No rational arguments please, we’re Republicans

Republicans can start by stopping trying to win rational arguments.

A friend recently shared that sentence (not his) in an email. It’s in regard to an article at The Daily Signal by Sebastian Gorka.

The idea of abandoning rational argument just keeps nagging at me. It’s a capitulation to the Know Nothings on the Right and on the Left.

The sentence appears in this longer comment by my friend’s correspondent:

The writer [Gorka] makes a vital point that most people who support capitalism miss: we will never win the argument about capitalism being superior to socialism because many voters are only interested in emotions, not arguments. Accordingly they feel that capitalists are mean and socialists are compassionate, concerned about people. The only way to be compassionate is to take from the capitalists and give to them since capitalists got rich by making them poor. Unless and until conservatives can make a compassion appeal they will lose politically more and more. Forget trying to reason with people for whom reason is never a part of their feelings. So far Democrats have won the compassion battle. Republicans have always been out-compassioned. A completely different approach is needed. I think it can be done. Republicans can start by stopping trying to win rational arguments. They don’t win with apolitical voters who vote based on feelings.

This is one possible reading of the article, and it is in accordance with warnings from Alexis de Tocqueville and Ben Franklin about populism. I suspect they’d see the proposed solution as just the same problem, merely from a different political starting point.

The Gorka article speaks extensively to the poor results from voting based on feelings as opposed to ideas. It is not about abandoning rational argument, however. It is about branding. Gorka is urging us to recast the conservative brand because voters are disinterested in ideas. He then makes the mistake of conflating Trump, “Donald Trump has opened a window for the conservative movement of the 21st century,” with conservative ideas; which is a good part of the problem.

Republicans can start by stopping trying to win rational arguments.

So. We should take the Ocasio-Cortez Green New Deal as she suggests… “aspirational”; and respond with our own surreal proposals because we can’t win otherwise? What would that argument look like? Genetically re-engineering cows into carbon dioxide breathing unicorns; modifying humans to have fairy wings in order to eliminate airplanes?  If the emotional high ground has already been seized, as Gorka suggests, how would you get it back?  Mockery suggests itself.  Mockery of AOC’s ideas.  You can’t mock the emotions invoked by an appeal to universal human well being.  Showing the consequences of Utopia requires rational argument.

OK, unicorns and fairy wings are probably unfair to Mr. Gorka. But without concrete examples, what emotional threads do we pull to change these disinterested slugs into critical thinkers and not just a right-wingish, populist personality cult?  If liberty doesn’t stir their emotions, what will?  Whatever it is, if we’re to be successful, we need to connect it to liberty.

In contemplating the purpose of recasting a brand, a recent example might serve well. Gillette’s “Toxic Masculinity” ad was about emotion not razors.: “Men! Feel good about yourself when you act like radical feminists.”  Virtue signaling.

Virtue signaling is not how we save “conservatism” in the age of President “Brand is Everything.” Frankly, until the virtues we need to signal are once again widely considered virtues, chances of success are small.

Classical liberals have our own rational aspirational narrative, of which the Bill of Rights is a good example, and we should stick to it. Otherwise, when reality impinges on the Green New Deal we’ll be intellectually defenseless as well as destitute. Like in Venezuela, it’ll be the emotionally motivated women and children who suffer most. I aspire to avoid that.

There is compelling evidence that people vote based on emotion, so a charitable reading of Gorka’s piece would be, “The emotional commitment to classical liberal values has gone missing. We must reconnect it.” If so, we need to start with the educational system, not branding. There’s quite enough re-branding of classical liberal ideas coming from the White House already.

Republicans can start by stopping trying to win rational arguments.

The more I contemplate that, the more I think it captures the essence of my objections to Donald Trump, a man who can declare a national emergency and immediately comment, “I didn’t need to do this.” The emergency is aspirational, apparently. But it promotes his brand. And the Pentagon will pay for it.

This all reminded me of a TOC post: Intentionality, which I think speaks well to the importance of ideas and the bankruptcy of our educational system. It is well worth reading in conjunction with this post.

Do not a wastrel be

I’ve madethesesame points, but they bear repeating in another voice. I’ve excerpted a couple of bits, but you should RTWT.

How Not To Waste Your Vote: A Mathematical Analysis

[T]here are many benefits of voting third party, even for president. It makes a political statement to the majority parties. It helps local politicians of that party in elections. It can help change platforms to include third-party elements. And it provides recognition for the party among voters as a viable alternative…

Your vote is, therefore, an expression of yourself and your beliefs. Your vote has power as a statement. People voting out of fear of the worst candidate is a self-perpetuating cycle. If no one ever has the courage to vote outside of the two main parties, it will never be broken. However, if enough people vote and it shows in the total election count, it will give cause for us to reconsider and embolden even more to vote outside of the two parties…

The value of your vote is what you give it. Should you spend it on a candidate you don’t believe in? Should it be an exercise in fear? It’s up to you. It is my hope that these mathematical calculations will bring you freedom from the idea that only majority party votes matter. A vote is a statement, a vote is personal, a vote is an expression of your citizenship in this country. If enough people vote their conscience and vote for what they believe in, things can change.

The purpose of voting is to express your will. If your will is to validate the lesser of two evils, you’re purposely supporting the statist quo. That’s a wasted vote.

Further reading:
You Are Not Morally Obligated to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils

Rethinking ‘wasted votes’ and third-party candidates

Voting Third Party Isn’t Just a Serious Choice, It’s the Serious Choice

The best defense?

Charles R. Kesler, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, writes a defense of Donald Trump for the Washington Post.

Granted, it’s the WaPo, but this is particularly shallow and unpersuasive.

…Trump won the Republican nomination fair and square, against 16 contenders, and the arguments for ignoring or rejecting those results need to be carefully examined.

The “Never Trump” critics have two main arguments. The first is that he is a buffoon, a clown, an overactive third-grader who has gone off his Ritalin, a tawdry egomaniac whose policies are no better than “barstool eruptions” and who by temperament and experience is unworthy of the presidency.

He is all of that, and more: Mr. Kesler’s list is incomplete. Mr. Trump is also a lifelong Liberal, master crony-socialist and flip-flopping economic ignoramus.

There are only two reasons one would vote for Donald Trump. Owing lemming-like allegiance to the GOP, or a conviction that he would make a better President than Hillary Clinton. I find the first farcical, since loyalty to the GOP is exactly what fervent Trump supporters reject.

I find the second undemonstrated: I can, and have, pointed out how, fresh off his triumph of destroying the GOP’s chance to defeat the Democrat nominee, he might well be a worse President.

The second [argument] is that Trump is a monster, a racist, a wily demagogue, a proto-fascist or full-fledged fascist, a tyrant-in-waiting.

While he is not demonstrably a fascist, he is an authoritarian of the first water, as evidenced by his willingness to eviscerate the Constitution. So let’s add “Constitutionally illiterate” to the list, too, because despite Mr. Kesler’s contentions otherwise, Trump has threatened to amend the First Amendment by “broadening the libel laws,” and was the first “Republican” to call on the NRA to approve due process violations of the Second Amendment.

Upon careful examination, I conclude I am neither ignoring nor rejecting arguments about Mr. Trump’s candidacy. It’s simple: I reject the GOP candidate’s policies. I owe the party nothing, and Mr. Trump, like his opponent, is unfit for the office he seeks.

I’ll be voting for Governor Johnson.

Quo vadis?

OK, what’s a #NeverTrumper to do now?

First, acknowledge that every Democrat should be purged from office. Second, admit it has become much less likely that will happen in 2016. Third, take a deep breath. It’s a long term game and there are things we can do in spite of Trump.

To put a very simple action plan in front of you:

1- Vote Libertarian for president. More on this below.
2- Vote GOP on the down ballot races to provide as effective an opposition as possible. (Yes, I think Trump has handed the presidency to Hillary.)
3- Fight even harder for state and local politicians who will best resist whichever statist wins the presidency.

Meanwhile, we need to respond to the whining from the Trump camp that started weeks ago: “A vote for a third party is a vote for Hillary! We held our noses and voted for Dole, Bush, McCain and Romney, now you cuckservatives have to do the same for Trump. If Hillary wins the Presidency, it’ll be because of you, you traitorous assholes. Because GOP!”

Sorry, you broke the GOP, now you own it.

I hadn’t much liked it in recent years anyway, and won’t greatly mourn its passing. See, I had to hold my nose, too. I’ve detested how the leadership and the majority of members have conducted themselves, but I didn’t go all irrational. I didn’t start calling tea party folks “really, really stoopid” after they had made such important contributions. Some of you Trump folks did. And still are.

We were making some small progress in turning around 100 years of Progressive rot (with brief interruptions from Coolidge and Reagan). I wish it had been faster and better, especially in the last 40 years, but now we’re not going anywhere until we deal with the Trump Consequence.

And, seriously, how is a vote for a Not Hillary a vote for Hillary? Would a Sanders supporter voting for the Not Hillary be a vote for Hillary? Let me simplify your position for you: Something someone never had, and never had a chance to have, is being stolen from them when it’s not given to them. What that means is you think Trump has a binding claim on my vote, but it’s not as if you weren’t told Trump couldn’t have my vote, and it’s not as if I care that you read me out of the party formerly known as the GOP because of it.

I publicly laid out many of the reasons I could not morally or ethically vote for Trump. Now you’re telling me I can’t vote for anyone else, and I must call myself a cuckservative having had the temerity to even think about it. That’s what you’ve been insulting me with for lo these many weeks, as if valuing limited government under strict adherence to the Constitution has become subservient to a withering stream of sleazy innuendo, gross insult and shameless Constitutional ignorance.

I will note that labeling me a “cuckservative” seems to indicate you have some affinity for the term “conservative.” With Trump, however, you’re bound and determined to teach others that conservatism is a personally demeaning philosophy, chiefly characterized by small-minded incuriosity.

I can hear the shouting, “Hillary is far, far worse, you fool!” Maybe. I don’t care. See, the idea is that this is a long term game: Four years of Trump redefining core American principles into a mix of Huey Long populism and crony capitalist political-insider trading might well do more damage than our enemy. There are signs already, and Trump’s popularity is one of them, that we’ve forgotten what made America great in the first place: limited government, free minds and free markets under the Constitution.

The Dems are already rebranding the GOP with Trump.

The people who are handing the presidency to Hillary Clinton are the people who already voted for Trump, so I damn well don’t want to hear any more snide criticisms of my personal voting choice. You can maintain your self respect having voted for Trump. More power to you. I can’t do that.

So, I think I stick with my core beliefs. My conservatism was initially informed by Barry Goldwater, who was just barely short of Libertarian. This certainly won’t be the first time I’ve voted Libertarian. And the last time I did, it wasn’t counted as a vote for Al Gore.

To those for whom Libertarianism is an exotic or suspect philosophy, do some research if you’d like. I’m not vouching for this, but it gives a flavor.

Certainly visit The Cato Institute, The Mises Institute, Cafe Hayek, Reason Magazine and, they’re all conveniently located on the left sidebar. Read some Henry Hazlitt, Adam Smith, Friedrich von Hayek, Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, Frédéric Bastiat and Milton Friedman. Try to recall some of the things Ron Paul stood for.

Or don’t. I’ll point out that a Libertarian vote this year really doesn’t commit you to anything. The Libertarian candidate is not going to be president, any more than Donald Trump is, so the philosophy doesn’t much matter. It does matter that the LP will be on the ballot in all 50 states, so it’s easier than a write in. It does matter that Libertarians want major change. It would matter greatly in 2020 if they could get into double digits in 2016. It’s a long term game. A little longer now than it was.

I may expand on the reasons you might prefer voting Libertarian to other parties in a future post. It’s certainly preferable to not voting, because you do need to vote the down ballot races.