It’s one thing for conservatives to have Coulter come as rousing entertainment at CPAC. Coulter’s acerbic honesty provides many conservatives with a vicarious thrill. But how well would a movement full of Ann Coulter wannabes do? It would be a disaster. Conservatives who are not political activists — particularly devoutly religious people — are going to be turned off from engaging in the process. If they begin to perceive a movement that is hateful and spiteful, they’ll back away from it, because it doesn’t represent how they see themselves. The media has done its level best to create the perception that conservatives are hateful. The last thing conservative activists need to do is provide assistance.
3. Conservatives look lame behaving like liberals
Nobody likes a poser. Imagine, as Hawkins suggests, the business majors and church-going kids that make up most college Republican clubs storming a stage like refugees from the 1960s when a liberal is speaking. It is a poser moment akin to Mitt Romney’s painful “Who Let the Dogs Out?” campaign appearance.
Liberals receive training in obnoxious activism techniques and even receive scholarships and fellowships to hone their “craft.” When it comes to distasteful and disrespectful protest techniques, liberals are rock stars, while conservatives are amateurs performing on Karaoke machines. In Rules for Radicals, Alinsky said, “Never go outside the expertise of your people,” because it results in confusion and lack of confidence. And this is exactly why conservatives shouldn’t try to copy liberal incivility.
4. Conservatives face media bias
Another tactic Hawkins suggests is unleashing the opposition research machines on journalists. So let’s say we dig up some dirt on Maureen Dowd. Who exactly is going to report it? Certainly not the mainstream media — and probably not even Fox News. Best case scenario? The story ends up getting play on WorldNetDaily and conservative radio.
In fact, conservatives have exposed the hypocrisy of many liberal politicians, and it has been ignored. The inconvenient truth about Al Gore is that he has a carbon footprint the size of a small city. John “Two Americas” Edwards lives in an extravagant $6 million, 28,000-square-foot mansion. As for Joe “paying taxes is patriotic” Biden, based on his stingy charitable contributions, many expect him to be visited by three spirits this Christmas.
None of this has mattered to anyone other than conservative activists, and it has not been covered in the press. If the media doesn’t care about politicians’ hypocrisy, why should the media do hard-hitting reports on fellow journalists? This Hawkins tactic is likely to backfire. While disrupting speakers and digging up dirt on political non-combatants may work for left-wing groups, the media will call conservatives out on these tactics. They’ll point to interrupting speakers as an act of incivility, and they’ll say the assault on journalists threatens to undermine the freedom of the press.
In addition, on campuses, liberals usually have the administration behind them and the administration will, more often than not, ignore acts that are illegal, disruptive, or uncivil. Thus college campuses encourage liberal political thuggery. Seizing a stage while a conservative is speaking is ultimately an act of political intimidation against every conservative on campus. The same will not be allowed to happen with conservative thuggery. It will be dealt with harshly as criminal trespass and as an attempt to stifle free speech.
This is not to say that conservatives should live in fear of the mainstream press or campus authorities. But the right cannot expect to be able to copy legally or morally indefensible tactics from the left and enjoy the same treatment the left does. Thankfully, we have organizations like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the American Center for Law and Justice to defend our free speech rights. But who will take our case if we behave like thugs?
Conservatives do need to develop better strategies and find ways to communicate our message, but becoming as nasty as the fringe left simply won’t work.