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I am a conservative. I know that means different things to different people. In my case, it means that I’m emotionally attracted to the old ways of doing things, skeptical and perhaps fearful of change, generally dismissive of optimizations and improvements, and inclined to defend tradition. In my case, it means I appreciate, intellectually, the value of the accumulated wisdom of the past. I have a low opinion of our ability to understand and manage complex systems, and a distrust of those who claim to be able to do so. It means I’m an American who loves what I believe are the traditional American virtues: limited government, the rule of law, freedom of expression, freedom of worship, civic order and civic duty, the supremacy of the Constitution, and the assumption that these things make America unique and uniquely great. That’s what I mean when I say that I am a conservative.
Almost everything about the Left runs counter to who I am. In its mildest form, the Left embraces change and innovation, places faith in man’s rationality and ability to manage complex systems, seeks to compromise core conservative principles in the name of efficiency and common sense and humanism, and is dismissive of tradition and its value. In its extreme form, the Left is outwardly hostile to the things I value, willing to compromise or negate every core principle in its relentless pursuit of an unobtainable perfected order. Today the Left is in favor of greatly expanded government, opposes free expression and religious liberty, undermines civic order, replaces civic duty with institutional redistribution, disregards the Constitution, and denies American exceptionalism and greatness. I oppose the Left in almost every particular.
How do I fight back?
So how does a conservative like me fight back against the Left? Most of us don’t have a billion dollars, a radio program, or a syndicated column. Most of us aren’t conservative speakers or authors in high demand. Most of us are working people, family people, busy making a living and raising our children, working in our communities. Many of us have a social media presence, but few of us are social media giants. That’s me; A single dad working for a living, raising kids, doing some service to our school and community, and expressing my thoughts on social media to a small following of generally conservative readers.
How does someone like me push back against the liberal tide?
I work for and vote for people who favor limited government. Occasionally I contact my representatives to express my views on a particular bill or policy. I founded a TEA Party branch a few years ago. Rarely, I contribute to the candidacy of people whom I believe are conservative. That isn’t a lot, but for most of us it’s as great as our direct involvement with government is going to get.
I write and talk, and I do a lot of both. I have a reputation in my community as an often embarrassingly blunt conservative. I say that men and women are different and I reject faddish leftist trends like the transsexual movement and gender identity. I explain to people why Islam is incompatible with our values and why political Islam must be opposed, and I defend the Judeo-Christian tradition against the specious claim that “all religions are alike, and Islam is no worse than any other.”
I argue, coherently, patiently, truthfully, and, I think, intelligently, about the damage done by minimum wage laws, about the absurdity of climate change alarmism, and about the dishonesty of Black Lives Matter and similar race-baiting movements. I point out the bias of the mainstream press, debunk popular leftist talking points, and explain, over and over, why socialism is the worst idea in human history and why only an ignorant person would endorse it.
But above all, I try to defend the things that I believe are under attack. I oppose efforts to suppress free speech. I oppose violence and lawlessness. I condemn the coarsening of society, the gleeful vulgarity of the left. Not everything that is permissible is wise or good, and some things that we must allow we should nonetheless deplore.
It’s easy to talk about fighting back. It’s easy to be vague, to say we’re at war and we have to act like we’re at war. But in fact our friends on the Left, if they’re acting within the law, are taking part in the American experience just as I am, and have as much right to flog their idiotic and ultimately destructive views as I have to push my own. I don’t have a right to prevent that, however foolish I think they are.
What I do have is a right to speak up, even when that upsets people and violates the evolving norms of polite company.
It’s easy to talk about fighting. It’s hard to say, to someone you like, that, no, you don’t agree about this or that piece of politically correct received wisdom. That, no, you don’t think women are underpaid; that, no, you don’t think we have a problem with racism in America; that, no, you don’t believe that Islam is a peaceful faith; that, no, you don’t believe that people can change their sex, or that people who think they should are healthy and normal.
It’s easy to cry havoc online. It’s harder to tick off a coworker in person by saying that, no, you actually don’t agree that two mothers are just as good as a mother and a father.
I believe that college anti-free-speech protests are a symptom of runaway liberalism, not a cause, and that the most important battle is the grass roots push-back against the leftism that we’re supposed to kowtow to and eventually take for granted. I believe that voicing our convictions, even when it causes some to think less of us, is paramount.
I believe this because I think most people are essentially conservative, apolitical, respectful of passion but uncomfortable with drama, and disinclined to make others uncomfortable by voicing things they may believe when no one else in the room is doing so. The emperor is naked. For most of us, pointing that out is the most important thing we can do, and it’s essential that more of us do it.
There. That isn’t very sexy. I didn’t call for hitting back hard, for giving them a dose of their own medicine, whatever that means. I don’t want to shut down a leftist speaker. I want to educate the people around me about the difference between what conservatives and liberals believe, and why the arrogance and foolishness of the Left really isn’t a good thing. In the process, I want to let the people around me know that they don’t have to hide their skepticism, and that they won’t be alone if they speak up.