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It is the number one complaint from Republican voters: Republican politicians don’t fight enough meaningful political and cultural battles. It’s probably the main reason Trump won in 2016. As many of his supporters put it, “He fights” — he has pushed back against the left’s agenda on multiple fronts. But there is another element to this that I think too many on the right are forgetting: the point of fighting is to win. And in politics, where elections are won by getting more votes, you need to persuade people in order to win.
More and more, it seems those politicians and pundits who scream “Fight!” with the most enthusiasm are the least inclined to actually talk to people who disagree with us. It is all passionate declarations, no argumentation. Rhetoric without substance. All performance, no persuasion.
These days, “fighting” appears to mean owning the libs in the snarkiest of fashions, eliciting the maximum number of retweets from an audience that already agrees with you. It means speaking loudly and passionately at a raucous political rally — to an audience of exactly zero independents or Democrats.
These versions of “fighting” have their place, but I do not pretend that speaking to ourselves in what amounts to a conservative safe space will bring us anywhere close to real cultural and political progress — and it will not persuade anyone new to vote Republican.
The dirty little secret is that some of the influencers or media pundits you follow, the ones who scream the loudest about “getting out there and fighting,” have no interest in helping to actually implement real solutions. Why? Because their dedication to the cause is based on a monetary return. They sell ads on their page or show, and to maintain cashflow they need a loyal following. By design and incentive structure, they have no motivation to persuade anyone. They have every reason to feed the beast, and the beast is especially hungry when it is angry — and, counterintuitively, when it is losing.
Yes, that’s right, some influencers prefer to be on the losing side because it is good for their business. Losing makes people angry, and anger makes people click more. Outrage rules the day because people can cash it in.
This has caused our movement to engage in unwinnable battles, seemingly on purpose. I recently wrote about the utter futility and pointlessness of the congressional objections on January 6th (never mind that the entire charade was also deeply unconstitutional), and how dishonest politicians and influencers convinced millions of Americans that January 6th could be the moment we finally turn it all around.
The politicians involved in the effort to block the election knew better, and yet still they breathlessly proclaimed that “this is where we finally fight!” Apparently, the best way to fight, according to them, is to engage in unwinnable battles that persuade no one and leave their supporters even more desperate and downtrodden than before. The January 6th objections were never meant to achieve anything, but, some say, at least some politicians “fought.”
Real fighting is actually hard. It takes strategic thinking and wit. It means engaging in arguments with well-conceived, airtight logic. It means presenting our case with a moderate audience in mind, across a variety of platforms. It means actually understanding conservative principles and understanding how those principles make for superior governance and policy solutions. It means taking the time to understand how and where government works, so that people aren’t storming the Capitol to solve a problem that can only be solved at the state level. In Congress, it means taking the time and effort to write legislation that has a chance of passing and moving forward conservative principles, even if it’s not everything we want, instead of introducing hopeless pipedream legislation that never has a chance of passing, but will get an applause at a rally.
Conservatives are right: For far too long, their representatives didn’t fight hard enough. But now we need to learn how to fight effectively. You should be demanding that your politicians bring people to our side and engage in substantive debate in Congress, not just yell talking points from our favorite Fox News show. Conservatism is a winning message if we deliver it with intellectual honesty and confidence and pride. We don’t need to hide our principles or policies from moderates, as many have done in the past, but instead explain why they work. We need to learn to work proactively within the institutions that the left has so successfully taken over – academia, pop culture, and the media. We need to speak to more people than just our own tribe. It will take a lot more work, but the payoff is worth it.
Representative Dan Crenshaw is a former Navy SEAL who serves Texas’ Second Congressional District in Congress and sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.