Messages and Messengers

Many subscribers to Red State share a low regard for the biased MSM and lament the chronic ineptitude of Republican messengers. Comments often suggest that the media bias is so overwhelming that resisting it is pointless. But some recent diaries have struck a more positive note, focusing on honing the conservative message and delivering it persuasively.

Conservatives were not always inept messengers. It may be instructive to look back, “on the record.”

In 2013, Iran openly postures and taunts the United States. Ronald Reagan addressed a similar threat from the Soviet Union in his “Time for a Choosing” speech at the 1964 Republican convention.” We are at war with the greatest enemy that ever faced mankind”. … “if we lose that freedom, history will record with great astonishment that those with the most to lose did the least to prevent it from happening.” No one in today’s Republican party , save John Bolton, treats the Iranian threat as seriously.

Today we hear some semi-serious hyperbole about President Obama and the First Lady being like the mom and dad of the country or “Obama above it all, like God.” We are told that the constitution has limited relevance. In the very same speech noted above, Mr. Reagan quoted from remarks made by Senator Fulbright at Stanford University . He referred to then President Johnson as “our moral teacher and leader’ and said  “he is hobbled in his task by the restrictions imposed on him by this antiquated document. ” History now repeats itself, suggesting once again that a virtuous leader should not be constrained by the law.

Near the end of Reagan’s speech came these prescient thoughts “Our natural unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp than at this moment.”

Back in 2010, Dr. Thomas Sowell was interviewed on “Uncommon Knowledge” about his book “Intellectuals and Society.” Noting that strict gun laws in Britain had resulted in a much higher incidence of burglary than in the U.S., Sowell pointed out that English burglars didn’t usually case homes before burglarizing them. The law had made burglary a reliably safe occupation in Britain, functioning like OSHA for burglars.

When asked about global warming, Sowell said it was impossible to reconcile the theory with the evidence that the increases in CO2  emissions followed the increases in global  temperature. In Sowell’s words, it’s hard to argue that A causes B, if B comes first.

So, in less than 300 words, Dr. Sowell and Mr. Reagan managed to alert us to the danger of passive capitulation to nuclear aggression; the folly of elevating leaders above the law; the creeping erosion of individual freedoms; the ineffectiveness of British gun bans and the scientific infirmity of global warming theory (as Al Gore presents it).

How is it that these men speak so persuasively when Republicans struggle for whole presidential campaigns to ‘find a message’. Reagan had beliefs.They weren’t poll-tested or purposefully vague. He stated without reservation that Soviet aggression was the pre-eminent danger of the time. I still don’t know why Mitt Romney opposed Obamacare. He endorsed guaranteed issue. He  signed the mandate into law. I believed Reagan. I didn’t believe Romney. Conviction matters to voters.

Dr. Sowell willingly challenged the premise that gun laws have made homeowners in Britain safer or that the consensus of evidence validates global warming theory. Unlike a Republican, he flirted with the evidence and challenged the underlying assumption (something the media once did.)

Reagan and Sowell studied the history. Their convictions were grounded in evidence, not exercises in ideological purity or self-flattery. They took positions and they didn’t straddle political fences. There have been others, Jack Kemp on taxes, Alan Simpson on fiscal discipline, Kristi Noem on the estate tax and Sally Pipes on health care reform.

The conservative message is not harder to make than the liberal equivalent. It does not require co-operation from the media or civility from the Democrats. It just requires us to listen to the voters, then do the requisite work and to promote our message with the same relentless effort that characterized the Obama campaign in 2012.