Opinion

Christine O’Donnell’s problem is the conservative movement’s dilemma

John Guardiano Freelance Writer

What conservative doesn’t sympathize with Christine O’Donnell for walking off the set of CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight? Morgan, after all, had O’Donnell on his show ostensibly because of her new book, Troublemaker: Let’s Do What It Takes to Make America Great Again.

Yet Morgan seemed more interested in asking the young Christian conservative titillating questions about sex than he did in engaging her in a substantive discussion about her new book.

“Christine O’Donnell shares views on sex,” brags CNN on its website. “CNN’s Piers Morgan asks former Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell about masturbation, sex and lust.”

But while O’Donnell’s frustration with Morgan is understandable, her reaction was a serious mistake. It suggests that she is uncomfortable discussing, and unprepared to discuss, contentious public policy questions involving difficult social issues such as gay marriage, the teaching of sexual abstinence in the public schools and the role of religion in American public life.

Unfortunately, though, these issues cannot be ignored. The size, reach and influence of the federal government is such that its purview extends now even into our homes, schools, communities and religious institutions. And so, conservatives have no choice but to engage the public dialogue on questions and issues that most people, understandably, would rather not discuss.

Yet, unless and until conservatives become as fluent and persuasive on social and cultural matters as they are on, say, tax reform and foreign policy, they will continue to lose ground to the left. And, as with learning a foreign language, the only way you gain fluency is through practice — through real, hard-fought substantive engagement with your political opponents.

In short, conservatives have to expect liberal-legacy media types such as Morgan to be unfair. They have to expect hostile questions designed to make them look strange and weird. They have to expect questions designed to portray them as the odd, alien “other.”

That’s unfortunate; that’s wrong. But life is unfair, and we conservatives have to deal with that. We have to engage the public dialogue and fight back — not cower and retreat in the face of hostile fire.

Christine O’Donnell has an opportunity now to help change people’s minds and to help shape the public dialogue. She should seize that opportunity.

John R. Guardiano is a writer and analyst in Arlington, Virginia. He writes and blogs for a variety of publications, including FrumForum, the American Spectator and The Daily Caller. Follow him at his personal blog, ResoluteCon.com, and on Twitter @JohnRGuardiano.