It’s hard to be right when arguing with the right

When you look at the rhetoric and policies of the American left, a noticeable trend appears in the way liberals attempt to engage with the right. Specifically, liberals tend to be interested in reason and the effectiveness of compromise, believing that their political opponents have good intentions, but different ideas for their implementation.

While it may be true that the average conservative on the street has good intentions, their beliefs come from people who very much do not. The ideology and rhetoric of the American right are based on one thing — maintaining a status quo that exists to exclude essentially anyone from power and security who falls outside the lines of white, cishet and male. Conservatives scoff at this and accuse the left of making radical attacks based on a mere difference of opinions, but I’m fed up with pretending they have any rhetorical leg to stand on.

Conservatives’ rhetoric shows that their ideas are not raised in good faith. For example, the House of Representatives passed the Respect for Marriage Act this year, the aim of which is to codify the protection of same-sex marriage into law. 77% of House Republicans voted no and justified it with unbelievable mental gymnastics, such as North Carolina representative Dan Bishop, who called it an attack on Americans who hold traditional views of marriage. This seems like an almost impossible conclusion for a Constitution-loving Republican to arrive at, considering freedom of religion is guaranteed by the First Amendment, but that apparently doesn’t matter.

That issue hardly stands alone when it comes to inflammatory Republican rhetoric. When people raise genuine concerns about the wave of anti-trans legislation pushed by Republicans nationwide, Republicans such as Ron DeSantis have accused them of pedophilia and child grooming. When people raise concerns about an abortion ban’s effect on women’s rights, Republicans have accused them of supporting murder. When there was a push to improve public education about America’s racist past and its effect on the present, Republicans fought tooth and nail to demonize critical race theory and accuse the left of being racist against white people.

Through this type of rhetoric, Republican politicians and pundits have managed to convince tens of millions of people to ignore all evidence against the notion that their ideas are benevolent when their rhetorical strategies betray the fact that their primary interest is to preserve social hierarchies conservatives have perpetuated for centuries. Considering a significant number of conservative ideologues studied at schools such as Harvard and Stanford in fields explicitly related to politics and history, you’ll have a hard time convincing me they don’t know exactly what they’re doing.

As such, it is unproductive to act as if the only difference between the American left and the American right is perspective when conservative rhetoric proves to be consistently inflammatory and violent. Trying to defeat them in the marketplace of ideas will only allow them more of a platform to spread this rhetoric, and trying to compromise with them is similar to trying to get a brick wall to move out of your way.

With all of that in mind, it’s maddening to see people on the left try to dumb down their own ideas or make them more moderate to appease the right when all that accomplishes is decreasing their effectiveness. Powerful conservatives don’t care how moderate the American left makes itself because they know they can get away with calling them socialists and radicals anyway, so there is absolutely no disadvantage to fighting back with policies that are actually effective.

This doesn’t mean liberals and leftists should cut all conservatives out of their lives (unless their presence is harmful or dangerous) because the Republican base being isolated from people who have different views is not a solution. What it does mean is that, when it comes to political engagement, it’s time for the American left to care much less about what conservatives think and to care more about victory in the realms of social and economic justice above all else. Organize, look into mutual aid and pay attention, because making a real change means winning where it really matters.