If you’re going to win in politics you first have to know what politics actually is.
Most of us believe politics is simply how we advance public policy in America, or cynically define it the way Obi-Wan Kenobi once defined the Mos Eisley spaceport in the original Star Wars: “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Those may be examples of what politics does or politics becomes, but that’s not what politics is.
Politics is primarily two things.
First, politics is faith and ethics in action. A study done by a University of Virginia psychologist said Americans today are the most politically polarized we’ve ever been in our history, and the primary reason for the polarization is a difference in morality. What determines our morality? Our faith and ethics.
Second, politics is how we conduct civil war in this country.
When we (conservatives, Christians, constitutionalists, Libertarians – all those that make up the right-of-center coalition in this country) view politics as a simple debate over public policy, and not how we conduct civil war in this country, we will lose every time. The other side understands this, which is why they ruthlessly pursue their agenda and worldview with far less concern for public opinion than we do.
That’s what is so unique about America’s political system, despite all its flaws. Most of the time in human history when a society can no longer come to a consensus on the definition of its most basic institutions and rights, it leads to coup d’état or civil war. Even our nation, which has the longest-standing Constitution in human history, has been unable to avoid such bloodshed in our past.
Thankfully, we usually end up resolving these disputes at the ballot box. Politics is a substitute for civil war, and it’s also a variation of it. For further evidence just look at the terminology we often use in talking about the nuts and bolts of politics, like a campaign “war chest” or “propaganda.” Those are terms of warfare.
No war is won by “nicing” the enemy to death.
To paraphrase George C. Scott’s famous film portrayal of General Patton: “You don’t win a war by dying for your cause, you win a war by making the other son of a gun die for his.”
To make the other son of a gun die for his cause in politics you have to beat him in the arena of ideas, and then casualties are inflicted at the ballot box. Notice I didn’t say maiming or wounding. I said casualties. A maimed or wounded enemy is among the most dangerous, for he has nothing to lose.