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Win the Argument

“First you win the argument, then you win the vote”
–Margaret Thatcher

Victory made conservatives weak. Somewhere around the Republican victories of 2002 and 2004, and probably renewed by the 2010 midterm elections, conservatives suddenly felt a false affirmation of their beliefs from the electorate. Then? We stopped reading. We stopped learning. We stopped thinking. We stopped winning. The electorate no longer responds to our arguments because we’re making arguments that persuade us, not arguments that would persuade others. There are many examples, but the one I want to point out here is the “but that’s unconstitutional” argument that I’ve been hearing nonstop for five years.

Conservatives hold the Constitution as sacred. That’s how conservatives are, we like to preserve the old order. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we must understand not everyone holds the old order as sacred. Liberals don’t, that’s basically the definition of a liberal [“someone who does not hold the old orders as sacred] and a majority of the remainder don’t either. [Libertarians generally uphold the Constitution as an expression of their values of Liberty and limited government, not because they have any notions of sacredness]

When making an argument, you have to consider your audience first. This is essential. People are interested in how you intend to make the world better for them. Think about the gun debate. Most of my conservative friends are focusing on the “it’s not constitutional” argument, but that’s a really bad argument to make when people are thinking about little elementary school kids being gunned down by some wacko. Liberals are directly speaking to those concerns by suggesting they have the magical power to remove all instruments of evil in the world. Conservatives can address the concerns of millions of parents and win this argument. It takes a man with a gun to stop a man with a gun. It’s very simple. And we have empirical evidence on our side, gun ownership has skyrocketed in recent years, but crime and murders and the like have not. Guns are neutral. Wayne LaPierre was right when he suggested we should put armed guards or police in every school. That would basically end the ability of an armed gunman to kill scores of children. It would be expensive, and there’s some concern this would be another step toward a police state, but at the very least it addresses the concerns of people more worried about their children than some piece of paper.

Personally, I prefer allowing teachers with carry permits to have their pistols with them at school. Heck, I’d even support a marshal program, where some teachers are given heavy background checks, given lots of tactical training, then are made federal agents (in a very limited sense) who are allowed [and expected] to confront a school shooter directly, with their sidearm. [They don’t have to be federal agents, I’m just modeling this on the airline pilot “Flight Deck Officer program]

These are just examples, my primary point is think about your audience and win the argument. Politics really can be just that simple.