Over the course of your political life, if you’re a conservative, you have probably run into an issue or ten where the focus is a matter of morality in some way. Abortion is one of the issues, and if you happen to favor a prohibition, you will be attacked as some sort of Neanderthal who wants to impose his or her morality on others. I’m sure you’ve all heard this, and in some contexts, I suppose a few of you may have said this, and it is the standard answer leftists use when you touch on an issue where they are fearful of being undone. One of the problems for conservatives is that too often, we cede this ground without a fight, not challenging their claim, and not contradicting its basic premise either. This is the kind of bumper-sticker argument that frequently appeals to the young, and if we’re going to beat the liberals, this is one instance where me must learn to fight fire with fire.
You can almost write a script of the order of remarks in such a debate, wherein you have a liberal on one side, and a conservative on the other. My approach to these sorts of debates is now much different than it was two decades before. When I see that such an argument is imminent, I now take the step of a preemptive strike:
“Don’t you agree that as individuals, it is wrong to impose our individual moral standards upon others?”
Upon hearing this issue forth from your mouth, the liberal inevitably thinks victory is already achieved, and they smile (either inwardly or outwardly) as they wait to close in for the kill:
“Yes, absolutely, I believe that.”
It’s now your turn to smile. Show all of your teeth. Whatever the subject, be it abortion or welfare, or anything in between, this is your moment to pounce upon them with vigor:
“Why do you then impose your morality by virtue of the tax code?”
They may look at you in confusion, as the formula is somehow “off.” They don’t have a scripted recipe for this ready, and it’s not in their 1-2-3 Half-Bake Liberal Cookbook. They almost immediately and reflexively turn to the next best thing:
“No I don’t! What are you talking about?”
Take your time, as you already have them on the ropes, and do to them what they ordinarily try to do to you: Badger and mock them.
“You think rich people should pay a higher percentage, right?
“You believe people should be able to deduct child-care expenses, right?”
“sure, I uh…”
“Mortgage interest? College tuition? Their children? Their government-approved home improvements?”
“well, I, uh, look, that’s not what I…”
“That’s the truth of it, isn’t it, and you’re imposing your morality at every turn! Why?”
“It’s the right thing to do…”
“According to whom?”
“You don’t speak for everybody! Who are you to speak for everybody and place your own view above all of theirs? What sort of moral superiority do you practice? What sort of person are you anyway?”
If they’re not crying by now, it’s because they’re frozen. If you’ve done this sort of thing to one of them in front of a crowd of their friends, all the better. By now, if they’re not looking for their blankets while sucking their thumbs, they soon will be.
Now you might say that this may work with the tax code, or with welfare programs, but you might ask me how it could ever work with abortion. That’s easy too, but remember what their game is and how you must defeat it, and the answer is that you must always take the initiative from them without having seemed to have done so:
“Don’t you agree that as individuals, it is wrong to impose our individual moral standards upon others? I mean, you wouldn’t want somebody imposing their will on your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, right?”
Again, they will be a bit disarmed at this point, because you seem to be saying something not so controversial, and they will generally agree pleasantly.
“So given that, if somebody were to impose their estimation on the moral value of your life, that would be horrible, wouldn’t it? Nobody should have that right, should they? Nobody should be able to say to you what your life is worth, or whether you have a right to it, right?”
“Of course not. It’s preposterous! You can’t do that to people!”
They may even throw in a little indignant grand-standing to prove their commitment to this argument. Then it’s your turn:
“So then why do you do it?”
“Why do you impose your estimate of another human’s worth on those persons and call them disposable?”
“You’re in favor of abortion, aren’t you?”
“That’s different! That isn’t even a person!!!!”
“According to whom?”
“Well, everybody, science, law, ROE V. WADE you know, EVERYBODY!”
“You now speak for everybody?” (Rinse and repeat.)
Now you may on occasion run into the slightly more sophisticated liberal, who has thought these things through a little more than the average, and when you do, they’ll try to switch the context back, but don’t let them. Stick to your premise, and your context, and even chide them for so doing. Mockery is permissible, and in fact, preferred. If you have a really smart one on the line, an admitted rarity to be sure, since most liberals I know add an automatic one-hundred points to their actual IQs, just remind them of a few things worth noting: Screaming “everybody” and “society” or “government” and “science” does not constitute an escape clause from this moral proposition.
This is because a moral system or standard that references third parties for their alleged validity cannot be valid. For instance, saying “the law says…” is of no value, since you can write a law that says anything at all. Saying “science” is meaningless because for every possible position there exists at least one scientist somewhere who disagrees, and his name just might be Galileo. To say “society” is to argue a falsehood since none can claim to speak for “society” or “everybody” and in most cases not even “all those present”(unless you’re in a room full of liberals.)
You might say, “but Mark, but Mark, God is a third party! Are you ruling God out?” Yes, in this context, I am afraid I am, for at least one very good reason: Who can claim to know God’s mind? If you use this argument, they will throw that back in your face mercilessly, and in logic, they have a valid point. You might then wonder, if you haven’t already, “but Mark, how can you claim rights that come from God?” I don’t, and if you read my arguments in this blog carefully, you will have noted I make no such arguments. This is because lefties will naturally throw at me: “How do you know? Can you prove it?” Of course, at that point, I would be stymied if that were the basis of my argument.
Instead, I rely upon something the founders described as “self-evident.” They described it as “Nature, and Nature’s God.” You see, whether there is a respect in your heart or not for the existence of God, you must admit of the existence of Nature, being part of it, and in it at all times. It is the context and the environment in which you exist, and in which any such argument takes place. There is no avoiding it. If you believe in God, you naturally believe He created all in Nature, and Nature itself, but even if you do not believe in a God, you cannot deny the existence of, well, all existence.
Now you still may ask how I argue that with a liberal who insists that rights are not a natural construction of our universe but instead a figment easily removed by the government or a mob. They extend their view most particularly to property in all its forms, since it is their peculiarly disclaimed objective. Waive at them your billfold, or your purse, and ask them if they’d like its contents, all else being equal. If they stubbornly answer “No,” you can ask them why they insist government take it for them. If they answer “yes,” you need only say: “Come and take it if you can.”
That’s all the proof of your right that you need, but it’s also the proof of their depravity. For all their baseless argumentation, what they really condense into is a tribe of primitives with clubs, willing to bash in your skull, in order to get their way, just the same way as their ancestors, and every other miserable statist who has ever lived. Over the years, we’ve yielded far too much ground to them by permitting them to pretend morality only has one side, and only a few applications. Like your own ancestors, who civilized this world and wrested it from their kind, perhaps only temporarily, your answer must remain the same: “No.”