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March 02, 2012

The Argument I Loathe & How Political Conversions Actually Happen

If you want to tell me I'm wrong, I'm ready, willing, and eager to hash that out with you. That's a good argument. If I'm wrong, I need to know it. I should not transmit ideas which are wrong.

The argument I loathe, and you will see me get my hackles up over this again and again, is that I shouldn't say something, not necessarily because it's wrong but because of reasons that have nothing to do with rightness or wrongness, like group solidarity, loyalty, defending our Strongest Generals, and so on.

If I'm wrong, I should be told so.

Please stop telling me, however, that there are reasons besides being wrong to stop staying something.

As far as I'm concerned that is the only reason. You're either right, or you're wrong.

This solidarity crap? I've had it up to my neck with it.

This is an idea of the Left and I'll be god-damned to Hell before I accept it for myself on the right. This kumbaya, "let's all get on the same page and relentlessly propagate the agreed-to consensus" is for lefties.

And I don't want to hear that it works. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. I think it's creepy myself.

Let me tell you, once again, that in college I become sort of conservative. Like my second year, and then increasingly every year thereafter.

Before that, I was pretty liberal.

If you've always been conservative, then you can tell me a great many things about doctrine and such, but one place I will always have more experience than you is in terms of conversion and persuasion.

Because I went through a conversion myself. I was persuaded myself. I have only anecdotal experience; but I do have that anecdotal experience.

Anyone who's always been Solid Red doesn't have that experience.

So you can tell me you know more about conservative doctrine (this concession is easily made-- I am not a deep thinker on conservative doctrine at all) but unless you've actually changed your stripes, you cannot tell me what arguments work on persuading someone to move from liberal-ish to moderate to conservative/moderate to finally conservative.

And I will tell you this: The giddy thing about a conversion is the liberation from complete and utter bullshit -- accreted dogma, groupthink, it is so because we have said it is so.

Anyone who moves from liberal to conservative will always describe it as liberating epiphany, of breathing free air.

So please listen to me, if on nothing else at all, when I tell you that this dopey attempt to pound people into accepting the groupthinkby appeals to solidarity and appeals to authority (authority which is not universally conceded, even on the right) is a loser.

Only a few people who are truly unhinged find they can no longer live under one set of dogmas and then fly to embrace, passionately, a whole 'nother set of dogmas. Andrew Sullivan did this, but he's, frankly, a nutter. He always needs a wooby.

For most people, they convert when they want to escape a set of dogmas and then live under fewer dogmas, or even none at all.

They do not wish to jump willy-nilly and embrace a whole new set of dogmas.

The personal is not, as the left says, the political. A personal regard for a Figure of Authority, like Rush Limbaugh, cannot and must not be turned into some kind of endless crusade to merely vindicate, personally, the pantheon of accepted conservative heroes.

Heroes can be wrong and villains, occasionally, can be right.

I'm not a fan of Limbaugh. Never have been. Please stop with the endlessly-multiplying list of things I am required to believe, or to be, to be a member of this party.

Is being a Dittohead now on the list? Some think so, based on the reaction to my defense of Limbaugh below. Apparently my defense wasn't strident enough, and included some unacceptable nuance, and hence it is UnConservative.

Since the argument is forever made about "what it will take to change this country," let me share with you my own insight as a liberal-turned-conservative on this point:

What is required is as small a buy-in as possible and not, as some of you would have it, as large and voluminous and as detailed a buy-in as possible.

If you want to move someone to the conservative side, you must first convince them that conservatives are not, as the media claims, crazy or weird. That is 90% of the battle, actually, as Breitbart knew, and as he made it his life's mission to prove.

The next 10% is to offer up the smallest buy-in possible. Here's what we believe, basically: freedom, respect for citizens in their capacity and wisdom to manage their own affairs, modesty of government ambition and modesty in the government's appraisal of its own ability to manage large ventures, and the basic idea that the government exists to keep the order so that men and women may face each other as free citizens in the public square and make voluntary transactions and decisions between each other, with as minimum government intrusion and "oversight" as possible.

The rest of it? People may buy in as they please. People will buy in as they please, so there's no sense demanding they must believe a through z too. They will wind up believing b, d, g, i, m, and l as they choose, and as it appears to them.

But this massive checklist some people are now building -- that to be a conservative you must now accept...

1. That Rush Limbaugh is the First and Foremost thought-leader among conservatives,

2. That the state has a compelling and legitimate interest in monitoring women's use of non-abortifacient birth control,

3. That you must be rural and Christian to be a truly good citizen of the nation...

...and all the rest of it?

For God's sakes. Is it not elementary that the fewer things you demand someone believe will result in the largest number of conversions?

What is the actual Big Thing necessary for a conversion to Christianity? Is it a long laundry list of detailed items on this or that?

Or is it John 3:16?

You make more sales at a lower price point than a higher one. In terms of belief, and dogma which must be accepted, many people seem to think that a higher price point actually results in more sales.

I do not understand what experiential evidence or analogy one would use to prove that case. I do not believe any such evidence exists. It flies in the face of everything we know about sales.

And life, for that matter.

Once someone is open to the idea of conservatism at all, that person will likely start believing in all sorts of conservative things he once discounted as preposterous. Because, previously, the only reason he never entertained such ideas was because he'd been made to thin they were crazy, stupid, hateful, and so forth.

But he probably won't believe in all of it.

There is an idea brewing that you need people to buy into all of it or else they're "not real conservatives" and will "sell you out."

Well, may be. But the, I am now thinking that as far as conservatism goes, as far as the thing that I stress, myself -- respect for the citizen to live his own life as he chooses -- that drugs ought to be legalized.

Shall I begin insisting that no one who disagrees with me on this point is a "real conservative"?

Of course not. There's plenty of room for debate. It would be absurd to insist that such a thing now become Central Foundational Conservative Doctrine.

But then, I think the same thing about a lot of things people are now telling me are Central Foundational Conservative Doctrine.

Defend Rush to the hilt? Why? You're going to have to accept that while some like Rush a great deal, to some, like me, He's Just A Guy With A Microphone. Could care less, if you want to know the truth of it.

Should I similarly defend every single thing Hugh Hewitt says, too? No? Okay, what's the difference, apart from Rush having better ratings?

This endless conflation of intellectual beliefs and preferences with some kind of moral virtue like courage is tedious.

I'm tired of it. Yes, I know if i disagree with you on x or y that means not that we have a disagreement, and that we've come to this with differing underlying assumptions and priorities (my priority now being more "liberty" than "order," for example), I will be called a coward and the rest of it.

Can we have an end to this sort of argument by insult? People are willing to discuss issues even contentiously, with no hard feelings or anger, as long as personal factors like virtue or courage are not dragged into it.

We disagree. Am I actually a bad person, or a cringing coward, for disagreeing?

Does that mean I'd somehow be a braver man for merely nodding my head along with whatever a commenter might say?

Please tell me I'm wrong if you think I'm wrong.

But please, for the love of God, stop telling me I'm a coward or I have some bad motive (kissing up to the MSM!) whenever you think I'm wrong.



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posted by Ace at 04:07 PM

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