April 30, 2010

Practical Advice For Conservative Missionary Work In Liberal America

You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  I've always believed that idiom. Be nice and you will gain more respect, and more importantly a more receptive listener. A lot of people might wonder where that saying applies. My opinion is nearly everywhere and especially in politics.  According to Using English, the meaning of the phrase is as follows;
This means that it is easier to persuade people if you use polite arguments and flattery than if you are confrontational.
Firstly, don't take it literally. As comedian Marc Mulvy asks - what are you supposed to do with flies?  It's an axiom.  A metaphor.  In politics, liberals are not flies (no vinegar about that in the comments please!).  They are potential conservatives.  The way to convert liberals to conservatism is not to lecture them, and certainly not to insult them.  Would you ever become a liberal after the vitriol you hear from so many of them about conservatives all being evil, greedy, racist idiots?  That means unless you are a liberal, they are talking about you.*  So much for the vinegar.

In order to catch the attention of a liberal and keep it, you have to do two things - get their attention and keep it.  That's why you need honey.  Put another way - if you go fishing you certainly don't yell at the fish.  You use bait.  In order to get the attention of an individual liberal, you have to find what their hot button issues are.  You are not going to win over a die hard pro-choice liberal if you are talking about fiscal restraint.  For that matter, some flies are unreachable. Your time might be better spent in some cases looking for a different fly.

Let's assume at this point you have determined their pet issues.  To get their attention you have got to find the common ground with them.  That usually lies in the very root of the issue - the problem. For example, illegal immigration is a problem.  The liberal and conservative solutions differ.  One focuses on amnesty, the other law enforcement.  Getting agreement on the fact that immigration is far more preferable if it is legal, isn't hard unless you are talking to an anarchist.  That common ground is the honey.  Having gotten their attention you may have accomplished something already.  Maybe you haven't convinced them you aren't an idiot yet, but already they might be willing to believe you aren't a racist and pure evil.  That's a start towards opening their eyes to alternatives.

Keeping their attention is trickier.  Conservatives have certain views.  These views are the end points of the argument, not the starting point.  You've got to start from the common ground and move towards those conclusions in a logical, orderly fashion.  Each step has to follow from the next and has to connect to it in an emotionally (preferably) or intellectually satisfying way.  There's no easy way to do this unless you draw a map from the starting point to the finish line and figure out each step along the way.  You've got to position each subsequent step as an appealling and next logical step from the last.  The further you get from the starting point, despite potential agreement, the further away from progressive liberalism and the less liberal-palatable the next step needs to be.  This isn't something easily accomplished on the fly.  It's much better left to prior proper planning. You know the idea that 50% of the battle takes place before the battle starts? Try 70%.

Which brings us to a question many might have been asking at the beginning - why bother attracting flies at all?  Permanent victory in politics is never possible.  But winning hearts and minds in a political landscape is the only way that you can truly alter the playing field.  Many converts to conservatism describe it as their eyes opening up.  I have friends who have listened to me on conservative ideals and have become very vocal in their own circles defending and propounding those very ideas, often in very unreceptive environments.  Rookies...

The whole idea of winning hearts and minds may have been disproved in other arenas like Vietnam or with militant jihadist Islam. But those are different circumstances. Vietnam was a war. So is Islamic terrorism. Trying to reach some people in those circumstances is like trying to catch flies with honey when you are dealing with crocodiles. You have to be in a position of rational discourse, not I.E.D.s for this approach to work.

In the end, we are talking about noble work.  Missionary work about saving America from a socialist fate. Once you have created a change it can have a ripple effect, and don't forget that conservatives don't have big media or educational institutions on side so every little bit helps.  In 10 years someone you have converted to the ideas of sensible government may have enlightened another person, or perhaps ten others.  At the very least you have prevented them from converting people to the false promises of liberalism.

*Yes, this applies to independents too - they just won't say it to your face because they want your vote. Liberals are limiting the use of their own honey versus vinegar approach, trying to muster as much honey as they can to a limited audience.

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