I caught a segment of Sean Hannity's show the other night during which a 'conversation' transpired over the recent spike in violence in Baltimore in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. At 2:06, Adam Jackson, activist and CEO of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, begins a rap replete with the usual leftist jargon: systemic inequality, structural racism, etc.
What struck me was Hannity's failure to deal with ideas at the level of ideas, in this instance, his failure to question the very idea of structural racism. That is what he should have done. He should have cut off the leftist rap with some pointed questions: Just what is this structural or systemic or institutional racism you leftists are always talking about? Care to define these phrases? Can you provide a nice clear example for the audience? Is it evidence of 'structural racism' that the enforcement of the law has a 'disparate impact' on blacks? And while you are at it, tell us what exactly racism is supposed to be. Is it racist for a white cop to enforce the law in a black community? How can you speak of institutional racism when the institutions of our society have been reformed so as to help blacks and other minorities in all sorts of ways via Affirmative Action, federally-mandated desegregation, and the like?
But Hannity posed none of these questions. Typical conservative that he is, he is not at home on the plane of ideas and abstractions where one must do battle with leftist obfuscation. Conservatives are often non-intellectual when they are not anti-intellectual. I am talking about conservatives 'in the trenches' of ordinary life and the mass media, not about conservative intellectuals who are intellectual enough but whose influence is limited. The ordinary conservative, uncomfortable with ideas, gravitates toward particulars, the actual facts of the Freddie Gray case, the Michael Brown case, the Trayvon Martin case. That is all to the good of course. When one considers what actually happened the night Michael Brown lost his life one sees that there was nothing racist, let alone structurally racist, about Officer Darren Wilson's behavior.
But it is not enough to bring the leftist back to the hard ground of actual fact; one must also puncture his ideological balloons. When the leftist starts gassing off about 'disparate impact,' you must rudely point out that blacks are disproportionately incarcerated because they disproportionately commit crimes. The 'disparate impact' of law enforcement is not evidence of racism 'structural' or otherwise; it is evidence of disproportionate criminality among blacks. Why won't leftists admit what is obvious? Because they labor under the conceit that we are all equal. Now here is a another Big Idea that your typical conservative is not equipped to discuss.
Another example of conservative cluelessness is Bill O'Reilly. He often points out that we live in a capitalist country. It's true, more or less. But citing a fact does not amount to a justification of the fact. What O'Reilly appears to be incapable of doing is providing arguments, including moral arguments, in favor of capitalism. That is what is needed in the face of libs and lefties who, when told that we live in a capitalist country, will respond, "Well then, let's change it!"
But having a nasty streak of anti-intellectualism in him, O'Reilly would probably dismiss such arguments as mere 'theory' in his Joe Sixpack sense of the term.
Conservatives, by and large, are doers not thinkers, builders, not scribblers. They are at home on the terra firma of the concrete particular but at sea in the realm of abstraction. The know in their dumb inarticulate way that killing infants is a moral outrage but they cannot argue it out with sophistication and nuance in a manner to command the respect of their opponents. And that's a serious problem.
They know that there is something deeply wrong with same-sex 'marriage,' but they cannot explain what it is. George W. Bush, a well-meaning, earnest fellow whose countenance puts me in mind of that of Alfred E. Neuman, could only get the length of: "Marriage is between a man and a woman."
That's right, but it is a bare assertion. Sometimes bare assertions are justified, but one must know how to counter those who consider them gratuitous assertions. What is gratuitously asserted may be gratuitously denied without breach of logical propriety, a maxim long enshrined in the Latin tag Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur. So one reasonably demands arguments from those who make assertions. Arguments are supposed to move us beyond mere assertions and counter-assertions.
Could G. W. Bush present a reasoned defense of traditional marriage, or rather, just plain marriage, against the leftist innovators? If he could he never to my knowledge supplied any evidence that he could.
And then there is Romney. He lost to Obama in part because he could not articulate a compelling vision while Obama could. Obama, a feckless fool with no understanding of reality, and no desire to understand it, is a great bullshitter & blather-mouth who was able to sell his destructive leftist vision. Romney had nothing to counter him with. It it not enough to be in close contact with the hard particulars of gnarly reality; you have to be able to operate in the aether of ideas.
For a conservative there is a defeasible presumption in favor of traditional beliefs, behaviors, and institutions. The conservative is of course right in holding to this presumption. But if he is to prevail, he must know how to defend it against its enemies.
To beat the Left we must out-argue them in the ivory towers and out-slug them in the trenches. Since by Converse Clausewitz politics is war conducted by other means, the trench-fighters need to employ the same tactics that lefties do: slanders, lies, smears, name-calling, shout-downs, pie-throwing, mockery, derision. The good old Alinsky tactics. And now I hand off to Robert Spencer commenting on Andrew Breitbart.
Politics is war and war is ugly. We could avoid a lot of this nastiness if we adopted federalism and voluntary Balkanization. But that is not likely to happen: the totalitarian Left won't allow it. So I predict things are going to get hot in the coming years. The summer of 2015 should prove to be positively 'toasty' in major urban centers as the destructive ideas of the Left lead to ever more violence.
But liberal fools such as the aptronymically appellated Charles Blow will be safe in their upper-class enclaves.