Two recent PJM columns focus on the question of what methods to use in winning the political war against the left. John Hawkins argues that we need to be prepared to play as dirty as the left to win; my friend Adam Graham argues that we should not, both for ethical reasons and because we will never be as good (or is that as bad?) as the left at dirty politics.
I would argue that both of them are missing the larger problem, which is that the left is engaging in asymmetric politics. Asymmetric warfare means that when there is a great disparity in the power of two belligerents, the weaker party turns to strategy, tactics, and weapons. Being weak isn’t such a disadvantage when hitting the other guys where they are not expecting it. The left figured out years ago that in a battle of serious political debate, they are likely to lose — especially as leftist ideas were utterly discredited by the failure of centrally planned economies in the 20th century. Instead, the left has focused not on serious political debate, but on winning the culture war.
As we found out after the last election, Obama voters were considerably more ignorant of objective facts than McCain voters were about our government. I think that this has always been something of a problem, but my impression is that it is getting worse. Many Americans don’t read anything deeper than the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, and The Daily Show is the leading source of “news” among the under-30 crowd. Education and thoughtful writing about public policy are still important for the 30% of Americans who pay any attention to that. But I’m reminded of Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson. A gushing admirer told him, “All the intelligent people are going to vote for you.” His response? “Madam, I need a majority.” We’re losing the battle because we aren’t persuading the 70% of Americans who do not read. The left knows this. It is no coincidence that they are dominant in the entertainment business. When they make really strident, pedantic films, audiences stay away, the movies lose money, and the message doesn’t get through. A friend recalls going to a theater in Santa Monica, California, to watch the Jane Fonda movie Rollover when it came out, and the leftist message was so heavy handed that even in Santa Monica the audience was laughing at it.