This is an excerpt from the new book Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.
“Premise” is a word many Americans are not familiar with, and neither do they use it in their everyday speech. However, the premise is one of the most powerful weapons in political warfare. Master the art of the premise, and you will master your opponent.
A premise is an assumption underlying an argument that is meant to justify the conclusion someone is hoping you’ll come to. If one fails to establish the premise to his argument, one almost always fails to convince others of his conclusion. On the other hand, if one establishes a premise one will more than likely get others to agree with his conclusion.
For example, if the premise of the argument is over “reproductive choice” and not “the sanctity of human life,” then the conclusion will come down on the side of the premise accepted. For too long we have argued with the Left over the conclusion (e.g. big government vs. small government) when we should be arguing the premise (e.g. what’s legal for the government to do vs. what’s illegal for the government to do).
All too often we accept the premise of the Left’s argument on virtually every issue, which allows them to frame the political battlefield. Any good general will attempt to shape the battlefield in a manner that gives his soldiers the best chance at victory, and we should do the same in the culture war as well.
Could you imagine the possibilities if we made the Left defend the Constitutionality (see that as legality) of all their statist schemes, and if our Republican politicians asked questions that rejected their premise from the outset?
I get asked questions all the time from the Left’s perspective, and I never accept their premise. For example, in 2011 I did an interview on Dutch National Television. One of the questions was whether those who practice homosexuality should be allowed to serve openly in the military.
“I believe all men and women that are physically qualified and able to conform to the Uniformed Code of Military Justice ought to be able to serve their country,” I replied.
“But what about gays and lesbians,” the Dutch host asked.
“I’m sorry, maybe you didn’t hear me,” I replied. “I believe all men and women that are physically qualified and able to conform to the Uniformed Code of Military Justice ought to be able to serve their country.”
Now he looked confused. “So, is that a yes or a no?”
“There are only two types of people,” I told him. “Men and women.”
He had nowhere to go after that because I totally shut his premise down by rejecting it from the outset. From there I was on offense throughout the rest of the interview.
Recently I was asked by a newspaper reporter to comment on a story he was working on regarding the perception conservatives have a monopoly on the American flag and patriotism. The story centered on a liberal activist who was sewing into an American flag an anti-marriage/pro-immorality speech by Hillary Clinton as a protest against this perceived bias.
“Do you think the American flag is seen as a conservative symbol?,” he asked.
“The American flag is a symbol of the virtues and values the generation that devised it and died for it intended it to be, which they enshrined for future generations in the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution,” I replied. “Those virtues and values should defy labels except American. Unfortunately, as we cascade over the post-modern cliff, all such absolutes are now considered negotiable.”
“Do you think it’s appropriate to incorporate the flag into progressive/liberal messages like a pro-gay marriage art project,” he followed up.
“I think our society is better off when we conform our beliefs to the virtues and value that define the American flag, rather than conforming what the flag stands for to suit our own personal whims, desires, and agendas,” I answered.
“What’s your response to the claim that conservatives have an unfair monopoly on the flag,” he asked for his final question.
“It’s clear from their own writings and actions what values and virtues our Founders intended the flag to stand for: there is a God, our rights come from Him, and the purpose of government is to protect those God-given rights,” I responded. “That vision should transcend our current petty political labeling, and if your particular agenda doesn’t reconcile with that uniquely American vision the problem is you, not the vision.”
Nowhere in this dialogue did I accept the premise of the questioning, which was that the country is so divided that we even have multiple interpretations of traditional Americana. Nothing could be further from the truth, for we do not get to interpret the meanings of such things when the authors themselves left such a clear record of what they meant.
That is common Leftist/Marxist tactic known as Social Reconstructionism, and if I accept the premise of these questions I am accepting the validity of that pagan and un-American philosophy, which means we never arrive at the truth and just keep arguing our own perspectives.
If the Leftists want to make the case what they believe is in line with the founding vision of these United States, then by all means go back into the historical record and make that case. Except they won’t and they can’t. There’s a simple reason why the Left doesn’t pay as much homage to the founding of this country as we do, and it’s because most of what they believe is contrary to it, which is why they’ve had to take over the schools and scrub that history from the textbooks. Even one of the Left’s favorite Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, was so opposed to what most Leftists believe they’d peg him with their favorite word for conservatives: “extreme.”
Proving those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, not once but twice during the 2012 presidential debates Mitt Romney failed to confront President Obama on his version of the events that led to four dead Americans at the Benghazi terror attacks. Romney allowed Obama’s false premise to be asserted on the biggest stage of the campaign, thus allowing what should’ve been an issue that toppled the Obama presidency to become a strength prior to voters heading to the polls. It wasn’t until after the election in Congressional hearings featuring several Benghazi whistle-blowers — all of whom who worked for Obama — that the president’s account proved to be false. By then it was too late, and those four dead Americans and their families still haven’t received justice.
One of the reasons we see so many Republicans accepting the premise of the Left’s argument is because they don’t possess a solid worldview. Thus, most Republicans end up being defined by what they’re against and not what they’re for. Without a premise they’re just playing defense. Most Republicans don’t know what they’re for beyond they’re for beating Democrats.
The Left is always advancing their premise, and too many Republicans don’t have one, which means unless “we the people” step in we end up allowing Leftists to frame the argument. We can step in when it comes to voting, but at some point we need to actually elect politicians who can advance our premise in the arena of public policy. Otherwise we’ll continue going “forward” over the cliff the Left has us headed towards.
The only debate will be how fast over that cliff we go.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.