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Have We Lost Nuance?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

There’s a lot of room between sitting on your hands doing nothing and setting everything on fire. Things that used to get done used to get done in that space, and not much outside it. Outside it is apathy or insanity, which are not places you want to live. But life has gone from having a dimmer switch to two settings – off and blowing circuits. It’s fun to watch, I guess, but it’s not particularly helpful if you want to get things done. And I, for one, would like to get things done.


I get how people are disappointed by politicians, when they vote the wrong way or do the wrong thing. But the only person you’ll ever agree with most of the time is yourself, and even then only about half the time. It's the fight, just as much, if not more, than any particular battle. As President Ronald Reagan famously said, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally - not a 20 percent traitor.”

Unfortunately, in a world where nuance is lost, any deviation from the accepted thought at the moment is heresy and friends can become immediate enemies.

I was reminded of this yet again this week when, suddenly, the knives came out for South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. Not from the left, where they’ve always been out, but from the right.

What did Noem do that upset so many of my fellow conservatives? She didn’t sign a bill banning boys from playing in girls’ sports in South Dakota.

That sounds simple enough, it’s something she’s said she’s for and she went against it. But, like everything in life, it’s more nuanced than that. But nuance isn’t allowed anymore.

If Noem had signed the bill, it would have been immediately tied up in court and there would have been years of litigation, likely blocked by a court throughout.


Noem didn’t veto it, she sent it back to the legislature to be revised. How? She wants the part about the law applying to colleges removed. That might sound bad, and it’s certainly not what most people want, but it’s important to avoid that injunction and long legal battle because the governor has little to no say over college sports.

State governments have enormous influence over public schools K-12, but very little over private schools and universities. It might be worth it to have that fight, but it’s not a tap-in putt; it’s not a fight you’re even likely to win. If you’re facing a potential legal fight that will cost a lot and you’ve not got a great chance of winning, why pick that fight? If the whole bill is possibly going to be tossed or blocked because one part of it, why not break that part off, take the wins you can get and live to fight another day?

The NCAA is ready to pounce on South Dakota, punishing them financially while dragging them through court over the bill. So why not break off the part about colleges and get everything else? It’s a nuanced approach. It’s smart. High school is really where the issue is, anyway. Participation in high school sports leads to college scholarships. At least that’s how I see it.


Others didn’t see it that way. Noem was a traitor, or so said conservatives on social media. What had she done? She didn’t veto the bill, renounce her previous position, or betrayed conservatism; she simply took a nuanced stance. The legislature can change the bill and get it done. But it’s all or nothing now in all aspects of politics. I’m not sure who that helps, but it’s not conservatism.

Then Noem appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show Monday night, defending herself in a way I found convincing. I’d not really followed the story to that point beyond the outrage I’d seen on Twitter, but what I’d seen didn’t match what I was hearing. I realized I’d fallen into the purity trap – the idea that there could be no other way.

Ultimately, as I’m reconciling what Governor Noem had said she was doing with what was said about what she was doing, it clicked. Why not take a 95 percent victory that has severely high chance to stick over a 100 percent victory that is lost in the courts? When did a 5 percent difference of opinion bring about the end of someone’s political career or end their chances at the presidency?

Take a breath. Nuance matters. A 95 percent victory isn’t a 100 percent loss. It’s a win where you live to fight for the remaining 5 percent while enjoying what you’ve already won.


In politics, no victory is permanent, and neither is any defeat. Why waste time freaking out over the fact that someone you like has a different opinion from you on a piece of legislation? Get over it. Kristi Noem is a great governor for all the reasons you thought she was a great governor before the other day, anything else is a waste of time.

Derek Hunter is the host of a free daily podcast (subscribe!), host of a daily radio show on WCBM in Maryland, and author of the book, Outrage, INC., which exposes how liberals use fear and hatred to manipulate the masses. Follow him on Twitter at @DerekAHunter.

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