Last night’s Tucker Carlson show included a spot with Nomiki Konst, a former Bernie Sanders’ surrogate. Tucker started off with this challenge: “Name one proposal in the Green New Deal that you’re aware of that would not increase the power of the Democratic party.” What followed was not a debate about policies, but rather, a tug-of-war over how to frame the discussion. This is in fact where we need to focus if we’re going to change hearts and minds.
For his part, Tucker Carlson did a pretty good job of trying to steer the conversation back to his original question, which was essentially this: “whoever administers this plan will have control over a fifth of the economy (or energy sector), will be administering the largest building works project ever attempted, will have control over every building in the continental United States. That’s more power than anyone has ever had…”
His guest, meanwhile, insisted on steering the conversation back to class warfare. In the mind of a socialist, it’s always the bankers, the big corporations, the 1 percent, the exploiters, the capitalists who are at fault. Everyone else is oppressed (even if they don’t know it).
This is called framing the conversation, and whenever we allow statists to define that frame, we lose. The leftist view of the world is utterly simplistic, but it has been very successful because it taps into people’s innate desire to identify an “other” upon which they can blame the evils of society. It draws a distinct line between the completely virtuous (“our side”, of course 😊) and the evil “other” (bankers and other rich people). This is why the politics of envy is so effective.
Workers vs. Looters
In a blog article from 2016, libertarian economist Dan Mitchell presents an alternative perspective with which to frame the class-warfare conversation: It’s really not about rich vs. poor… it’s workers vs. looters. (H/T to Ayn Rand). The real key to winning hearts and minds rests in framing the conversation this way.
Unfortunately, it requires more mental effort to exist in the world of workers vs. looters. To quote Dan Mitchell’s post:
What we have is basically the visual that I would have liked to include in my 2011 column that discussed the “good rich” and the “bad rich.” When debating those who are motivated by class warfare, I’m defending the rich in the white zone, but it would be helpful to have a way of distinguishing between the worthy and unworthy people with money.
And there’s the rub: evaluating policies in this context requires a deeper analysis; a more informed understanding of who’s who and what their motivations are. That requires effort. And in a world of limited information and abundant misinformation, it is subject to error. To someone who is intellectually lazy, it’s just too much to ask. But if we care about the truth, we have a responsibility to understand (as best we can) who’s who, what they are actually aiming to achieve, and what will happen if we accept their policy proposals.
Who Actually Benefits?
Indeed, as long as we continue to allow the left to live in the “rich vs. poor” paradigm, we can never win the argument. Which brings us back to Tucker Carlson’s approach to debating the frame: If we implement this policy, who actually benefits? Who accrues more power? And do we want to give that much power to anyone, even if they appear to be virtuous?
The next time you get into a discussion with someone who wants to expand government programs, try asking those three questions. Once in a while, it just might penetrate their defenses.
In the end, Tucker Carlson’s guest was persistent in sticking to her talking points. She acknowledged that there are corrupt forces within the Democratic party that serve special interests, but followed almost immediately with the assertion that if we endow right-thinking people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with unprecedented power, things will be completely different (in a totally great way, of course).
And so we come back again to one of the great tragedies of human nature: “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” (And the rest of us too, apparently.)
[NOTE: Dan Mitchell, who was mentioned earlier in this post, will be one of the featured speakers at the upcoming Liberty Trumps Socialism summit on April 13th in Nashua. Click here to get your tickets.]