The political arena in America boils down to a competition of ideas between the two major political parties, influenced by the notable adjacent ideas of other smaller political parties. This can cynically be viewed as an epic marketing battle.
Over the years, I have collected a list of ways in which the conservative movement struggles against a strong headwind of superficial platitudes blowing out of the liberal/progressive side. As the saying goes…”A lie can travel half way ‘round the world before the truth gets its shoes on.”
Some items on my list are specific, but many are broad observations of trends and tendencies. There are exceptions to each one, certainly. To nit-pick them around the edges risks missing the bigger picture — the pattern.
The pattern is that liberalism is an ideology of emotion and utopian idealism, while conservatism is an ideology of logic and recognition of mankind’s natural limitations. A common political observation during election years goes something like this: “It’s impossible for Conservatives to outbid Liberals in an auction for desirable outcomes and gifts from government at somebody else’s expense.”
For conservatives, our principles don’t often lead us down the easy path. Our ideology is not intended to be trendy, convenient, or instantly gratifying. It’s based on time-tested tradition, and embodies what we think works best in the long run – often by prescribing short-term self denial.
Each item on my list could easily grow to be a stand-alone article, and many will. For now, I’m trying – painfully squirming, actually — to be brief. Each is just two sentences in four lines, or five if I absolutely had to “go long.” For a wordy bloviator like me, this is pure hell. But I want to emphasize how LONG the list of prejudices against conservatism really is.
As you read through the list, I think you’ll begin to feel a sense of the cumulative weight of all the items. I invite you to do two things:
- Think about what can be done, especially by you personally, to help level the playing field in each area through better explanation of and advocacy for our conservative principles. In your sphere of influence, how can you invest the time on a regular basis to explain conservatism? Not to other conservatives, and not to the deeply entrenched liberals, but to the fence-sitters?
- Join me in marveling at the fact that, despite all these inherent disadvantages to explaining and defending conservatism, we are still doing quite well at holding our own in the political arena.
Here’s the first portion of my list:
1. It’s easy for liberals to claim a small number of smart intellectual elites can determine how to run our country. It’s harder for conservatives to explain why so much power should not be placed into so few hands, and that distributed freedom to choose is better.
2. It’s easy for liberals to claim the Constitution is outdated and too restrictive for today’s modern society. It’s harder for conservatives to explain that human nature – so well understood by the Founders – doesn’t change, and neither should the Constitution’s safeguards.
3. It’s easy for liberals to claim the 1st Amendment demands “separation of church and state.” It’s harder for conservatives to explain the original intent of the 1st Amendment, which doesn’t even include those words.
4. It’s easy for liberals to claim our entitlement system can continue “as we know it” indefinitely. It’s harder for conservatives to explain how demographics are flipping welfare upside down, with more people soon riding in the welfare wagon than pulling it, if not reformed.
5. It’s easy for liberals to distribute their marketing messages with favorable phrasing in the news and entertainment media. It’s harder for conservatives to get their marketing messages out due to biased reporting and especially bias through omission and non-coverage.
6. It’s easy for liberals to claim the world would be more peaceful if America were nicer, and would defer to U.N. governance. It’s harder for conservatives to explain the world will never be “nice,” America spreads democracy, and “Peace Through Strength” works.
7. It’s easy for liberals, with their master-planning mindset, to stay perpetually motivated towards activism, change, and social engineering. It’s harder for conservatives, with their live-and-let-live mindset, to relentlessly communicate their firm belief in non-intervention.
8. It’s easy for liberals to claim that success and prosperity should be guaranteed to all citizens. It’s harder for conservatives to explain that life rewards hard work, investment, ingenuity, and prudent risk taking, and we cannot afford to guarantee equality of outcome.
9. It’s easy for liberals to claim big government should be the solution to all problems. It’s harder for conservatives to explain that a government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.
10. It’s easy for liberals to claim big institutions must be bailed out when the economic cycles plunge into recession. It’s harder for conservatives to explain the moral hazard of using taxpayers as the guarantor against the risk of failure in the marketplace.
I invite you to pick one or two that stand out in your mind, and leave a comment. If there are any that aren’t clear, let me know and I will clarify using a few more words. For those you agree with, do you have an example or a strategy to share? Or if you have one I didn’t think of, please submit it using the same template: “It’s easy for liberals to…. It’s harder for conservatives to….”
I have more than 40 in all. I will share another set in Part 2.