What Should Our Playbook Be? Three Voices of Wisdom

The last few days have brought a trio of thought-provoking articles across my Twitter transom. I love all three of them—even though, on the surface, they seem to have a contradictory take on what conservatives should be doing.

First was this:

Rick Wilson, Ricochet: Go Dark

The opening is a little, um…

A brief note to my Republican friends; go dark.


Stop talking.

Keep reading and Rick’s advice isn’t quite what the opening implies. After (accurately) describing the press’s addiction to shiny object misdirection, he outlines an alternative—

Proceed against Clinton with a measured pace and tone. Don’t make it all about Benghazi or the record-keeping laws. Focus instead on the grave national security risks that her amateur-hour email server shenanigan posed. Do it with the sickly-sweet, sincere tone of “I just want to work in a bipartisan way for good, transparent government… and to protect national security secrets from the Chinese, Russians, and other threats” that the Acela media claims to worship.

Press the sore spots, subtly, but constantly. Use it as way to leverage discussion of the Clinton family’s infamous contempt for the law and remind the public of their their obsessive secrecy, paranoia, and habitual lawbreaking. Wonder, in serious tones, how much of the email traffic has to do with the other scandal that reporters have been desperately trying to cover up: the Clinton Foundation’s scuzzy foreign-money vacuum. Welcome the chance for Mrs. Clinton to give her side of the story in press conferences and hearings.

When you talk to the press, do it in measured tones, and avoid making wild claims about either the substance or political outcomes. Reduce expectations, rather than raise them. Be persistent. Be serious. Be smart.

The word I thought of here was sly.

I absolutely endorse this approach.

Oddly, not everyone I encountered the last few days does:

There’s the fear that Rick means to roll over and do nothing, letting the Clintonistas control the narrative.

That’s not my takeaway at all.

I think he’s talking about a more in sorrow than in anger approach (sorry, I keep hearing Tom Daschle’s voice here) that I think would be devastating coming from conservatives.

Yesterday came this:

Kurt Schlichter, Townhall.com: Knock Off The Loser Talk. This Fight Hasn’t Even Begun

Some people might take this as a contradiction of Rick Wilson’s piece.

I don’t.

I think Rick’s advice is specific to the Hillary situation—although I can see it applied multiple ways in lots of different circumstances.

I also think his advice takes on more power within the mindset Schlichter prescribes.

Oh my goodness, the 2014 election victories didn’t end the war! You mean the progressives are still out there dreaming of a future full of hugs and goosestepping? You mean the GOP Establishment hasn’t just given up its power and knelt before us, begging to be forgiven for its craven crony corporatism? You mean the fight’s not over?

No, the fight’s not over. So stop whining that you can’t go back to sitting on your rear end – we have a long campaign ahead. I know you’re tired. I know you’re frustrated. And I don’t care.

Some people want to throw in the towel just as we are approaching the knockout. News flash: Our opponents punch back. Time to take the hit and drive on.

We’re winning, only we haven’t won yet. So pick up your (figurative) weapons and follow me. The fight’s up ahead, and we’re going to keep moving to the sound of the guns.

Definitely a call to arms.

But it’s also a call against abandonment—

Yeah, the GOP stinks. Yeah, there is a contingent within the GOP that prioritizes its own power and position over conservatism. Well, welcome to human nature – a certain percentage of human beings simply suck. You can cry about it like Nancy Pelosi at a Bibi speech or you can man-up and deal.

The only viable strategy is this – complete the seizure of the GOP’s infrastructure, turn it completely conservative, and then go and defeat the liberals. And that’s hard. And that won’t happen overnight. And we’re going to be disappointed – probably a lot. But the alternative is to cede the country to the liberal fascists who want to force us to live in carbon-free huts, steal our sacred Constitutional rights, and peer into our bedrooms lest we commit felony cisnormativism.

I’m not willing to let that happen. What about you?

Understand that if you quit now because your widdle feewings got hurt cuz you didn’t win a particular fight means you have quit on America. Suck it up and drive on – I don’t care if you’re sad, mad or frustrated. Your feelings mean nothing. Fight.

Kurt makes a carefully considered, enumerated case against abandoning the GOP. Really, go read it, it’s brilliant.

He continues—

Victory is in sight, yet the pouters have to come out every time we don’t slam dunk a win and start their defeatist muttering.

Oh, I’m sick of being fooled by the GOP!” Well, if the GOP fooled you, then you’re a sucker and an idiot. What would possess you to trust people who are not as conservative as you to be as conservative as you? We’re using them because at this moment we need them. We can often compel them through fear of our votes to hold their nose and vote our way, but ultimately we need to replace them and that takes time and effort. Until then, we need to deal with GOP noodle-spines with our eyes open and with a whip and a chair in hand.

I’m never voting Republican again!” You tool. You just promised to actively support the destruction of our country and Constitution. That’ll show ‘em! You know, after liberals hear that kind of loser talk they want to cuddle and have a cigarette.

The Democrats and Republicans are exactly the same!” Don’t be stupid. Obama is on defense because we took the Congress. Yeah, he’s pushing the envelope of the Constitution, but at the margins. His hopes for new grand fiascos? Gone. Sure, President Failure can make an executive order here and there, but cutting funding for, say, the FCC or the IRS to stop noxious executive actions doesn’t have the horrendous optics of defunding the Department of Homeland Security. By the way, if Team Boehner and McConnell are so tactically inept that they thought it was going to work to threaten to defund the entire DHS, why would we imagine they are tactically savvy enough to beat us over the long run?

I don’t want to hear about how hard this fight is. I don’t want to hear how sad you are. I want to hear how you went out and replaced that time-serving hack on your local GOP central committee.

Stop whining. Our country is at stake. This is going to be hard. Too bad. Now ruck up and move out.

I reconcile these two approaches by treating Kurt’s as the martial, persevering mindset we need and Rick’s as one technique we need to master in order to prevail over the current journalistic mindset (and our own self-caricatures).

Today a Molly Hemingway tweet brings a third critical perspective

This one’s majorly big picture, bringing out a point that’s been bugging me for awhile:

  • What is conservatism, really?
  • How should conservatives comport themselves in the political battles?
  • Most importantly—Whose side are conservatives really on?

Matthew Cochran, The Federalist: Conservatism Is Obsolete

Could American conservatism be obsolete? Liberals and progressives have, of course, felt this way about us for a long time, but there’s never been a need to bother over that. I raise the question for a different purpose: as an opportunity for conservatives to take a short break from critiquing our longtime opponents to constructively critique ourselves. Has conservatism—in a practical, boots-on-the-ground sense—ceased to be useful, even by our own reckoning?

What do I mean by conservatism? By some accounts, the essence of conservatism is simply an attitude that is accustomed to the act of conserving.

Cochran then lays out several examples of unhealthy political/cultural norms that conservatives have either embraced or tolerated that undermine the conservative case.

Marriage, freedom of association, education, societal problem-solving…

As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.” Thoughtful conservatives need to consider how much of what they now conserve actually belongs to Progressive mistakes of the last generation. We need to re-evaluate our own approaches—particularly whether simply conserving is still an appropriate approach to governing America. We need to ask ourselves a hard question: Is there really enough left of the America we love that conserving is the best course? Or is it time to rebuild and renew instead?

Our traditional Republican perspective is part of the problem—

The upshot of all this is that conservatives have, in many respects, simply become out-of-date liberals. Worst of all, our politics have encouraged us to look first to government as the solution. When our Republican-nominated justices support things like abortion or egregious abuses of eminent domain, and when our senators vote to bail out the corporate losers of the free market at the expense of the people, we rant, we stew, and then we keep voting them back into office until it works. We seem to forget that government is not our only tool for change. What about all the things we can do that do not begin and end with government?

As I tweeted the other day, this is not the age when traditional Republicanism is going to accomplish anything:

Cochran’s solution is pretty radical, sure to offend both the conservative/GOP establishment and our progressive betters who constantly, eagerly call us to their idea of true “conservatism.”

But as I’ve previously mused, if we are currently in a liberal ’50s, then why can we not follow up with a conservative ’60s? If the Baby Boomers collectively rose up to disregard the wisdom of their parents’ traditions, what is to stop multiple generations of conservatives from doing the same to disregard the foolishness of the aging Boomers’ traditions? Such an undertaking will not happen by trying to conserve the rot in the institutions they have left to us—leave them to die, along with the parasites that infected them in the first place.

Personally, I think this nails it.

I’ve already been thinking it’s time to go radical:

There’s one point Cochran makes I don’t agree with—

In any other context, conservatives recognize that rewarding bad behavior (like voting for liberals who pose as conservative candidates) encourages bad behavior, but when faced with the prospect that “otherwise the Democrats might win,” fear takes over—principles are dropped for an expediency that does nothing more than slow the decay. Now that I’m a father, merely slowing America’s decay is no longer a terribly appealing option.

On this one, I think Kurt Schlichter has it right—

I’m never voting Republican again!” You tool. You just promised to actively support the destruction of our country and Constitution. That’ll show ‘em! You know, after liberals hear that kind of loser talk they want to cuddle and have a cigarette.

Yes, that’s harsh.

But I think it’s exactly right.

We need to start thinking strategically, systematically (Schlichter)—while acting wisely (slyly?) in the sociopolitical moment (Wilson).

And we need to go radical (Cochran).


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