The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

How Do Conservatives Want to Talk to Non-Conservatives?


Jeff Goldstein asks a couple of questions in response to today’s piece, focusing upon, “Why doesn’t progressive contempt cost them many votes?”

First, are we so certain it doesn’t? Would anyone dispute that the Left’s constant mockery and sneering at rural America, and its characterization of the South as a bunch of ignorant hicks, contribute to why Democrats usually run poorly in rural counties and in the South?

I wholeheartedly endorse Goldstein’s call to “fight back against the caricature.” But don’t conform to it, either. Part of the problem is that the Right has given the Left and its allies just enough examples to further those caricatures.

If the average voter is hearing from the Democrats that folks on the right are racist, we cannot afford to have anyone associated with our causes advocating genuine racism (as opposed to the insane insistence that “golf” and “Chicago” are code words for racism). If the average voter is hearing from the Democrats that folks on the right are ignorant, we cannot afford to have a Senate candidate justifying his position on abortion by completely misunderstanding Biology 101.

(I suppose the first point in my analysis that some might dispute is to whether there is a middle, or persuadable folks unaffiliated with the Right or Left, to fight over any more.)

One of the frustrating and predictable responses to the piece was the characterization that I’m saying “be nice to Democrats” (which is not quite how Jeff describes it). No, I’m saying be “nice,” or at least respectful, to those whom you want to persuade, or recruit into our movement, or vote for our candidate.

Of course, some of those folks may be Democrats at the moment, or have voted for Obama in 2008 or 2012. Do we want to persuade these folks or do we want to berate them? Do we want to demonstrate to them why our ideas and policies look better, or will we just feel better about ourselves if we dismiss them as hopelessly lazy and selfish and incapable of much better?

Want to win over votes in the Arab-American and Sikh community? Don’t use the term “raghead,” and when someone does, loudly emphasize that it’s an un-American, un-Republican, and un-conservative thing to do.

Want to win over gays and lesbians and members of their families? Don’t compare their relationships to bestiality, and object when someone does.

Want to win over women? Don’t begin the discussion of the abortion issue by declaring that if you had your way, rape victims would carry their attackers’ children to term. Don’t begin your objection to a legal mandate to force religious institutions to  cover the cost of contraception by arguing that the primary problem is the promiscuous sex life of young women.

Jeff seems to suggest that these sorts of rules — “don’t compare homosexuality to bestiality,” “don’t use the term ‘raghead,’” “don’t call women ‘sluts’” — are some sort of liberal trap to cut off discussion and force us to have the debate on their terms. I think they’re just a basic reflection of how we ought to treat people, left, right, and center. Dare I say, looking back over the tradition of Reagan and Buckley, this is a very conservative approach.

Tags: Elections


Subscribe to National Review