We Conservatives are convinced that truth is on our side. And it is. On just about any issue, the debate comes down to facts being presented by the Right and innuendo, propaganda and appeals to emotion being put forth by the Left. Logically, rationally, reasonably, we should win every debate. Right?
So, why do we end up behind the eight ball? Why are the Leftists more effective at communicating their positions on gun control than we are, for instance?
The answer to that is actually very simple. We are allowing them to frame the debate. Those who make the rules, those who decide what the question central to a debate is, they are the ones most likely to win.
Gun control is a glaring and immediate example of how they are doing what they do so well and how we are falling into their trap.
Liberals have always insisted that the only question to be answered is whether or not guns are dangerous to the average person. And we have been all too willing to try to answer that question. We think that because we can give examples and quote statistics, we will win the debate. The problem is that, in the shadow of horrific shootings like Newtown, Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech and others, the Liberals have human emotion on their side. All sales and marketing experts will tell you that you close sales by appealing to emotions.
We simply cannot win by talking about mothers defending their kids when people are focused on the deaths of 20 small children. We cannot come out on top by talking about crime rates in gun control States as compared to States in which gun ownership is open and free while people remember a maniac opening fire in a theater in Colorado.
We cannot win because we are fighting the wrong battle. We are fighting the battle the Liberals want us to fight. And they are good at this kind of fight.
And if we keep fighting this battle, not only will they win the actual national debate on gun control, but they will score a vital propaganda win in the broader war between Left and Right. Look at the actual proposals the Left is making over gun control. There is very little talk of confiscation, of making existing weapons illegal or of doing things which would actually impact the majority of gun owners. Their aim is not - in the immediate future - to take away guns. It will be soon, but not yet. Their purpose is to be able to say "See? The Conservative hysteria was wrong! We didn't do all those nasty things they said we would do! All they do is lie about us!"
We cannot win by talking about guns because the Liberals will win that debate every time. We have truth on our side, yes, but they have emotion. Our message is complex, loaded with examples and numbers. We make comparisons between one part of the country and another, between earlier times and today. We are absolutely right. But they have 20 dead children they can point to without saying a word. And – regardless of how callous and distasteful their approach is – they will gladly and glibly exploit the deaths of those children in order to advance their agenda.
Their arguments are simple, they are emotional and they are powerful.
If we debate with them about the narrow issue of guns, we lose. Every. Single. Time.
I am not being a pessimist. I am not saying that we cannot win this battle. I am saying, however, that we cannot win the battle if we allow the Left to choose the battlefield
This debate cannot be about guns. What it can - however - be about is the Constitution. In fact, it must be about the Constitution.
Liberals ignore the Constitution whenever it becomes inconvenient to their cause. They create interpretations which have no basis in the text of the document. They sidestep its provisions with astonishing alacrity. This is what we must focus on.
When we speak of the Second Amendment, we have to speak in terms of the Bill of Rights as a whole. We have to point out that limiting the Right protected in the Second is no different than requiring a permit before going to Church on Sunday. We need to make it clear that when they talk about limiting the number of bullets a gun fires, that is the same as limiting the number of minutes one may talk about an issue the Government doesn't want debated. We have to tell people that the Government confiscating weapons is like the Government coming into our houses without a warrant and taking what they want.
This struggle cannot be about guns alone. It has to be about the inviolability of the Constitution itself. It has to be about the unwillingness of Liberals to do the hard work of convincing the American people that a Constitutional Amendment is warranted. It has to be about the fact that they know they can never actually get such an Amendment passed and ratified so they do not even try. It has to be about the basic Liberal tendency to act on the Machiavellian maxim that "The ends justify the means."
The Liberals win their public relations battles by framing the debate according to terms most advantageous to them and then placing us in the crosshairs as villains. We can win by doing the same. We talk about the questions on which we can win. We show them to be unscrupulous and anti-freedom. We ignore their debate. If they make noises which are not answered, the back and forth required for the extended debate they need ceases. For them to get what they want, they have to keep the issue in front of the American people. Thus, if we do not respond to their talking points and only talk about our own, they are forced to choose to either drop the entire issue or debate on our terms. Either way, our odds of victory increase tremendously. We are in the driver's seat.
So, let's stop talking about guns. Guns protect the Constitution and the Constitution protects guns. Thus, the Constitution and all the vital Freedoms enshrined therein is our appropriate debate subject.
The forest is what we should be discussing, not the trees.