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Sometimes an Argument Can Be Correct And Still Not Be the Best Argument to Make

Posted on December 30 2010 5:00 pm
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here
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We have to know how to fire our weapons correctly if we're going to win this Political War.

Note to self: Read Zombie at Pajamas Media more regularly.

Yesterday Zombie published a must-read post titled The Five Best Arguments Against Sharia in the United States.

There’s truth in advertising in that headline. Zombie really does nail it.

My favorite point from the piece:

Those who oppose Sharia in the United States often argue their point by highlighting how misogynistic, backward, cruel and discriminatory Islamic law can be under most interpretations. And while all that may be true, it is the wrong argument to make. I get so frustrated watching pundits, politicians and bloggers making the weakest argument in what should be a slam-dunk debate that I’ve decided to write this brief outline of what I think should be the prioritized hierarchy of arguments against the use of Sharia in the United States.

This is something that should be self-evident in politics but really isn’t. Just because an argument is correct it doesn’t mean that it’s the best one to use. A musket might be able to win in a fight but it’s hardly the most effective choice.

This is something that I harped on a bit during the Obamacare debate. There were plenty of musket arguments floating around at that time. Far too many of these approaches were of the, “It’s morally wrong for the government to take money to pay for others’ healthcare,” or “The people don’t want this — look at the opposition” or “It’s not right for government to force people to buy health insurance!” These are all values arguments based on abstract political philosophy. That they’re correct is beside the point. They’re not effective at turning the minds of the undecided, barely-paying-attention, moderate middle.

Politically savvy leftists respond: “But people are dying! We need to have government step in to fix the inadequacies of the market.”  That’s of course an incorrect argument but it’s more emotionally engaging and effective at persuading the uneducated.

A better approach is to wage the case on utilitarian grounds as I did in my review of T.R. Reid’s The Healing of America where I laid out six reasons to be against socialized medicine, only the last of which was a value argument. For all the reasons my points were some variation of “This does not actually work to make healthcare cheaper and better.”

It’s more effective to, just for the sake of persuasion, agree with the Left: “Yes, of course I agree with you that if we can devise a better system to deliver cheaper and better healthcare then the government should do it. But show me one that actually works and isn’t just floating above water based on deficit spending.” It’s usually at this point in the argument where I drop a federalism argument: “Why is it the federal government’s role to do something like this? We’ve got 50 democracy experiments going on right now. Why don’t you propose a program at the state level that really works and then you won’t even have to make an argument. Every state will be eager to copy it.” But they never like this less-sexy proposal because the pursuit of social justice isn’t really about making other people’s lives better; it’s about improving the psychological wellbeing of the activist by fulfilling their messianic need to save the world.

We have a similar case here in which values arguments are being used instead of utilitarian arguments in the fight to defend voters’ will against Sharia.

This really is the way to argue the Shariah issue:

1. U.S. law is the “supreme law of the land,” no exceptions.

The specifics of what’s in Sharia law are irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whether Sharia is the most wonderful, mild and reasonable set of humanitarian recommendations ever devised, or if it’s an oppressive medieval framework for a nightmarish theocracy — or something in between. All of that is off-topic. Why? Because in the United States of America, only U.S. law governs. Period. You can’t violate a U.S. law and then offer up as a legal excuse, “Well, in Mongolia what I did is perfectly legal!” You’d be convicted, while the jury laughed.

Remember, this is a legal fight so legal arguments are what matters. And in this case the Constitution is quite clear that no other set of laws can be used that conflict with our laws.

Different tactics in different fights, different arguments in different venues, different styles of persuasion for different people.

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