Here’s a letter I sent radio host Hugh Hewitt a couple months ago. I titled it:
Why Conservatives Lose
Hello Mr. Hewitt;
Right after the last election, I had a spirited debate with a Republican friend on why we lost, and, on a larger scale, why conservatives can’t seem to make any progress on any number of big issues, from limiting government and lowering taxes to abortion. She said it’s all economics, the left wingers bribe people with government programs and thus win over large blocs of loyal voters which we small government types just can’t compete with. I told her basically that, yes, that’s true, but it doesn’t explain everything. There’s a larger reason, and that reason is the left wingers, time and again, claim the moral high ground, and we conservatives rarely if ever challenge them on it.
As an example, a hypothetical (but typical) argument between a conservative and a left winger on the size of government goes something like this: the conservative will spell out, in detail, using facts and logic, the case for limited government. He will cite historical figures, quote the Founders, and, in general, be making a terrific case for his side when suddenly the left winger will chime in and say something like “But what about the children?” At which point the conservative will melt into a puddle and begin backtracking on everything he had just been saying. He will swear profusely that he has no intention of cutting Head Start or Medicaid or Food Stamps or education or pretty much any government program at all. In one short stroke the left winger has dropped a rhetorical atom bomb into the conversation by establishing as incontrovertible fact that he, the left winger, cares about children whereas the conservative does not. And the poor conservative is just left there, flapping his gums, not knowing what hit him. All he knows is he can’t dare be seen as not caring about children (or blacks, or women, gays, the poor, etc.) so he will surrender all his principles rather than be seen as the heartless beast the left winger has just painted him as. He may have done a wonderful job of winning the argument on intellectual grounds, but moral arguments trump intellectual arguments every time, and on that battleground he just got creamed.
So, why does this happen? Why do conservatives let left wingers seize the moral high ground time and time again, and why do we hardly ever challenge them? I don’t claim to have an answer for this right now, but if we don’t figure this out, we’re going to keep right on losing because we will always be seen as morally inferior to our enemies.
Huntington Beach, CA