This morning the Tea Party’s Facebook feed has another “bad Obama” posting. Various conservative groups run this sort of thing almost weekly. The latest is a repeat of how “bad” Obama is because he vacations in Hawaii and he’s off to do it again soon and it costs $4 million and “ew, isn’t that horrible”. It reads like something you’d find in a sensationalist rag right below the newest bat boy sighting; rhetoric that attracts lemmings and does nothing to change minds.
I listened to a CATO podcast last week entitled “Be Charitable to Your Opponents’ Views” and it changed the way I argue about things like this. It’s my hope that all who listen get as much out of it as I did. It made such a huge impact in the way I think I’ve left it in my RSS feed to listen to again.
This latest Tea Party posting is an excellent example of how we (fiscal conservatives) are phrasing arguments without insight or intelligence. Instead of arguing on an emotional level, we need to make reasoned arguments on why we see the philosophy behind the behavior is misguided. We need to make the opportunity (and argument) to change minds instead of just collecting nods from those who already agree with how we feel.
Here’s the cut to the chase piece on this “Obama wasting tax payer money on vacation” rhetoric. Before we can hope to make a reasoned argument about it, we must understand how Obama thinks. He believes in wealth redistribution and Keynesian principals of stimulus. When we start with that premise, we understand he thinks he’s doing a good thing, stimulating the economy. By shortsightedly couching the argument as “Bad Obama”, we’re spouting unconvincing conservative rhetoric. People who don’t think the way we do immediately stop listening and we’ve lost the argument.
So, the conversation needs to be rephrased. We need to make the reasoned Hayek versus Keynes argument. We need to educate. We need to explain why spending of tax payer money on vacations (or most everything else the government does) is based on proven flawed reasoning and the result is a reduced economy.
We’re failing because we’re voicing the message ineffectively. We need to argue the principles behind the philosophy and why they’re wrong. We need to shy away from the bat boy sighting rhetoric.