A Lack of Nuance
Having recently railed against the “establishment”, it’s time for a crack at the base.
As I have previously asserted, the base is allergic to compromise. While this idea is widely taken as a given among the establishment and the Left, few take the time to analyze the behavior. The problem is actually a somewhat broader aversion to nuance. Outrage fuels donations, and donations pay the bills, so there’s somewhat of a negative incentive for base-oriented groups to promote nuance. But a lack of nuance can often inhibit constructive conservative policy movement.
A thought experiment: What if Democrats credibly and convincingly offered to cut Federal spending to such a degree that the budget would come into immediate balance, and also could somehow fix the Federal entitlement problem. In exchange, Republicans would agree to a one percent increase in the personal income tax. Do we take the deal?
True, the parameters of the thought experiment are absurd on their face, but for the sake of argument, take it for what it is. We’d be fools not to take this deal, right?
Whoa, now! Once you start to entertain this deal, you’re “for” raising income taxes.
Well, no, you weren’t really “for” it. You were willing to make a concession in order to get a number of other things that you wanted and thought were more significant.
Take a more realistic issue, immigration. The moment a Republican starts having any sort of conversation about immigration reform, he is blasted as being “for” amnesty. (The opponents of immigration reform use the term “amnesty” rather promiscuously, but for the sake of argument, I’ll use it here and not bother about details of what does or does not constitute “amnesty”.)
Understand that, to the Left, some form of amnesty is a sine qua non for any concessions on significant border security improvements, employment e-Verify, or – heaven forbid – voter ID. You don’t even begin to have negotiations about how to deal with millions of illegal immigrants until you lay your amnesty bargaining chip down on the table.
But by reacting violently to this potential offer of amnesty as something we could consider giving up in order to get a better outcome, the base makes this a question of amnesty vs non-amnesty, not a question of what we could possibly get in exchange for amnesty. When we put the focus on what we get in exchange for amnesty, we put the Democrats on the defensive. When we focus on whether to offer amnesty at all, we make ourselves irrelevant, and the status quo reigns.
To be fair, Republican politicians have a history of being cheap dates. I dare say though, it wouldn’t kill us to “show a little leg” on this issue. I’m not “for” amnesty, I’m for using the offer of amnesty as a means of getting more significant concessions from the other side and for (hopefully) putting the issue behind us. If we get a bad offer in return, we walk away and blame the Democrats for not being serious and for keeping people in the shadows unnecessarily.
Unfortunately, nuance requires trust, which is in short supply.