Attention Conservatives: Nice Guys Do Finish Last
"There is a time to submit to being slapped and there is a time to hit back twice so you will not be slapped again." -- Chin Ning-Chu
"There is such a gap between how one lives and how one ought to live that anyone who abandons what is done for what ought to be done learns his ruin rather than his preservation: for a man who wishes to profess goodness at all times will come to ruin among so many who are not good." -- Niccolo Machiavelli
Earlier this week, I wrote a piece for Pajamas Media called "The Right Needs to Play as Dirty as the Left." The theme of that piece could be summed up in these two paragraphs:
Too often today, liberals are using below-the-belt tactics against conservatives and paying no price whatsoever. Meanwhile, those on the right like to pat themselves on the back for being above it all. This is like a boxer priding himself on never taking off his gloves while his opponent nearly beats him to death with his bare firsts. But in the end, there’s not much to be said for lovable losers. Conservatives should realize that fair play isn’t going to pay any dividends.
While we conservatives don’t have to stoop quite as low as the left has, we do need to start giving them a taste of their own medicine, if only to make them think twice about the way they’re treating our side.
Adam Graham wrote a piece in response entitled "No, The Right Doesn’t Need to Play as Dirty as the Left." Since Mr. Graham's piece did a great job of summing up the opinions of the people who believe the GOP shouldn't sully its hands in the fight against the Left, I thought it was a good idea to respond. After all, this is a debate that we should have had in our party long ago. However, first it's worth clarifying a couple of points:
When I speak of playing as dirty as the Left, I'm not talking about mere rhetoric. Although we haven't gone quite as far off the rails as liberals, who habitually refer to everyone who disagrees with them on any issue as Nazis, theocrats, homophobes, and bigots, we do hit them hard. Unfortunately, our Republican representatives in D.C. haven't quite ramped up to the necessary level of intensity when dealing with a power-drunk narcissist who seems to be alternately borrowing from the playbooks of FDR, Noam Chomsky, Saul Alinsky, and even Hugo Chavez. Being politicians, though, you can expect them to escalate their attacks once President Obama's approval rating falls a little further.
Additionally, I don't believe in "anything goes." Conservatives do tend to be fundamentally moral in a way that liberals who drink deeply from the cup of politics are not. For example, the Right shouldn't engage in the sort of grotesque abuse that is often leveled by liberals at female conservative bloggers. Nor do I think we should back the sort of wholesale voter fraud that ACORN is attempting to perpetrate. There are some lines that should not be crossed. That much we can agree on. But let's get into some areas where Mr. Graham and I part company. First off, Mr. Graham states:
Conservatives are not liberals: ... Culturally, conservatives are unable to play the same game as liberals, because we do not possess the same mentality. I would argue that conservatives have a greater sense of respect for authority, rules of civility, and fundamental order within society. This is so ingrained that in Boise, when social conservatives felt the need to practice civil disobedience over the removal of a Ten Commandments monument, it was arranged in advance with the police that only a small number of people would be arrested and they would go quietly. There was a strong feeling among Ten Commandments supporters that they didn’t want to give the police officers a hard time, because the police were only doing their job and enforcing the actions of a boneheaded city council.
It's fascinating that Mr. Graham picks that example, not only because it was a failure, but also because of the obvious contrast that has so often been drawn between Christian and Muslim protests. Christians are mocked and laughed at with impunity in this country because most Christians don't have the backbone to stand up for their faith. Maybe the truth hurts, but I suspect there are few Christians reading this who'd disagree. On the other hand, Muslims are treated with the utmost respect here in the U.S. and across the world. Part of that's because there is a fear that if you insult Muslims, one of them might kill you. However, even if that weren't the case, Muslims would be treated with much more respect because they take grave offense when someone insults their religion. If Christians felt the same way, 90% of black Americans would be voting for Republicans instead of Democrats, Barack Obama wouldn't be invited to speak at Notre Dame, and that Ten Commandments monument would be sitting in that Boise park today.
I'd also add that sometimes, regrettably, the only way to preserve "respect for authority, rules of civility, and fundamental order within society" is to give the people who are ruining those things a taste of their own medicine.
Next, from Mr. Graham:
Conservatives don’t like it when conservative activists behave like liberals: ... It’s one thing for conservatives to have (Ann) 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.
First of all, thank God for Ann Coulter. I may not agree with every single thing she's said, but I agree with 95% of it. If I may paraphrase what Lincoln said of Ulysses S. Grant, "The conservative movement cannot spare this woman; she fights!"
Everybody in the conservative movement does not have to be an Ann Coulter, which is fortunate, because few people have her biting wit, talent, or fearlessness. But we need people who aren't afraid to go for the throats of our political enemies.
As to the perception that we're hateful, a lot of Republicans need to get something through their heads: as long as you disagree with the Left on anything, they are going to call you hateful. They're going to accuse you of hating black people, Hispanics, gays, women, and the poor. Then, to top it all off, they'll say you want the sick and the old to die in the streets. Just look at John McCain. The man spent eight years savagely attacking his own side to get in the good graces of the liberals in the mainstream media and they loved him for it -- until the moment he became the Republican nominee. Then he instantly "changed" and became an unprincipled, senile old bigot, just like every other Republican they've ever seen. So Republicans need to stop engaging in the fantasy that they're ever going to win over the mainstream media. They may applaud for a moment, as long as you're doing something helpful to their cause or hurting your own. But in the end, you're just another damn, dirty Republican to them.
Additionally, it's worth noting that Ann Coulter is the single most popular conservative columnist in America. Also, while there may be a few Christians turned off by the Right fighting hard for them, most Christians I know are sick and tired of bending over so far backwards that their backs are nearly touching the ground -- and they are demeaned, defamed, and pushed around as a result.
Here's more from Mr. Graham:
Conservatives look lame behaving like liberals: ... 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.
Really? The 18-year-old college students blocking conservatives from speaking at campuses are trained Alinsky radicals? I'm not so sure that's correct. Moreover, it doesn't seem like such a good idea to "never go outside the expertise of your people." Just to name one example, had we adopted that idea as a movement, there certainly wouldn't have been any tea parties. Some people might disagree, but those events seem to have come off quite well and appear to hold a lot of promise. Furthermore, the best way to learn just about anything outside of brain surgery or rocket science is to do it. The more experience you get, the better you get at it. This applies to most things in life including political protest tactics.
Last but not least, here's Mr. Graham's closing point:
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. ...
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.
The Left certainly has much more media firepower than us. However, that has been the case for as long as any of us have been alive. Yet somehow conservatives keep finding ways to win elections. Perhaps that's because the American people are smarter than we give them credit for and many of them realize that MSNBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, etc., might not be splitting it as perfectly down the middle as they claim.
Moreover, the Right is slowly but surely narrowing the media gap. For example, WorldNetDaily -- which Mr. Graham disparagingly mentions -- gets more traffic than the Associated Press and the top seven conservative talk radio hosts alone reach more than 60 million people a week combined.
As to the Left calling "conservatives out on these tactics," that is the point. When they are hit with their own tactics they will holler "unfair" as long and loud as they can. Then they will be forced to either openly advocate two sets of standards -- one for conservatives and one for liberals -- or they will be forced to accept a set of standards both sides will adhere to in the future. Both outcomes serves our interests.
Last but not least, look back on the last few years. George Bush promised a "new tone" and he delivered it. He probably took more unjustified abuse, slander, and hatred without complaint than any other man in American history. Then we had John McCain, who ran such an unfailingly polite campaign that it made conservatives want to pull their hair out. The result? Bush left office with a 25% approval rating and John McCain was easily defeated by a political novice completely unqualified to be president. How well did "being nice" work out for them?
If "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results," then aren't we crazy to keep standing by while the Left targets conservative women, college students, and our spokesman, while we pat ourselves on the back for being "better than they are" because we let them do it?