The Conservative’s Handbook: Defining the Right Position on Issues from A to Z
I am a Democrat. I like to think of myself as liberal, but sometimes I think I just say this to be contrarian. Sure enough, this book has me thinking I’m much more conservative than I say I am.
I read this because I’ve been looking for years for a clear elucidation of conservative values. I have wanted someone to explain, clearly and definitively, what a “conservative” believes and why. This is that book, hence the five-star review. It was exactly what I was looking for.
The book has problems (discussed below), but it’s comprehensive. The author – a conservative radio host from Nashville – takes each chapter to discuss some aspect of conservatism:
- “Illegal immigration is dangerous to this country”
- “Guns are good”
- “Reagan was right”
- “Military strength deters aggression”
In each chapter, he spends 7-8 pages explaining the issue, and provides ample statistics and real-word scenarios. There are a lot of endnotes, which I admittedly didn’t review, but it makes me think he has sources to back things up.
I agreed with far, far more of this book than I disagreed with. Looking over the chapter headings, the only chapter the author and I are completely at odds on is the one on climate change. I’m not as extreme as he is on unions, and his flat tax idea is simplistic and would probably never work, but that’s about it. The rest of it was pretty easy to agree with.
It got me wondering: have I misunderstood conservatives all these years? Or have they misunderstood me? Some combination of both?
There are some issues with how he writes:
Lots of appeals to incredulity. “Can you believe these people?!” “I’m not kidding!!!” In many cases, it’s obvious he didn’t write the book for the neutral, but rather for people who are already conservative. In some places it’s all about back-slapping and rallying-around-the-flag.
Lots of name-calling. Just because I believe climate change is happening doesn’t make me a “dirt person” or an “eco-moron.”
Lots “the sky is falling” doom and gloom. The world is apparently ending, and liberals are to blame.
Occasional confusion of correlation and causation. Just because X happened after Y, doesn’t mean Y caused X. Yes, after the Three Strikes Law went into effect in California in the early 90s, crime went down. But that doesn’t mean that law caused the decrease. Crime was going down all over the country at that time, and some people have even said it was caused by the legalizing of abortion 20 years prior.
Some simplistic, populist arguments, that don’t quite stand up to scrutiny. His analysis of the Australian gun restrictions of the mid-90s fly in the face of everything else I’ve ever read about that (“media bias!!!”), and it’s tough to argue that we just need to “get tough on crime” when we have one of the highest incarceration rates in the world.
Some of this got really annoying and is counter-productive. If you’re a liberal, don’t think this is an olive branch to your side of the aisle. The author is going to insult you, which I don’t think helps. He’s not interested in seducing you to his cause. He just wants to make you feel dumb.
Get past that, though, and this is a great look at the “other” side. Go into it with an open mind. You might be surprised how much you agree with.
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