Conservatives need to fight back.
Fight back against the outrageous “mainstream” media bias. Fight back against the Leninists who run much of academia. Fight back against the baseless smears from two-bit cheap-shot artists masquerading as Democratic U.S. senators. Fight back against Hollywood’s cultural rot.
More importantly, fight back against the foreign enemies of the United States, including those in western Europe who blame their own inadequacies on us. Fight back against the purveyors of an international bureaucratic state. Fight back against the carpers and critics who envy American power without appreciating American generosity and moral purpose. Fight back against those who still espouse Marxist ideologies. Fight back, most of all, against the jihadists and their enablers and fellow travelers.
But how? How to fight back? What to do?
First, learn how to communicate.
The first key to good communication is to believe in what you are saying with your whole heart. What is required is not bullheadedness, not a blindness to empirical facts, but a sincerely held philosophy that takes empirical facts into account. We must be confident that empiricism will support our own position, because our position is correct. Conservatives must therefore reinvigorate our own sense as moral actors on the world stage. Conservatives must believe with every fiber of our beings that ordered liberty is essential for human happiness, and that the United States is the best exemplar of ordered liberty in the history of mankind.
The second key to good communication is to listen. Listen to the critics in order to be able to talk to them in terms they understand. This does NOT mean giving in on essential substance; it means merely that we must be sure that we are addressing the other side’s real concerns rather than the concerns we assume they have. Oft-times it is not actually true that the positions are at odds, but only that the impressions are at odds. Then, once we find the right language, revert to the first key to good communication: utter, absolute sincerity (see above).
The third key to good communication is, well, good communication. You actually have to do the work needed — put in the thought needed, develop the logic needed, strive hard to find the words needed — to say what it is you actually want to say.
Second, offer hope.
Every time we are attacked, it behooves us not just to answer the attack, but to give an answer plus. As in: An answer plus a reason why our answer will make things better. An answer plus a way out of, or rather above, petty political bickering. Plus a belief that our ideas will offer a better future. Plus a cogent and concise explanation how that will happen. And plus a belief that God’s redemptive power can work through the agency of those humans who, even if imperfect, are well meaning and are willing to be used as His vessels.
Third, get real.
James Madison famously noted that men are not angels and are not governed by them. To “get real” is to recognize those times (which are most times) when the perfect is, in the short run, unattainable, and to therefore accept the imperfect-but-good when it is available. There’s nothing wrong with doing some good now and then immediately starting to work for even greater good later. Incrementalism can work. And imperfect friends may well remain friends unless we choose to turn them into enemies.
That’s just a start on the list of the essentials for fighting back. Rather than continue the list, let’s leave theory behind and apply those lessons, especially that last one, to today’s political and historical circumstances. Here’s what’s real: Conservatives’ weak political position will be hard to turn around while a president whom the public firmly identifies as a conservative is unpopular and under siege. President George W. Bush has made more than his share of mistakes and has proved not to be conservative on a number of issues — but conservatives cannot fly so long as Bush is grounded.
And the fact is that Bush has delivered tax cuts that have created what is quite arguably the strongest economy in the history of the world. Bush has chosen a host of good judges (even if he hasn’t fought well enough for some of them), and has delivered two excellent Supreme Court judges. Bush led well in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Bush put his political capital on the line, with great success, to elect Republicans (all of them more right-leaning than their Democratic opponents) to the House and Senate in 2002 and 2004. Bush has strongly pursued the war against international terrorists and has done well at warding off any major attacks on our homeland since 9/11. And, ineffectually but bravely, Bush tried hard to deliver Social Security reform that included market-based personal accounts.
I think it was National Review which long promised to be fair-weather critics but foul-weather friends to those who would try to carry the conservative banner. The Bush administration is experiencing the foulest of weather right now. It’s therefore time to be friends, to prop up what is still prop-up-able, to defend every single thing that is defensible, and to claim those successes (such as the economy) which should by rights be indubitable. “Getting real” means that it’s time to recognize that foul weather affecting the president befouls the whole conservative movement as well, and that manning the oars and the bailing buckets and tightening the sails is now the best way forward.
As we accept that reality, let’s offer hope. Recapture the spirit of Ronald Reagan’s insistence that our best days lie ahead.
And then communicate that hope, and the worthiness of our cause, to the fullest extent of our abilities. Get real, offer hope, and communicate, all in the name first of fighting back, and then of absolutely prevailing — not just for our own good, but for a good greater than ourselves.
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