They’re bright, knowledgeable guys and we debate — and sometimes agree — on many issues. Their biggest weakness is they really don’t have a clue about what the center-right is all about, and what the folks on my side of the great political divide believe and why.
This appears to be a common trait — and weakness — of the center left. While there are some on my side with limited knowledge about their opposition, in general conservatives know a lot more about liberals than the reverse. There are reasons for that.
The biggest is that in most liberal-dominated universities of the 1960s non-scientific portions were taken over by the lefties of that period. They’ve been in charge for years and they do what most groups do when they have soft jobs and little real intellectual challenges — they calcify. The history of most academic institutions, science departments included, has always been the establishment of an orthodoxy, not the “free inquiry” often claimed. You can tell by the oppressive “speech codes” many of our universities have adopted.
As a result, conservatives and libertarians (and not one of 10 liberals can tell you the differences) have been forced outside the mainstream and into their own private think tanks, from the Heritage Foundation to CATO. That gives them an incredible diversity that the hidebound dogmatic left doesn’t possess and does not even recognize exists.
One local example is the Goldwater Institute, named after Arizona’s great maverick senator. Most liberals have no clue about its core beliefs. Obvious hint — its former leader is now in Congress, Jeff Flake. A bigger one — he isn’t exactly a GOP team player on many issues, from earmarks to Cuba. Many of his good old boy Republican colleagues find him a bigger threat to them than their good old boy Democrat colleagues.
Locally, some lefties are aware that GWI doesn’t like subsidies for big business and cheered their recent successful court challenge eliminating tax giveaways for things like Walmart developments, which many otherwise “conservative” Republicans of the chamber of commerce variety slobber over.
To understand the GWI, you have to grasp economics on a higher level than most primitivo talking heads discuss. The center left gives a wide variety of options, from Marx to Keynes and still a little Proudhon. The center right has two basic schools, Chicago-monetarist and Austrian. Both advocate free markets, but the Austrians actually mean it. Best known person for the former is Milton Friedman, the latter is based on von Mises, Hayek and Rothbard. Austrian economics thrive well at GWI, CATO, and other places, but monetarists are generally ascendant within the center-right.
When you don’t really understand what your opponent believes, you tend to demonize him by attacking his motives. When you pick the wrong ones, usually revolving around charges of self-aggrandizement, you are losing the argument.
I love spirited debates, as participant and onlooker. I find them at the higher ends of conservative talk radio among my national colleagues on KVOI, Miller, Prager, Medved and Hewitt. Ironically they’re one of the few places I can find the intelligent left, and certainly not on Air America or MSNBC. I want the E. J. Dionnes and the Chris Hitchens debating the Hugh Hewitts. When two people disagree, at least one of them is wrong and we all need to know which. Stifling debate only indicates that the stifler isn’t sure who that is. I’m not afraid to find out. Are you?
Hear Emil Franzi and Tom Danehy Saturdays 1-4 p.m. on KVOI 690AM.