at a local level, so as to ensure the widest range of individual freedom and liberty, and least restrictive federal encroachment.
We don’t have to abandon our social conservative principles in doing this, we just have to change the dynamic of the argument and not allow that to be established by the left. Reagan was a master at this. Did he beat anyone over the head with his Bible and proclaim America a “Christian Nation?” Nope, but he incorporated fundamental values into his speeches, the “Shining City on the Hill” speech, for example. He made eloquent statements like: “A nation without God is a nation gone under.” This is a man who was governor of perhaps the most socially liberal state in the nation, who was a former Hollywood actor, perhaps the most liberal profession in the nation. Yet, evangelical conservatives LOVED him! He was resoundingly popular with social conservatives because he knew and understood, how social conservative values were important to conservatism, and interwove those beliefs into his message. He wasn’t afraid to respect God or religious freedom, he stood up for it boldly, and made his case without apology.
Today, we see Republicans attempting to mute these ideas, trying to distance themselves from the “religious right” and make these platitude-based arguments against social conservatism. It effectively alienates a huge chunk of the base, and doesn’t bring much in return. If they aren’t running away from God, they are going in the opposite direction and sounding like evangelists, and what Reagan knew how to do, was find a comfortable middle, where core conservative principles were supported by wholesome values popular with Christianity. Most importantly, Reagan understood that Conservatism includes the socially conservative values, they are important and fundamental, not something to be shunned and shoved into a closet, or disregarded because you think fiscal conservatism is more important. Since Reagan, I believe this has been the root of the problem for the right.
Conservatism is only as strong as the sum of all parts, and without the important social conservative aspects, it is easily defeated by Liberal ideology. Especially since the Liberals have discovered they can throw some red meat wedge issue out there, and we will take the bait to argue an indefensible position based on false pretexts.