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December 27, 2010

Mitch Daniels Digs In On His "Truce on Social Issues" Statement?

I put the question mark there because he seems to have an interesting set of examples for what he means.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), a potential 2012 presidential candidate, said this weekend he has no regrets about expressing his desire for a "truce" on social issues during the next presidency.

Daniels, a noted fiscal hawk, reiterated that social issues are of secondary concern to the country, behind the economy and national security. He first made his comments in June in a profile in the conservative Weekly Standard.

"No," Daniels told the Indianapolis Star in an interview when asked if he has changed his mind. "I say that with enormous respect for the people who want to see gay marriage legalized or who have a strong view on some other such question and want to see 'Don't ask, don't tell' go away."

Note the two examples. Who he has respect for. Based on his examples, when he says "truce," he seems to mean that liberals are the ones who should be primarily restrained by virtue of this truce. That is, he seems to be saying liberals should accept the status quo on social issues in this truce.

I don't know if that's his way of making this sound better to social conservatives or his real idea of what a "truce" is. I'd note that this sort of thinking is common. Tell me if you've ever been in this argument: You contend for a conservative position on some issue, like gay marriage. Your liberal opponent offers this argument: Why do you care so much? Why don't you just let it go? Why don't you just drop the issue entirely?

The way that your opponent has framed this issue is that you care intensely, too much really, about the issue, and should just drop it as an issue.

But this is disingenuous, because it's clear that your opponent cares intensely about the issue -- he's not "just letting it go -- and is not in fact pressing for both you and he to drop the issue. He's pressing just for you to drop interest in the issue, and cede the battlefield... to him.

I've been in this Why Do You Care argument a hundred times. The natural rejoinder is Why Do You Care So Much, Then? But they obfuscate on that -- they claim they don't care (in their way of arguing using this particular tactic, claiming indifference to the issue puts you in a superior position and thus "winning") but they just think x and just think y and that's why we should have Position Z.

The argument sets up what is purported to be a neutral position, a natural default, which is not necessarily current policy, and claims that an opponent who seeks to deviate from that position is somehow not playing fair because he's become too obsessive about his position. Which, of course, deviates from the neutral, natural default.

That framing issue is critical. People tend to support whatever the "neutral, natural default" is defined as being. That's how the MFM works its biased magic-- it always sets up the consensus center-liberal position as the neutral, natural default and all deviations away from that as "ideological," "controversial," and, in a pinch, "extremist."

What I'm suggesting is that Mitch Daniels might be using this Why Do You Care? argument from the conservative side, against liberals. If he's doing that -- well, as I said, the argument is a little disingenuous, but it can be effective, framed that way, in which the neutral, leave-it-be position just happens to be your preferred policy outcome. If he elaborates further and makes it clear that this is what he's doing -- that when he says "truce on social issues" he means liberals should stop agitating to rearrange the deck-chairs while the ship is sinking -- it's possible that conservatives could embrace him.

He'd have to make that plainer, though. I know few conservatives will support him, despite his very good fiscal record, if he sounds like he wants social cons to just drop everything they care about.

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posted by Ace at 01:46 PM

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