Agreement Over Clarity?

One of the things I appreciate the most about Dennis Prager is his unofficial motto, “I prefer clarity over agreement.” To me, that says it all. All too often, we’re deluded into thinking whoever’s nearby and for some reason refuses to go-with-the-flow, that person must have fastened his identity to the role of loose-cannon. He must live to wallow in conflict, and therefore, to create it.

Agreement is desirable. But other things are moreso. And it seems the divide between the folks we call “conservatives” and the folks we call “liberals,” has something to do with this. Especially now. Most of the liberals I know are big on agreement, and elevate it above clarity.

So essays like this one (hat tip: Little Miss Atilla) are of interest to me…

In-fighting is part of politics. There are fierce battles for position and conflict over who gets the credit and who the blame.

Usually it’s kept from public view. But not always. The very public spat between Ron Paul supporters and the rest of the Right is a good example of a “not always” moment. So is Mike Huckabee’s lambasting of Libertarians. And Christians are being scape-goated for the GOP’s declining brand popularity due to strongly held views on social issues and Creationism.

Unchecked, the Right may succeed in disemboweling itself. Staunching the bleeding is hard as restricting faith to the heart prevents mental use of biblical warnings about divided houses. Worse, successful “kills” deplete the Right’s strength. We agree on more than we disagree. There are some very real differences and these will need to be worked out. But using exclusion as a tool in this working out is precisely the wrong approach.

To which I say…the Devil’s in the details. Truth does not smile upon the statement “we agree on more than we disagree” where the good Congressman Dr. Paul is concerned, I’m afraid. Once you’ve made agreement more important than clarity, it’s a treacherously short road to that tragic state of affairs in which the substance of what you have to sell, is nothing but a distant memory, and all you’re left holding is a package and a label.
No, the Prager dictum remains valid, for me at least. Clarity over agreement. After all, the product that is to be sold, isn’t unappealing, isn’t complicated, isn’t negative in any way…and the only time in recent memory in which it could not be sold, is this year, at a time in which the advertisement for it was muted. Conservatism’s champion was chosen as the most-liberal among the available field of candidates. This is when it could not be sold — when people weren’t told what it was.

In my view, elevating agreement over clarity exacerbates this problem. I mean, really: If we’re all supposed to agree with each other without worrying about the meaning of the agreement too much, why not just fall in line and support that new guy getting sworn in on January 20?

I’ll admit my concern with clarity over agreement is not without a bias, in fact, perhaps a bias formed over an entire lifetime. I’ve been noticing something about these folks, be they liberal or conservative, who are so overly enamored with agreement over clarity. What I’ve noticed is — they are big on clarity, too. Their message is not…let us unite any ol’ way. Their message is…let’s unite behind someone I happen to like. In other words, they tend to have an agenda that isn’t really unity. All you have to do is figure out what it is, wait until some guy who opposes it might possibly be running things, and then run over to your agreement-over-clarity guy and say “Hey, let’s all get together and get behind him!” or words to that effect.

All you get back is a dirty look.

So it’s an axiom worth pondering, that perhaps none of us are really wild about agreement-over-clarity. Perhaps that value system draws nothing more faithful than fair-weather-friends.

Here’s a thought: Conservatives could use their various disagreements to put the big reveal on this lie that there is something inherently non-accepting and non-inclusive about conservatism. They could showcase how all these different systems of priorities are united by common values, and that these values are in keeping with the original intent behind the founding of the nation. Example: Some conservatives believe the abortion issue is far more important than the fiscal-responsibility issue; some conservatives believe fiscal responsibility is more important than gun rights. The value system that unites all these positions is a wholesome, simple one…and it doesn’t have anything to do with forcing women to have babies or creating a Christian theocracy in our republic. It just says people matter. People are good, decent, capable of sound judgment, deserve to exist even if they haven’t slid past the vaginal finish line just yet — and are at the zenith of their potential when they sacrifice for the concept of delayed gratification.

You know who really needs to concentrate more on agreement here? Libertarians. I’ve noticed half the people I know who call themselves “libertarians” don’t give a rip about lower taxes or minimalist government, and just want to legalize pot.

And the big question conservatives need to ask themselves on January 20 as The Chosen One’s hand comes off the Bible — is not — “How can we change ourselves to get people to buy next time?” That’s a very foolish and silly question. Who, anywhere, regardless of their political leanings, can logically assert the electorate chose to repudiate conservatism after honestly inspecting its contents? Ten months ago, the Republican party made a conscious decision, codified during the conventions three months ago, that conservatism wasn’t what they’d try to be selling.

No, the question conservatives need to ponder is, instead, “Is this bacterial, or is it viral?” The American People have chosen someone to run the entire government, or the executive branch of it anyway, without knowing one little thing about what He is going to do. All they know about Him is that He is the product of a political-machine climate in Chicago, and He is an anti-war Socialist. If this is a viral infection, they’ll get fed up with His nonsense in a couple years. They have before. If it’s bacterial, an antibiotic will be needed.

Me…my answer is it’s viral. Sarah Palin nailed it when, asked why her campaign failed, she said it was “not our time.” That’s exactly right. Part of the reason it was not the time for the conservative movement, is it didn’t act conservative. Voters wanted to know what it was all about, and the answer their candidate provided was…a bailout. Communism-lite. The product of prioritizing agreement over clarity.

You can hardly blame the voters, then, for saying — why punch the ballot for an imitation brand? Let’s go for the real thing.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.

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