The Cost of the High Road

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Staying above the fray ain’t cheap

A common refrain among so-called moderates and those hesitant to strike hard and fast against their enemies is something along the lines of, “we have to be better than them.” The idea is to behave better and engage in soft tactics, taking the moral victory even if the real victory slips from their fingers. This has been the theme of presidential campaigns as well, a noble attempt to avoid attacking their opponents directly. Other than being called hateful (racist, sexist, etc) or fearful (homophobic, xenophobic) it seems the greatest fear of the average American is being called mean. “Mean-spirited attacks” are decried day in and day out, meanwhile… the moral battle is won and the real war lost.

It would be much easier for the New Orleans Saints football team to win games if, next season, they started breaking every rule they could get away with. Sticky on the gloves of receivers, slippery uniforms, wrongly inflated balls, illegal hits at opportune times. Teams obey these rules for two reasons: sanctions from the league and because it is a game. The players want to win but they also recognize it is a sport. That’s why a running back doesn’t prevent being tackled by taking out a Glock and laying waste to the defense.

If the players’ lives were on the line the game would become much more brutal overnight. I am not recommending this, but rather observing for the purpose of this post. Sport is great precisely because it is a show of honed skill and athleticism operating within rules designed to even the field so that that skill and athleticism is the deciding factor.

When it comes to matters of policy, however, lives are in fact on the line. If not lives then the quality of lives thereof. Given the impact stress has on the human body there is an argument that a low quality of life may in fact reduce the length of said life — so even there, lives are arguably on the line. If the policy isn’t going to impact a person’s life why bother arguing about it either way?

Ann Coulter is a mean bitch.

She is popular and enduring in part because of this; by saying it I am not passing judgment on Ann (that is not my place) but merely pointing out the truth. She says mean things about people, and she’s often a bitch about it. That’s who she is because she’s decided that pulling her punches isn’t as favorable to her as swinging with all her might. Her positions and mine vary in quite a few places but I understand her methods. Sugar-coating the truth has gotten conservatives nowhere. Immigration, her big boogeyman, has been routinely ignored by the political class.

As far back as I can remember the general populace has been angry about the immigration situation. It was one of the issues behind the rise of the Tea Party (even if not the original intent) and the sweeping into office of tea party candidates in 2010, 2012, and 2014. But for over a decade now both parties have just given lip-service to the idea. Enter Donald Trump pulling no punches on the issue, and witness his popularity.

When Donald Trump came out and said what he did regarding criminals entering the country he was immediately ordered to apologize by the media and the political elite. He didn’t, and his stock rose — while theirs fell. He wasn’t wrong either. There are criminals coming into the country illegally. Period, end of story. The people responsible for our well being aren’t taking it seriously — it will never hurt them or theirs after all — and so playing nice hasn’t worked. Those of us in favor of America and Americans now understand that we’re going to have to be dicks about it to get anything done.

The fear many express about being mean is that it will drive away the moderates. Well, they haven’t really been doing us any favors have they?

The payoff for this moral victory is supposed to be that the moderates — and even some on the other side! — will see our noble dedication to the issue and come join us in solidarity. We will go down with our ship while the band plays and be stoic about it, and that’s just admirable.

When has that ever happened?

Let’s use a more real world, less political example. Let’s say you’re a married man at a neighborhood barbecue. If you’re reading this as a single man or woman, imagine that your wife is the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen and means the world to you. Now, at this barbecue we’re going to insert a guy named Kurt Kockswell. He’s the cousin of one of the attendees, in town to have his yacht serviced, and he’s in better shape than you both financially and physically. He’s had a few, and he’s spending the entire time flirting with your wife. She’s got good intentions here — she just doesn’t recognize what his aim is, or she’s amused by his stories. Whatever. Now, Kurt turns to you and makes fun of you for how you’re holding your beer or something, and a lot of people laugh. You know, through, I don’t know, his cousin’s wife, that Kurt has some sort of pecker-related deficiency. Do you:

A) Agree with Kurt and become self-deprecating. (NO)
B) Ignore him and continue your conversation. (NO)
C) Parry his attack and stab him through the rhetorical heart? (YES)

Some people might think you’re a dick if you say, “Unlike your dick at least I can keep my beer up.” (You will likely need a better line than that.) But Kurt has established himself as your enemy and he is targetting you. You can’t let that go unchallenged — you have to live in that neighborhood. If some of your neighbors don’t like you after that you’ve lost nothing — and at least they won’t put you in the crosshairs.

Another example is in World War 2. After taking a series of islands leading up to the main islands of Japan the United States sent tens of thousands of Marines, Paratroopers, and Sailors to their death in a lengthy ground war before eventually toppling the Emperor in the mid-1950s.

Except for the part where, because live were on the line, Truman authorized dropping a nuclear bomb on the Japanese. The war continued and he authorized another to make it clear that we could keep this attack up until there was no more Japan. People died in those blasts but American lives were saved (and likely so were Japanese lives). Truman didn’t give a damn about the high road, he gave a damn about winning the war.

Never in the history of politics has a long-held noble position won people over with soft words and a kind smile. People will either like you and join you or they won’t, and you cannot nice them over to your side. Showing a spine will win far more love, and it will energize those that agree with you.

The ultimate price of the high road is that you lose and you still don’t make new allies. You do, however, embolden your enemies — because there’s no backlash for attacking you and give rise to those more extreme than you.

Finally, after eight years of squishy Republicanism and seven of liberal Democratism in the White House anyone who is still “moderate” or not on our side never will be. They missed getting aboard the clue train and are a lost cause.