While human beings are capable of reason, they are rarely ever reasonable.
But if you tell them that, or worse, if you actually prove it to them, they will not thank you for the valuable undeception. They will get offended, and they will have proved your point, albeit unwittingly. They do not know that they are wasting time being offended, time they could have spent thinking. Their over-weaning sense of grievance and offense has been highly refined; their skill at rational analysis has not.
Reason is but one of the many things that drive human beings, and it is normally not the strongest. Human beings are also creatures of habit, of appetite, of prejudice, and of passion. More importantly, they are creatures of incentive. If you wish to move human beings, and moving human beings is the fundamental political action, then you must place effective incentives before them. Because human beings are not primarily mind-driven, more often than not that effective incentive won’t be a rational argument or anything like it.
The American voter is not capable of sustained rational analysis, and doesn’t care to be. That’s not the lure that draws them. That’s not the bait that brings them to the hook. Only a few get reeled into the electoral boat by rational analysis and a recitation of accumulated historical precedent.
The rest feed on other things. They are not convinced so much as they are bought. To win an election, you must promise them what they want and give them a short slogan in which to wrap it. That slogan doesn’t have to be true, just superficially plausible. Any half-true truism will do.
Deeper than that you must not go.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t make an argument. Of course you should. Some folks live at that level and must be reached. Most do not. But they think they do.
You won’t win postmodern elections with esoteric discussions on degrees of constitutionality or on monetary theory, important as those are. Reality won’t permit it. The average presidential sound bite in a news cast is about 6.5 seconds. What can you say in six seconds except “Vote for me. I care, and I want to give you something?”
Politics is not the lofty enterprise some think it is. It’s dirtier and more crass than that. America is not a nation of unbiased intellectuals seeking for truth, and it doesn’t want to be. It’s a nation of self-absorbed sinners who crave little more than personal peace and affluence. They want what they want when they want it. Then, after you give it to them, they want to be left alone to do as they wish, not as they ought.
If you don’t know that about American voters, you won’t win elections. If you don’t know enough to appeal to human sloth and craven self-regard, you don’t know politics because you don’t know people.
Do not forget that America voters were educated in American public schools, where the Gospel of John is banned and Heather has Two Mommies is required; where sincerity, not achievement, is the measure of success; and where you get trophies just for trying. Then, after twelve years of this self-indulgent, brain-numbing, soul destroying, secularist propaganda, they go on to state-funded (and therefore state-controlled) universities, where the government decides the guidelines by which students are enrolled, teachers are hired, and classes are taught, universities from which they get advanced degrees in leftist group think and learn falsely to believe they are intellectuals who follows the evidence wherever it leads rather than lemmings marching resolutely to destruction.
Those are the voters to whom you must appeal or else you will lose. Your political fate rests with them. Most of them don’t want to hear your arguments. They want a Coke in one hand and a candy bar in the other. Whoever gives them the goodies first and best wins.
This is what the political application of the Christian doctrine of human depravity looks like. Don’t forget it.
Now, about 2014, what’s your plan?