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Arguing with the Left: We Are Doing It Wrong!

Posted: September 14, 2014 at 10:00 am   /   by

If you have ever tried arguing with a liberal, leftist or progressive, at some point you have inevitably come away frustrated by your apparent inability to “win” an argument, despite proving conclusively the other side is objectively wrong.  The subject doesn’t matter, it could be the failure of Obama’s foreign policy, the IRS targeting scandal, tax policy, (lack of) Global Warming, or “helping” the poor.  There in fact is a literal parade of liberal/leftist social policies and issues that have been unequivocal, abject failures, yet no matter how many facts and figures you can marshal, your argument falls flat, and your opponent remains completely un-swayed.  Have you ever wondered why this is?

Best-selling thriller-author Robert Bidinotto offers an explanation:

One of the most valuable insights I discovered in recent years is how Narratives trump everything else — including what most of us would call concern for “practical results.”

For example, consider liberalism. Have decades upon decades of liberal policy failures deterred liberals from being liberals? Have the trillions of dollars blown on welfare-state programs since the “New Deal” and the “War on Poverty” made a damned bit of difference in curing poverty? And has that failure convinced “progressives” that there is something fundamentally wrong in their worldview and approach? Have the horrendous historical consequences of appeasement policies stopped today’s politicians from appeasing international thugs and terrorists? No?

Then why does anyone assume that liberals gauge the value of their worldview by the standard of its PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCES?

Practical consequences are ALWAYS trumped by the advancement and protection of one’s core Narrative: the fairy tale that gives one’s life meaning, coherence, and moral justification.

When I linked last week to Simon Sinek’s seminal 18-minute talk, “Start With WHY,” it became obvious to me that he was saying exactly the same thing that I have been saying, in different language, with a different emphasis.

Sinek points out that customers are not attracted to a company primarily because of the merits of its products (i.e., the results of its policies); nor are voters attracted to politicians primarily because of the merits of their policy prescriptions and “eight point plans” (i.e., the goals of their policies). They are attracted because — as he puts it — “People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.”

People do things — e.g., vote for you, buy your products, donate to your cause — that prove, affirm, and reinforce what they ALREADY BELIEVE. They act to conform to and confirm their deep-rooted beliefs.

In other words: They act in conformance to their CORE NARRATIVE. Doing that makes them feel good about themselves. And they would far rather feel good about themselves than actually achieve any of their stated practical objectives. It’s not about the objectives at all. It’s about THEM.

Consider some other examples.

  • That’s why the leaders and officials in entire communities in Britain turned a blind eye to, or even rationalized, the mass rapes of thousands of young white girls: because they were wedded to a “multiculturalist” worldview, and — above all — didn’t want to think of themselves as “racists” or “anti-Muslim bigots.” THAT — affirmation of their Narrative-driven self-images — meant far more to them than the fates of thousands of young girls.
  • That’s why ObamaCare can meet absolutely NONE of its promised practical objectives (universal coverage; lower premiums; cost controls; “keep your doctor”; “keep your existing policy”; etc., etc.) — yet NO LIBERAL is calling for its abolition. It was never ABOUT those practical consequences, and still isn’t. It’s about protecting a Narrative about the role of government in our lives.
  • That’s why temperature records can show that there has been NO, nada, zero, zip “global warming” over the past two decades; yet the diehard true believers in “manmade climate change” continue to blame everything — from Ebola outbreaks to sinkholes to allergies to campus rapes (REALLY!) — on “global warming” that IS NOT OCCURRING. In doing this, they are really professing how absolutely they are wedded to the Narrative (as old as the ancient “myth of the Golden Age,” and the Eden myth in Genesis) that Evil Man is destroying the pristine natural environment. That Narrative IS their notion of “reality”; thus, any inconvenient truths that clash with it are simply ignored or explained away.
  • And that’s why Obama golfs and fundraises while the world goes to hell, and while ominous threats against America mount. His moral/political Narrative is rooted in the belief that America was founded in the evil of slavery; that its capitalist system is immoral; that its Constitution only cements all of that evil in place; that America, therefore, has been a dark force internationally; and thus, that his primary job is to “fundamentally transform” this country and paralyze its ability to act (i.e., cause trouble) internationally.

The terrible CONSEQUENCES of pursuing this Narrative do not matter to him in the least. He measures his “success” by a completely different calculus: merely by the intensity of his commitment to “fundamentally transform” America. As long as he keeps undoing the Constitution and the free market system, he believes he’s on the “right path.” And that’s why, while his entire agenda collapses around him in practical terms, he remains smugly arrogant and condescending toward all critics.

His diehard supporters and leftist followers are the same way: not in the least contrite, no matter what disasters they visit upon the nation. They take zero responsibility for those disasters. Their Narrative exonerates them, and twists facts to blame it all on their enemies.

That is why they can watch, in passive, blithe bemusement, while Russia starts to gobble up territory in surrounding nations; while China continues its massive navy-building binge; while ISIS maintains a safe haven in Syria while proclaiming its intentions to launch horrific attacks on the American homeland; while Iran, a hotbed of militant Islam, builds its nuclear weapons; while nutcase North Korea continues to expand its nuclear arsenal; while millions of individuals — undoubtedly including foreign terrorists — pour across our borders into America without so much as a criminal record check, and are aided and abetted by the Regime in being scattered all over America, then subsidized.

It’s all about, ONLY about, reinforcing and implementing the Narrative. Nothing else — NOTHING, no matter how bad — matters.

I believe Mr. Bidinotto is on to something here.  I have often remarked how liberals/leftists/progressives are generally impervious to facts, all they seem able to do is regurgitate the accepted talking-points on the issue at hand, then blithely go forth and pull the handle for the guy with the (D) next to his name on election day.  It had never occurred to me to think about this in terms of how the left sees themselves, and their “relationship” with the narrative or “story” they want so desperately to be true.  So desperately in fact they will completely ignore or disregard reality itself if it gets in the way of their belief in the story.  The narrative truly does trump all.  And, it’s something we on the right lack.  It is why we have such a hard time winning at the polls, why despite the complete and continuing failure of their policies and issues, so many people continue to blindly support liberal-democrats.  It explains why so many like to repeat the calumnious propaganda about people on the right all being greedy, racist homophobic war-mongers who hate children and want old people to live in the street and eat cat food, all despite the complete lack of even the tiniest bit of first hand proof or evidence supporting these stereotypes.  It’s all part of the narrative.

I believe this phenomenon is also related to the most frequent criticism of the Republicans going into the mid-term election in November: they have no plan.  You can hear this repeated over and over again in the conservative punditry: the Republicans have no plan, they are giving us no reason to vote for them.  Of course this may not matter in terms of the outcome this election, the Democrats having failed so abysmally and being so unpopular, simply being “the other guy” may be a perfectly viable strategy, this time.  But what about the long game?  It’s not that we on the right don’t have a plan, it’s that we don’t have a narrative.

I am not saying we should stop arguing with the left, pointing out their failures, or exposing the utterly fatal flaws in their policies and issues.  There will always be a place for debate, and it remains important, but I think at this point it’s clear this is not enough.  We need a counter-narrative, a story, about why we are right, and more importantly, why they are wrong.  And we need it now.

Greg Conterio

Gregory Conterio grew-up in the middle of the cornfields of central Illinois, spent 12 years living in the People’s Republic of Los Angeles, and another 15 in Miami, Florida, giving him a first-hand perspective on the rich variability of American culture.  Although formally educated in zoology, he saw opportunity in the then emerging Information technology field 25 years ago, and has remained there ever since, although he denies being an early pioneer in the now fashionable trend of pursuing useless college degrees.  Having an entrepreneurial background, Gregory has long been a staunch advocate of free markets and minimal government intrusion into our lives.  He currently runs a small IT consulting firm based in South Florida, where he resides with his wife of 25 years, his daughter, three Whippets, and an unknown but growing number of chickens, having discovered belatedly the rural lifestyle is not so bad after all.

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Arguing with the Left: We Are Doing It Wrong!