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If Conservatives Set Aside Civility To Fight The Left’s Rude Provocation, We Will All Lose


Remember when Laura Ingraham tweeted about how David Hogg was “whining” after being rejected by a bunch of colleges, and the left, in a fit of outrage, immediately went after her show’s advertisers? I seem to recall folks on the right were pretty irritated at those pushy social justice warriors. But now that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant out of the owner’s “moral conviction,” some say it’s time to “go low” and “fight dirty.”

SkyMast, whose profile description says she’s been “resisting the siren call of Marxism for 23 years straight,” also tweeted: “These suppliers get to choose which side they come down on, sucks that they are forced into this position, but Red Hen pulled the trigger. Wars are messy and often times unfair. Such is life.”

Trying to blacklist other businesses who weren’t involved in this owner’s and his staff’s political stunt is not “evening the playing field,” or “making it a fair fight,” or “refusing to accept the terms of the debate” or any other hackneyed excuse members of the most resentful sector of the Right have offered. It is textbook bully behavior, leading to sad consequences like Red Hen co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson stepping down from a local volunteer board. Bullies are never fair. That’s why we call them bullies. And indeed, in responding as the left would, such actors aren’t refusing to accept the terms of debate, they’re signing their names to them with a flourish.

If you want to see what this “go low” mentality leads to, look no further Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters. To loud cheers, she suggested, “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

I don’t want to become that callous and divisive. I will never accept the premise that I must be a bully to win a culture war, and neither should you.

Yet it is jaw-dropping how quickly the right has weaponized the double standard to permit their side the same wrongs that have been inflicted on them. Seriously, are you really on board with telling socialists they can’t eat at your establishment, or buy your gift cards, or use your car wash? Would you rather not show them kindness and that you are not, in fact, a brainwashed bigoted monster incapable of hearing the other side or even being in the same room with them — which is how they very much would like to think of you?

Think this through. The left isn’t scared that conservatives will concede the rules of engagement. If they “roll over,” as the anti-SJWs would have it, fine by them. If they fight as the left does, then they’ve “lost the high ground” and their wholesome reputation, and they will be outnumbered and overrepresented in media, anyway. They will escalate and broaden the conflict, with the right merely lagging slightly their in-kind retaliations as they rationalize their behavior, until we really do find ourselves in a second Civil War.

And the devil would like nothing more than to see conservatives, especially Christian conservatives, lose all moral clarity in their desperation to MAGA. “Fight fire with fire” is one of the oldest lies in the book. Christians, at least, are called to do exactly the opposite in Romans 12: “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all … if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Romans 1 makes pretty clear the Christians Paul was writing to were living in an oppressive and wicked culture. What Christians face today is not worse than what those early Christians went through. And yet still, they were called to live quietly and peacefully and to overcome evil with good, to bless those who persecute them, to “outdo one another in showing honor,” to “be patient in tribulation,” and to leave vengeance to God.

Jesus said to “turn the other cheek,” and he rebuked Peter for cutting off the ear of one of the guards who came to take Jesus. That is our example of how to deal with persecution. SkyMast might call that “rolling over.” I call it following the only perfect example of how to be human that we have.

If you are a Christian, or even a Jew who follows the Golden Rule to love his neighbor as himself, you don’t have a choice but to take the high ground.

Just to be perfectly clear, trying to manipulate innocent distributors does not qualify as “overcoming evil with good.” The apostle Paul just gave us a pretty good idea of what “overcoming evil” looks like, and it’s basically the opposite of over-dramatizing political slights and certainly the opposite of stooping to this level of bullying.

Perhaps patronizing these liberal places and being exceedingly polite and kind to the staff might be the best way to live out Romans 12 in this circumstance, and even to “win.” Yes, you might be discovered as a conservative, or as a person of faith. And then you’ll pay the bill, politely leave, and check your momentary indignance in exchange for your coat.

Buying from people who might hate you is a kind and gracious act, and refusing to gerrymander your world into red and blue zones is exactly what the left doesn’t expect or want. They want us all to pick a side to do battle day in and day out. No breaks, no safe spaces. You heard Maxine Waters — Trump officials aren’t to be welcome anywhere or anytime. Will that be the anti-SJW standard for the next Democrat administration?

That sounds exhausting because it is. One can only live on outrage for so long before his soul starts to ache for real human connections. For family, for community. For friendly waves and smiles and jokes with strangers. Perpetual outrage has them burning the candle at both ends. Yes, they’ll mold new candles out of more naive and energetic college students, and that cycle of indoctrination needs to be broken. But the fact remains, 24/7 outrage is no way to live.

Conservatives don’t have the institutional advantage of the left. Having big families is not going to cut it in terms of molding the next generation — people who really adhere to conservative values of freedom, limited government and Judeo Christian principles will always be vastly outnumbered on the national level. So if you think you can burn with zeal and “own the libs” on social media day in and day out, harassing suppliers and following lists of where you will and will not shop or eat, and do that until you die … think again. If you think that’s the way the right will “win,” please reconsider.

Beyond inducing exhaustion and spiritual decay, “let’s fight dirty” members of the Right (the cultural right, at least) would have us hurtling toward the extinction of real conservatism in any meaningful political sense. In any sense that it makes a difference outside tiny red, rural pockets, at least. By mimicking the left’s bully tactics and promoting political segregation, conservatives risk alienating and losing access to the reasonable center and center left — the ones who are more misinformed than true believers in the supremacy of the state and the justice of redistribution.

This leaves them to stew in Marxist juices (running through universities and mainstream media outlets) and shill for their statist campaigns when small government advocates desperately need people to be willing to hear what they have to say so they can gather allies at crucial political junctures. The farther they are drawn into the left’s ideology, the harder it will be to reach them.

But more than slamming the doors and windows shut on potentially persuadable minds by antagonizing and refusing to rub shoulders with members of the other political tribe, “going low” jeopardizes conservatism itself. We have long maintained that strong families and communities are the bulwark against state intrusion. We have long maintained that open and peaceable civil discourse is necessary to keep a free republic alive. We believe (or used to) in reason and facts over frantic reactionism.

Fundamentally, we believe (or used to) in a civil society where we don’t have to get everyone to agree with us or to shut up or to keep to their kind, we just have to get along and let each other be. If we abandon community for red and blue districts, if we alienate our own relatives or neighbors for voting a certain way, if we engage in a decades long shouting match to drown out the other side instead of patiently hear them out and responding with facts and reason instead of eyeroll emojis, if we bully and manipulate innocent third parties to punish political acts or statements and force conformity, if we overlook serious moral defects purely for political expediency, then we lose more than our credibility. We lose any hope of conservatism impacting the larger culture or federal policies. Members of the broader “right” who insist on “winning” will have eroded the very foundations on which conservatism rests.

Conservatives, especially Christians, don’t have any option but to “go high.” Because when civility dies, so does conservatism.