A Straw Man Is Beating Republicans

Chris W. Bell
Liberalism is in ascendency in the world due in large part to the huge success it has had fending off criticism by employing the straw man technique.  Any who disagree with the progressive agenda are  accused of being cruel, insensitive, out of touch, racist, or elitist.  Progressives successfully turn policy disagreements into diatribes about how awful their critics are.  And it's working- big time. 

Using a straw man refers to the practice of responding to criticism by rewording your opponent's argument into one that has an obvious flaw, and then attacking the flaw and claiming victory.

A good example is the reaction to an increasing number of school districts that are offering free breakfasts to students regardless of income.  Some disagree that the expense is warranted.  The straw man technique is to restructure the criticism from whether or not the plan is warranted to the assertion that critics disagree with feeding hungry poor children.  The topic quickly becomes the progressive's incredulity at the fact that conservatives want poor kids to starve, not why the district should conserve precious benefits by limiting them to the needy.  Conservatives usually back off in fear of being disliked, and there goes another progressive victory.

Victory in battles like this is why the liberals are entering the golden age of their power.  Those who teach our kids, write our textbooks, edit our newspapers, produce our newscasts, direct our movies, and run our city councils are mostly liberals.  That's where the real power lies -- not in who wins the next election.  Each year, our society is exposed to more liberal ideology and less conservative thought.  We can expect the shift to the left to continue as long as the left's ideas are left standing unchallenged.

Nowhere is the straw man technique more obvious that in the debate on the recent health care bill.  It's the same old story: Republicans disagree with a liberal health plan, so the liberals restructure the criticism into the conservatives saying that they don't want any of the uninsured to get coverage, and you get articles that say things like "[t]his is the shameful reality behind the GOP's rhetoric on health care. Republicans don't want to spend a penny to insure the uninsured."  Classic straw man.  Notice that this technique takes the examination of the liberal plan off the table and focuses all discussion on how horrible conservatives are.  You're either with them or against humanity.

The technique is often so obvious that it's surprising that it still works, but you can't argue with success.  Consider the recent response to Republican opposition to the policy of forcing insurance companies to provide birth control at no charge.  Surprise, surprise: the liberal response at the convention was the predictable straw man technique.  It was said that "an America in which you have a new vice president who co-sponsored a bill that would allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms ... in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it; in which politicians redefine rape so survivors are victimized all over again; in which someone decides which domestic violence victims deserve help, and which don't."  Wow, those people sound horrible, don't they?  What kind of monsters would want this?  Conservatives.

A popular straw man technique going today is to simply state that "[t]he Republican response to pleas to help the poor is to say you're on your own."  It is incredibly effective.  That way, anyone who opposes any social spending has an animus against the poor.  It redirects the argument from whether the policy is a good idea to one about how we can ever have a fair society if conservatives are around.

It's easy for the progressives to feel like elitists, because in their minds their opponents are some of the most heartless bastards ever to walk the earth.  After all, if the progressive's claims are correct, then conservatives hate blacks, the elderly, the poor, the environment, kids, women, the middle class, and most woodland creatures.

The straw man also works great in response to voter identification laws that require voters to show photo ID.  The proponents of such laws are classified as racists who want to disenfranchise blacks -- and it's easy to impugn blatant racists.  The predictable liberal response includes "Romney's support for voter suppression laws disrespects the group's [i.e., the NAACP's] entire legacy."  Here they go again: if you are in favor of requiring voter ID, you favor it because it denies the vote to the poor.  But since ID is required to apply for food stamps, does that mean liberals are in favor of starving the poor, blacks included?  Turnabout is fair play.

The straw man method works every time, and as long as only progressives use it, they'll have an unfair advantage.  Why ask why it works?  The fact of the matter is that this is our new reality, and we have to learn to deal with it.  In the future, Republicans would be well-advised to respond to the play, not the player; when they see a straw man coning after them, they should say so, and then shift the discussion back to the issue at hand.  Or they are going to need some straw men of their own.

Liberalism is in ascendency in the world due in large part to the huge success it has had fending off criticism by employing the straw man technique.  Any who disagree with the progressive agenda are  accused of being cruel, insensitive, out of touch, racist, or elitist.  Progressives successfully turn policy disagreements into diatribes about how awful their critics are.  And it's working- big time. 

Using a straw man refers to the practice of responding to criticism by rewording your opponent's argument into one that has an obvious flaw, and then attacking the flaw and claiming victory.

A good example is the reaction to an increasing number of school districts that are offering free breakfasts to students regardless of income.  Some disagree that the expense is warranted.  The straw man technique is to restructure the criticism from whether or not the plan is warranted to the assertion that critics disagree with feeding hungry poor children.  The topic quickly becomes the progressive's incredulity at the fact that conservatives want poor kids to starve, not why the district should conserve precious benefits by limiting them to the needy.  Conservatives usually back off in fear of being disliked, and there goes another progressive victory.

Victory in battles like this is why the liberals are entering the golden age of their power.  Those who teach our kids, write our textbooks, edit our newspapers, produce our newscasts, direct our movies, and run our city councils are mostly liberals.  That's where the real power lies -- not in who wins the next election.  Each year, our society is exposed to more liberal ideology and less conservative thought.  We can expect the shift to the left to continue as long as the left's ideas are left standing unchallenged.

Nowhere is the straw man technique more obvious that in the debate on the recent health care bill.  It's the same old story: Republicans disagree with a liberal health plan, so the liberals restructure the criticism into the conservatives saying that they don't want any of the uninsured to get coverage, and you get articles that say things like "[t]his is the shameful reality behind the GOP's rhetoric on health care. Republicans don't want to spend a penny to insure the uninsured."  Classic straw man.  Notice that this technique takes the examination of the liberal plan off the table and focuses all discussion on how horrible conservatives are.  You're either with them or against humanity.

The technique is often so obvious that it's surprising that it still works, but you can't argue with success.  Consider the recent response to Republican opposition to the policy of forcing insurance companies to provide birth control at no charge.  Surprise, surprise: the liberal response at the convention was the predictable straw man technique.  It was said that "an America in which you have a new vice president who co-sponsored a bill that would allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms ... in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it; in which politicians redefine rape so survivors are victimized all over again; in which someone decides which domestic violence victims deserve help, and which don't."  Wow, those people sound horrible, don't they?  What kind of monsters would want this?  Conservatives.

A popular straw man technique going today is to simply state that "[t]he Republican response to pleas to help the poor is to say you're on your own."  It is incredibly effective.  That way, anyone who opposes any social spending has an animus against the poor.  It redirects the argument from whether the policy is a good idea to one about how we can ever have a fair society if conservatives are around.

It's easy for the progressives to feel like elitists, because in their minds their opponents are some of the most heartless bastards ever to walk the earth.  After all, if the progressive's claims are correct, then conservatives hate blacks, the elderly, the poor, the environment, kids, women, the middle class, and most woodland creatures.

The straw man also works great in response to voter identification laws that require voters to show photo ID.  The proponents of such laws are classified as racists who want to disenfranchise blacks -- and it's easy to impugn blatant racists.  The predictable liberal response includes "Romney's support for voter suppression laws disrespects the group's [i.e., the NAACP's] entire legacy."  Here they go again: if you are in favor of requiring voter ID, you favor it because it denies the vote to the poor.  But since ID is required to apply for food stamps, does that mean liberals are in favor of starving the poor, blacks included?  Turnabout is fair play.

The straw man method works every time, and as long as only progressives use it, they'll have an unfair advantage.  Why ask why it works?  The fact of the matter is that this is our new reality, and we have to learn to deal with it.  In the future, Republicans would be well-advised to respond to the play, not the player; when they see a straw man coning after them, they should say so, and then shift the discussion back to the issue at hand.  Or they are going to need some straw men of their own.