We are going to start with a thought experiment. This is, by design, a very simple and general one so fight the urge to overcomplicate it.
You are across the street from your local elementary school when you see a man with a knife snatch up a kid on the playground. You are armed. You know that it is not legal in your state for you to be on school property with a firearm. Do you ignore the law, enter the playground and confront the attacker?
Your answer was probably, “Of course I would. What kind of heartless monster would I be to not attempt to save the life of that child?”
You would be correct, but why are you correct? You are under no legal obligation to defend the child. You would have to break the law to take immediate action. You could call the police and wait for trained professionals to arrive. Heck even afterwards the enormity of all the things that could have gone wrong in that situation would hit you. All the mistakes that could have been made. The tragedy that could have ensued while trying to prevent that tragedy. The crushing legal ramifications that could have and will probably happen after such an event.
Despite all of that you will still feel good about acting. No matter the outcome and all the reasons not to act you would probably sleep very well that night. Why?
The reason is even though you had no legal obligation to act to save a life you had a moral obligation to do it. That moral obligation overrode every instinct, every societal and legal barrier set against you. You are right and that justifies everything.
“What does that have to do with political warfare?” you may ask. The answer is very simple because it the very reason why those that are on our side are currently losing on all the important issues that matter. The left has found a why to check mate us on gun control, freedom of speech, climate change, immigration, taxation and whatever the cause of the day is. They have turned all their issues into what is called a Moral Cause.
If something is the moral thing to do then rules, societal norms and laws be damn! Wasn’t slavery once the law of the land supported by culture and reasoned argument? It was the moral thing to bring an end to that horrible institution. Were we once ruled over by a rightful king of a nation that had spent enormous sums of money, lives and material to build colonies in a wild land and gave us the benefits of English Common Law? It was the moral thing to rebel against a tyranny that constantly trampled on what many saw as inalienable rights so that all could have the opportunity to live free.
The left has created the same feeling around their issues. It doesn’t matter to them about your right to bear arms because they are saving lives. It doesn’t matter to them burdensome regulation grinds the economy to a halt because preventing climate change will save lives. They are trying to save your life even if you don’t want them to do so. Laws, rights, societal norms even logic are just obstacles in the path of the moral cause of saving everyone’s life. Any mistakes made along the way are justified because of the righteousness of the cause.
Our side never makes the moral case for freedom unless backed into a corner. Yes, we have the undisputable facts and figures. We have the benefit of access to a vast pool of history that time and again supports our side. Logic dictates in an undisputable fashion that we are correct. We even look at those that oppose us as soft skulls full of mush that are blindly being led by sinister forces and if they could only be educated enough their eyes will be open to our way of thinking.
To us they are the brainless and to them we are the heartless.
The former president of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks, realized that when it came to the subject of capitalism we were losing the battle with the left not because our facts, figures or logic was flawed it was that the left had painted capitalism as immoral because equality of outcome was not guaranteed. He knew from the data that, in fact, capitalism had done more than any force in history to raise people across the world out of poverty. He then made it is mission to make the moral case for capitalism and for him and others to turn the pursuit of capitalism into a moral cause. He once wrote:
“Limited government and individual liberty aren’t merely policy alternatives. They’re moral imperatives… America’s founders were moralists, not materialists. The Declaration of Independence defends not our right to material prosperity, but, rather, the covenant between government and citizens of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In both public declarations as well as personal correspondence, the founders discussed, debated, and explained their thinking using moral language.” http://www.aei.org/publication/making-a-moral-case-for-capitalism
There were many that did not want to rebel in our country. It was our founders who through speeches, letters, news articles and everyday communication that transmitted the idea that rebellion wasn’t a logical course of action it was the moral one.
Somewhere we lost the ability to make the moral case for our positions. I believe that we have become so enamored of our facts, figures and logic that it has feed into a political laziness on our side. We use the logic of our argument as if it was a stick that we can use to beat the other side into submission. Embracing our positions and messaging them as a moral cause requires intellectual exercise. It requires us to empathize with our opponents to hear their concerns and assure them that despite of those concerns ours is the only moral choice to make. Logical argument provides an excuse for inaction while a moral cause compels action.
Whenever I go to speak to a group or sit down for a meeting with a leader of an organization I always try and lay out the moral argument as to why what my organization is pursing is the course to take. I then build off that with the facts, figures and logic. I do this regardless of if the organization or individual is aligned or opposed to the goals I pursue. I know this works because this is how the opposition has done it for decades. This is how they get folks to travel across the country to attend a protest in droves while those on our side show up in handfuls to counter protest, if they even show up at all. We like to say it is because we have jobs and are too busy to do that, but the dirty secret is that they are the same as us. They have jobs and busy lives as well, but they will put all that aside because they have the moral obligation to do it. For them not to pursue their goal would be the same as if you stood outside that school yard and watch someone kill a child.
If we cannot see the moral value of our own cause, then why should they? Until we begin to view and communicate our desire for freedom as a moral cause instead of a logical exercise then we will continue to lose ground in this war. Anything less would be immoral.
Bonus: If you have Netflix watch “The Pursuit” by Arthur Brooks. It is only an 1 hour and 15 minutes long but it is worth it to see how building the moral case for something then showing the facts behind it are far more effective than the traditional way.
Derek is a US Marine Corps Veteran, Father, Conservative Christian and Political Organizer for an organization that fights for veterans. He works full time on the front lines to preserve liberty and teach others how they can do the same.