Conservatives Hardened By Being on the Defensive

Consider the proposition that in modern America, Conservatives tend to be more articulate, better debaters, and less given to foolish remarks. The reason behind this difference is not that Conservatives are inherently smarter or more eloquent, it is that Conservatives are immersed in a popular culture informed by a media that is largely unsympathetic to Conservatives. Conservative are justifiably on the defensive. As a consequence, if one has Conservatives inclinations, one soon learns that one needs to be better informed and practiced in making arguments. Many Liberals live in environments that never challenge their notions and hence their ability to debate atrophies. While Conservatives may be just as likely as others to have a foolish thought cross their minds, they have been taught to exercise a little more verbal discipline.

Thus, it was not surprising when Conservative Sean Hannity was judged by viewers in a KSL-TV poll to have won a debate with the Liberal Salt Lake City Mayor Ross Anderson, 58% to 24%. By conventional standards, it was a crushing rhetorical defeat for Anderson [1]. Part of the problem for Anderson is that he is accustomed to giving speeches to those who are largely already in agreement with him. Hannity by contrast, debates nightly with his counterpart Alan Colmes and must occasionally deal with hostile callers to his radio program. Direct debate and argument are acquired skills.

My guess is that as a matter of inherent skill and intelligence Hannity and Anderson are comparable. Why then was Hannity so victorious in their debate? The problem lies in that Anderson has been so immersed in the Left’s approach to the war and its irrational anti-Bush bashing that he assumed upon himself an impossibly high debate standard to meet. Anderson tried to argue that, “Given the scale, frequency and moral depravity of these outrages, President Bush must be held to account through impeachment and removal from office, if we do not call for accountability, we are complicit.”

I am sure that among Anderson’s friends and staff, he has drawn raucous cheers for making similar statements and he felt confident entering into the debate on the basis of such an extreme position. However, for the purposes of debate, Anderson buried himself with an un-winnable position. He could have taken a position that was more moderate position, still critical of Bush’s policies, and might have prevailed. Conservatives, always prepared for debate in a hostile context, would typically not make such a tactical mistake.

On the other side of the country, we find an example of how Liberals living in a cocoon of agreement among their peers are apt to make foolish statements. Apparently, someone had defaced a radio station advertisement for Rush Limbaugh, an event, had it occurred in other contexts, would have be called a hate crime. Instead, it was just another example of Left-wing commitment to free speech, at least the free speech of those they agree with.

The event might have passed unnoticed except for the fact that the Baltimore Sun reported that Robert Murrow of the Department of Public Works beamed about the defacement: “It looks great. It did my heart good.” The Baltimore Sun did not consider the comment remarkable until the story unleashed a furry on the Internet and talk radio. The Department of Public Works quickly distanced itself from the apparent endorsement of the destruction of private property. Although cooler heads prevailed, the question is what environment makes it easy for a public employee in Baltimore to make such a comment to a newspaper without fear of consequence? Is it alright to deface Conservative property? Had someone defaced a campaign ad for Barack Obana would anyone have be crazy enough to say “It looks great. It did my heart good,” even if such an ugly thought came across their mind?

[1] It is interesting to note that the KSL-TV report was so disappointed at the outcome that you had read to the fourth paragraph in their on-line report to learn that more than twice as many people thought Hannity had won.

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