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August 11, 2016

Some Thoughts About Political Honesty, and the Pro-Amnesty Wing of the Republican Party

Let me express a few thoughts, which might at first seem unconnected. I'll connect them later.

1. If You Refuse to Argue Your Opinion, You Are Left With No Means of Arguing Except to Personally Demean Those Disagreeing with Your (Withheld) Opinion.

In the old days, the television news used to have a one-minute segment at the end of a local newscast where they'd have someone at the station announce the station's editorial position on a subject. They told you straight-up where they, as an institution, came down on an issue.

They dropped this practice. Under fire from conservatives for bias, they tried to obliterate every overt, honest expression of opinion on an issue. So they stopped announcing their official position. To hide, to disguise their actual position.

But they still wanted to get their opinion out there.

So they simply started smuggling it into their news coverage.

But that wasn't the worst of it. The worst was this:

If you're not going to admit, for example, that you disagree with the Tea Party on ideological grounds, and yet you still wish to undermine them, you have no choice left but to simply attack them on a personal level.

And this is even more biased than simply -- honestly, forthrightly -- stating your ideological position on a matter!

What, to you, is more offensive and ugly -- that the media disagrees ideologically with the Tea Party's commitment to reducing spending and government, or that, refusing to express their ideological objection honestly, they seek to paint every Tea Partier as racist and violent by carefully suggesting only the misspelled and ugly signs from a Tea Party rally? Strongly implying "Only ignorant, stupid racists could support this nonsense"?

If a liberal disagrees with me on an ideological issue, well, I don't love him for that. But I'm not angry. Ideological disputes are separated from the self, from the ego, by a little distance. (A little -- not a lot.)

Because they are somewhat impersonal, I can have an argument with a liberal and not have it become heated so long as neither stoops to making it personal and simply calling the other guy an asshole.

But the media's pretend-objectivity means they cannot have an honest dispute about an issue -- and yet they are still determined to get their editorial position out there.

So all they're left with is the worst, most biased, most provocative, most demeaning "political argument" in existence: "You're an asshole."

If they actually admitted their beliefs -- and honestly argued them -- they wouldn't have to resort to the "You're an asshole" non-argument argument.

Many in the GOP establishment do this for slightly different reasons. See, they're supposed to be in agreement with the Tea Party's core principles of reduced spending, reduced government, and greater individual freedom.

But, of course, they're not so committed to those things. Oh, as a general rule, they favor them-- but they're very quick to sell them out in favor of some other priority, which they won't admit is a greater priority, because they're pretending their highest priority is reducing spending, reducing government, and increasing individual freedom.

Thus, John McCain, rather than honestly objecting to the parts of the Tea Party movement he disagrees with, or honestly expressing his opinion that we need a bigger government than Tea Partiers think we need, resorts to personal attacks: They're Wacko-Birds. They're Hobbits.

Again: Which argument do you think rankles people more -- being treated like adults and being offered an ideological argument that opposes our own, or being treated like children and lunatics who need to be excluded from the debate entirely by deligtimization and dehumanization?

It would be better if the media were honest in its ideological priors, so it wouldn't have to resort to personal attacks.

It would be better if the GOP Establishment simply admitted it disagrees with the base, too, so it wouldn't have to constantly malign its own voters.

2. When People Lie About Their Opinions, Political Calamities Occur.

In the Todd Akin controversy, people I have a great deal of respect for -- like Dana Loesch -- were impassioned supporters of Todd Akin, and insisted he remain on the ballot, and encouraged him to remain on the ballot.

Why? It was obvious he was going to lose.

I didn't think Dana Loesch was a Wack-Bird or Idiot, so I wondered: How did this situation come about?

I wondered: Did I have something to do with it?

Because here's the deal: many of us in the GOP -- many more than who openly proclaim it -- are either pro-choice, or pro-choice with restrictions. We support some pro-life initiatives-- but only half-heartedly. It's not a high priority for us.

Yes, I support banning abortion in the third trimester, or even at the midway point.

But I actually was not in favor of demanding that abortion clinics' doctors have surgical privileges at nearby hospitals. That seemed to me pretty obviously just an attempt to throw up an irrelevant impediment to conducting abortions.

But did I squawk about that? No I didn't, for several reasons:

1. I generally support the mainstream conservative line, even if I actually disagree with it, out of tactical political coalition-retaining considerations -- that is, I must support your issues if I expect you to support my issues.

2. But also, let's face it, and let's not have me pretend I'm nothing but Generosity and Team Spirit -- I didn't squawk because I didn't feel like fighting and I didn't want to alienate readers.

Now some go-along-to-get-along is understandable, I think (If I may be so bold as to let myself off the hook).

But when it comes to a core principle -- something you will actually shout and holler about -- I think you owe it to people to tell them where you really stand.

For example: Among all Americans, only 17% support banning abortion in cases of rape.

Now, the Republican Party will have almost all of those folks in it. And yet, that still means the majority of the party is against banning abortion in cases of rape.

But do those of us who believe that actually say so clearly enough?

Do those of us who believe that -- the majority, obviously -- clearly and honestly communicate that to people like Dana Loesch who are very pro-life?

My opinion is that we do not. My opinion is that we take the hardcore/no exceptions position to be the "Real True Conservative Position," and we wind up falsely deferring to it, even though we disagree with it, and even though we will walk away from an election if pressed on it.

We don't want people to call us closet liberals. Everyone in this jackass party (or political parties in general) is always jockeying for that coveted Most Pure of The Purest crown, and we just don't want to admit that we're slightly more liberal on an issue than the most conservative leaning person on the issue.

So what do we do? We use the Yeah Yeah Demurral. We basically Yeah Yeah people we disagree with, letting them believe, wrongly, that we share their position.

And then this leads to a debacle like Todd Akin -- because two thirds of the party secretly objects strongly to banning abortion in cases of rape, But we've absolutely hidden that view from the rest of the party, so the rest of the party thinks, completely in error (and completely due to our silence), there is unanimity on this issue where there is not just a lack of unanimity but in fact a majority position against it.

And then, when this all comes to a head, many of us resort to making the weak, evasive argument "But that position isn't politically viable with the general public," which is just another Yeah Yeah Evasion, because our real position is That position isn't politically viable with me myself, and I'll vote against Akin if you force me into this dilemma."

Our attempts to avoid controversy -- to always pretend we agree -- leads to genuine electoral calamities when it is suddenly revealed the unanimity we've Yeah-Yeahed into illusory existence was all a big stupid lie.

It's better to tell the truth. It's better to debate these things. It's better to actually admit we disagree when we disagree.

It's better, in general, that Dana Loesch should know where people like me stand, so she can make political calculations with the real data set, not the pretend data-set I've Yeah-Yeahed her into believing exits. If she's going to lose half the party o this issue, she should know that, rather than all of us lying to her because we are pretending to have the Moar Conservative position.

3. The Establishment's Unwillingness to State, Forthrightly, It Is Pro-Amnesty and Against the Wall is What Gave Us Trump.

The Establishment and establishment-aligned commentators are guilty of the Yeah Yeah Evasion I spoke of above with respect to amnesty.

Oh, sure, in 2014, they'll run on a super-border-hawk national platform, and vow to oppose, unto their dying breath, Obama's executive amnesties.

And sure, they'll trot out a field of 17 candidates, fifteen of whom who have been coached to give the corporate/donor class evasive answer on the border, which is some pablum like "We want to regularize the system to make sure those coming in are doing so illegally. And we don't want a wall per se -- we envision instead something even better than a wall, a multi-layered defense-in-depth virtual wall which can even stop velociraptors!"

And they'll say that while not saying the also support doubling legal immigration levels and boosting H1Bs by 400%.

Oh, and of course the Establishment has been signalling its absolutely-insincere support for a border wall since 2006 -- when it authorized construction of a border wall, but never funded it.

Oh, and Establishment types seeking reelection will suddenly say this sort of thing as November approaches --

Now, the Establishment, and Establishment-aligned commentators, believe the wall to be racist, they believe enforcing the border to be racist, they believe deporting illegals -- any of them, except murderers -- to be racist.

But they sort of didn't say so for ten years, huh?

Now, the Trumpkins come along -- I'll use the Establishment's slur for them -- and the Trumpkins believe that it is standard GOP doctrine that we should have a border wall and be tough on border security, up to and including deportations.

They think there's broad support for this in the party. They don't think this position is controversial -- they think it's just a base plank of the platform.

Gee -- I wonder where they could have gotten that idea, Establishment, huh?

I guess those stupid Trumpkins did something crazy -- the believed the lies pouring out of your mouths every election eve.

So once again we have a political calamity brewing-- the Establishment types, the college educated set who has no fear of being displaced by a cheaper foreign worker, misled the white working class into thinking they agreed with them on immigration, while secretly -- silently -- holding the opinion that anything short of open borders was kinda-sorta (or definitely) racist.

They would walk away from any candidate running on what was allowed to sand in as basic vanilla conservative doctrine, as they're doing now.

As many of us did with Todd Akin -- refusing to admit we'd turn our backs on a candidate who espoused banning abortions even in cases of rape.

So, this position being secretly held, people didn't quite know how toxic the college-educated cohort/Establishment/corporate wing held it to be.

They didn't know. Because you never told them.

So here we are, with 20% of the party refusing to support the Republican nominee, largely because he holds a "racist" position that that same 20% was too cowardly to announce to be racist previously.

It would have been better, I contend, had this cohort forthrightly admitted its position, and stated how strongly committed to this position they were, rather than Yeah-Yeahing the base for ten years and only now, on the brink of a very consequential election, suddenly announcing the position they themselves have pretended to support for ten years is actually reminiscent of Adolf Hitler.

And who knows -- if your arguments in favor of amnesty are as potent as you think they are (and you must think they're potent, because, like Obama, you seem to think the only possible objection is racism and hatred), why not actually share them with the group?

You can't convince people of your position if you refuse to state what it is and the reasons for it.

Or, I guess, you can keep on doing what you're doing now -- pretending to be border hawks and then becoming very upset when people, correctly, see through the ruse.

4. Conclusion: Honesty and Free Debate of Ideas Trump Dishonesty and Suppression of Disagreement Every Single Time.

There is no "Moar Conservative" position, and arguing about it is fucking retarded.

I'm personally tired of arguments over policy diverging from philosophy (which is interesting) into insipid, childlike semantic battles about which policy should be tagged with the "Moar Conservative" brand-name.

I think this party needs to stop this god-damned hive-mind Let's All Pretend We're the Moast Conservative Of All Because Otherwise CelticSpear69 on Twitter Will Say I'm a Liberal cowardice.

I think we need to step up to the plate and tell other conservatives what we actually believe -- not just to avoid electoral calamity as we saw with Todd Akin, and as we now see with Donald Trump.

But so we can have an argument about the less-personal ideological point, instead of avoiding that actual, honest discussion, and have left nothing but slurs ("Unrealistic! Crazy! Sell-Out! Liberal! RINO!") to use in lieu of actual debate.

But I cannot have an argument about amnesty and immigration with someone who steadfastly refuses to admit they hold a position contrary to mine.

You know it's an interesting thing -- I've had discussions with lots of people I'd say are Establishment/corporate aligned, and never once has one asked me, "Why are you so against amnesty and untrammeled immigration?"

I have reasons: Pretty good ones, actually. I'd sure like to tell people what they are.

But oddly -- no one ever asks. They Yeah Yeah me, and, frankly, I assume they already have my reasons in their mind: It's because I'm racist. What else could it be?

Well, if you bothered asking, you might find out it has very little to do with race.

The same way mainstream conservative opposition to a growing government, a growing welfare state, and racial quotas is not rooted in racism, but in other ideas having nothing to do with racial animus.

But people know that about their own ideas -- they provide themselves with the best possible reasons and motives for their own ideas.

For other people, though -- for ideas they don't agree with -- they're pretty swift to assume the weakest possible reasons and worst possible motives. Aren't they?

So yeah, to reduce this bitter animus against the "racists" of the party (are you racist for favoring restrictions on welfare? Why? Are you a racist), maybe people who think people who disagree with them are "racist" should just ask: Say, do you have any good non-racist reasons for supporting the position you do?

One last point: After I realized that Yeah-Yeahing the pro-lifers caused the Todd Akin calamity, I started talking more openly about my divergent/nonstandard opinions. On abortion, on the nonexistence of God.

You know how heated those threats got?

Not heated at all. I had Yeah-Yeahed the social cons for years because I thought they would become unreasonably angry if I expressed my disagrement with their position.

Not an inch of it. In fact, those threads were some of the most interesting I can remember. Becase people were actually arguing about the issues themselves, rather than avoiding the issues by substituting put-downs and positions for intellectual debate.

And because we were talking about the issue, we didn't have to talk about each other's low character and likely sexual dalliances with close familial relations.

And maybe people just appreciated being talked to like an adult instead of being Yeah-Yeahed like a little child one is simply trying to control by telling him the right stories about Getting a Pony For His Birthday if he just goes along with my political platform.

Maybe adults like being addressed as adults -- maybe there is something inherently dignity-conferring and respectful about looking an educated man or woman in the eye and saying, "I disagree with you, but I think you're plenty mature enough to handle the revelation that I disagree with you."

Maybe the political class can learn from this -- people don't love honest disagreement -- we'd rather have honest agreement, obviously -- but what people actually hate, and will start burning things down over, is dishonest agreement, Yeah-Yeahing us to support your priorities while being secretly committed to squashing all of ours.

If people want to save the Party -- how about we start by actually being honest wit each other about our beliefs and priorities, instead of making false claims to manipulate people into supporting our faction and our agenda?


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posted by Ace at 03:26 PM

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