I am more ideological than political. I recognize that participation in the political world is necessary in order to prevent those with opposing ideologies from imposing them on me. But I do not enjoy the political game. I am much more content to talk about ideas, and I would like to trust that wording things well so that everyone can make informed decisions will lead to the right outcome. That is, in large part, my mission here at the Spherical Model.
Meanwhile, what politically minded people know is that ideology only wins if the politics win—if the movement of public opinion is handled like a well-advertised business. Not enough people are thinkers. Not enough people pay attention. Yes, it’s important that I explore the ideas and think clearly, for my own sake and for sharing with others. But that is not enough.
This is an off-election year, so I don’t feel as pressed to engage politically. But maybe that makes it a good time to explore a discomfort zone without undue pressure.
I came across a discussion of this dichotomy over the weekend. The spelling (and bio of the author, Stephen Masty) show a British or beyond-American perspective, but the conversation applies to America nevertheless. The overall piece makes a few main points:
· Progressives don’t engage in truthful ideological discussion; instead, they claim a desire to serve mankind and other untruths that sell.
· Politicians, whether they claim progressive or conservative ideologies, are about building power; that is the profit they seek in their peculiar market-view.
· Because growth of their circle of power is the goal, cutting back big government isn’t going to get done by politicians.
But the piece ended with the challenge I find I face:
Real conservatives, noble and reflective for the most part, usually debate an idea on its merits and avoid stooping to conquer. They ought to reconsider. It is not to say that conservatives should stop dissecting the misdirections and false hopes of the Progressives, but they must also engage in real-politik and expose the political agendas behind the platitudes; some groups do this already. How the bureaucracy and politicians benefit by department and function and overall, will reveal their greed for their own kinds of profit.
But exposure requires research, which is harder work than sitting in the study with Aristotle, Jefferson and even Russell Kirk. Both tasks are essential; one to provide cultural bearings and civilisational direction, the other to sell the product to a cynical multitude that is already suspicious of politicians.
It might be true, then, that we need to learn or discover ways to “sell” the truths of freedom, free enterprise, and civilization, rather than just “convey” them.
If we were to look at the last presidential election, we’d find this challenge laid out. Romney conveyed conservative ideology—always. He had done so consistently for many years before even his first run. You can’t find non-conservative ideas, unless you parse a phrase here and there during his challenging effort to convey the ideas to people who don’t understand conservative principles. The enemy portrayed him, successfully and completely untruthfully, as privileged and out of touch with real people, to build class envy against someone who knew, through experience, how to fix complicated problems—in business, in government, in volunteer organizations; combining brilliant business sense, strong use of data, and unerring integrity. Everything I knew about Romney before the election, and what I have continued to see since, is that no candidate has ever been better qualified, while also being a completely honorable individual, to be our president in our times. The difference between him and our current president is stunningly stark. [I wrote about Romney here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.]
But on the conservative side, he is still spoken of as the wrong candidate, because he wasn’t conservative enough—according to the arguments of only his enemies (primary opponents, followed by final election opponents) instead of actual known facts about the man.
I don’t think he ran a bad campaign. But I think there may be some truth in the assessment that honorable conservatives go into the debate assuming it’s about ideas. The enemy goes in assuming it’s about grabbing power, any and every way possible, and any means to that end are justified in their minds.
I don’t know the answer to how truth tellers can move the masses. When we look at Reagan, that is what he seemed to
|President Ronald Reagan 1981|
I don’t think you’ll find significant ideological differences between Reagan and Romney. I think in Romney you would see peace through strength as a guiding principle, and limited government as designed by the Constitution a guide for economic recovery. Both men can be described as resolute and consistent in their conservatism. But Reagan had power over the message in ways we haven’t seen since.
I don’t know why Reagan had power over the message. I believe there are many today who articulate the message well, and often with similar plainness and boldness. It is the selling of the ideas to the masses that I fail to understand.
I don’t think we’ll find a candidate more perfect than Romney was. A more experienced and better human being is unlikely to appear again in a generation. So what we will need is someone conservative enough, resolute enough, articulate enough—surrounding by an army of people who not only understand and believe in ideological truth, but also know how to connect that truth to an attention deficit public. We need honorable idea salesmen.