… because he actually believes that’s what we believe?
Last night I had the pure joy and honor to meet Mary Matalin and chat with her at the fundraiser she held in her home for GOProud. Whenever I’ve seen her on television she’s always been under enemy fire, so while I knew about her brilliance, I didn’t know she has warmth, wisdom and humor in the high terrawatts until, oh, some three or four nanoseconds after meeting her in person.
At the fundraiser we talked as a group for a bit on how to win hearts and minds to conservative principles and candidates and what gays can do for conservativism. That’s right — we were asking not what conservativism can do for us, but what we can do for conservativism. And Mary pointed out that we have to figure out how to defeat a rhetorical tactic of which her husband, James Carville, is reigning master and world champeen: presenting your opponent’s case in ways that are so false and wrong that you get them to run out the clock correcting all your misrepresentations so they never get a chance to make their real case.
I looked through Mr. Carville’s books on Amazon before writing this post and I gather he explains this tactic as framing the debate in his book, Buck Up, Suck Up.
I admit, when Mary brought this up and was trying to give it a name, I jumped in and called it, “rhetorical cheating.”
But something extremely rare and wonderful about the Matalin/Carville home made me reconsider that characterization this morning and give Mr. Carville more credit for integrity: their art collection of paintings, statues, ceramics and glass. I’m not just an art lover, I’m the widow of a genius artist who taught me a thing or two. So here’s the thing about the Matalin/Carville art: from big names to less well-known artists, all of it was real art and it was all chosen with real love. And here’s what is extremely rare: the unifying traits all the pieces share are joy, silence, playfulness and a transcendent spirituality.
So it struck me that the reason James Carville distorts conservative positions to frame them as demonic is NOT just to win arguments and campaigns but because that’s what he really thinks we believe. His liberal brain translates what conservatives believe into those demonic images.
What this means is that when we frame our arguments, we have to take Liberal Brain Syndrome into account. That means the place we have to start in presenting the conservative case is to frame the most fundamental difference between conservativism and liberalism. To wit, conservatives believe wealth is born of an individual’s ideas and grows in a system that respects liberty and lets individuals keep the lion’s share of the fruits of their labors. In contrast, liberals have no idea how wealth is created — money comes from rich people, who got it unfairly, and it must be taken from them by force and re-distributed by all-wise politicians and bureaucrats. So we have to incorporate into our message that money comes from ideas and the little guy with an idea can prosper, just as relentlessly as liberals chant that money comes from rich people and the little guy has no hope.
This is a more compelling message than the traditional conservative one of drastic cuts and shared sacrifice on the part of people who were so wantonly imprudent that they squandered their money instead of becoming independently wealthy before losing the ability to work by becoming elderly, disabled, or both.
Every liberal principle is based on the axiom that the origin of wealth is unknowable. This is a message of hopelessness and stagnation.
Every conservative principle is based on the axiom that the origin of wealth is within each individual in their capacity for creativity. This is a message that enlivens creativity and ambition.
Because of Liberal Brain Syndrome, liberals can’t imagine how wealth is created by individuals with ideas, free markets, less regulation, lower taxes, more incentives to create, energy independence, secure borders and a strong defense. To frame the debate so they can understand what we are saying, we have to tell them how, and paint them the picture, every time.