Arguments on the left have grown to hysterics and those on the extreme right have devolved into the conspiratorial (Seth Rich?). Right now, conservative America might need to be more vocal and nuanced in order to right a careening public forum.
In the age of Trump, it’s easy for conservatives to find themselves politically sidelined. There are many of us wandering through our jobs and amongst our friends who are not ludicrous enough to have Trump induced “anxiety”, but also not willing to rush to the defense of the Commander-in-Chief either.
The bizarre times that we live in have situated conservatives to be the parent in the room, calling balls and strikes of an Administration, Mainstream Media, and parts of the American public that need an umpire.
Conservatism has always thrived because it’s a stalwart, principled ideology. It cannot now be drawn to be a reactionary to the left, but rather must drive the American conversation to the details and further into the nuance of complex issues.
Over the past year, we have seen conservatives drawn into the mud. “F&%# Trump!” was met with “Build the Wall!”; “I’m with Her!” and “Bigot! Racist! _____phobe!” with “USA! USA!”
It’s unfortunately the case that what we know to be true in our own personal lives, we don’t let play out in the public square. Imagine an argument with a spouse or girlfriend that every time she laid out her position, you responded to her with a loud, exuberant “Lock her up!” You would have a rough night ahead of you.
We don’t handle our interpersonal relationships this way because arguments are more complex than three word phrases or forty-thousand foot version talking points. Far too often, however, conservatives either react to simplicity with simplicity or offer it up freely themselves.
Take for example the horrific incident at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. Almost immediately, even before their “thoughts are with Manchester” tweets, many on the left retreaded the argument that Islam is a religion of peace. By reaction, throngs of the right shouted down all of Islam as barbaric. It must be conservatives that stand apart articulating the sensible in the face of the sensational. As in, blaming all Islam for Manchester is naïve, just as labeling as “hate” any criticism of the vein of Islam that produces terrorist acts like Manchester is equally disingenuous.
In other areas, conservatives are drawn into yelling matches when speaking softly and carrying a big wallop of an argument would serve better. Drilling down to the details would bring us further as a society and in that depth we see the reality that we are a lot closer on the issues than public chanting would have us believe.
There is a long list of issues that with compassionate and nuanced arguments, conservatives could lead society towards a better America.
Considering abortion, Americans want fewer abortions nationwide. A 2016 poll conducted by The Marist Poll found that 77% of women support limiting abortion to the first trimester and 59% of women found abortion to be morally wrong. Yet, if asked directly, most Americans want carve outs in particular circumstances, because Americans know that bright line rules are pretty hard to come by in most general, broad topics. Shouting pro-life, pro-choice, hardly advances the ultimate cause that we all have of creating an American society with fewer abortions.
In healthcare, Americans want more coverage and healthier lives. There clearly isn’t a silver bullet to solving healthcare because health is complex, indeterminate, and unpredictable. The factors are endless and constantly changing. With sophistication and nuance, however, conservatives can draw the American public into discussions of creating a healthy lifestyle, ways to avoid detrimental healthcare choices like smoking or excessive alcohol use, and advancing preventative medicine. Our resolve to create a better healthcare regime begins with a patient ear towards all the considerations that go into creating a complex system.
Conservatives need to lead these conversations. True leadership will require patience, graciousness, and high-minded thinking. The arguments that have played out in the public square, have sounded off for far too long. They are mere shouting matches of the ridiculous rather than civil engagement of the learned. Conservatism is not an ideology to be a reaction to the left; it is a bedrock principle built upon life, personal liberty, and community. With our resolve, we can drive our nation forward by our willingness to engage deeper with our fellow Americans.