Ever been there? I’ll bet you have. And there’s a reason for it.
You see, the Left enjoys two big advantages over us in debate: First, having little to no conscience, they’ll say anything—thus forcing us into constant defense mode, having to expose lie after lie. This exhausts us, while keeping us from making our points (and yes, Lefties do this on purpose). Second, since their highest goal is to control people, they know the value of hiding that goal. This they do through selectively conceding points…
…and that, my friends, is the topic of today’s article.
Before I describe this tactic, why is it the Left’s advantage? Why indeed! Fact is, this tactic works better for us than Leftists (I use it all the time), but Conservatives have come to view any concessions in debate as surrender. “Give an inch, and they’ll take a mile!” they say—and on foundational issues of principle, they’re quite right. The Left really does work incrementally, but we mustn’t let that scare us out of sound strategy. Don’t ever let your opponent dictate the game. Trust me on this. That’s where Democrats seize the advantage.
Let me show you a great example of Selective Concession (hereon, “SC”): In yesterday’s article, I ranted against a line from President Obama’s Gun Control speech in Denver. He allowed an opening, so I took it—and besides, I was furious. But most of his speech was outstanding, because it employed SC in ways that, I assure you, frustrated any Conservatives who were listening. I guarantee that many Conservatives felt outmaneuvered; outsold.
Here’s an early passage:
“From the beginning of this effort, we’ve wanted law enforcement front and center in shaping this discussion and the reforms that emerge from it — because law enforcement lives this every day. Law enforcement are the first to see the terrible consequences of any kind of violence, certainly gun violence — lives lost, families broken, communities that are changed forever. They’re very often in the line of fire. The law enforcement knows what works and what doesn’t, and so we wanted that experience and that advice.”
Notice how Obama sets up his proposals as coming from a trusted source—law enforcement. Submerging his notorious arrogance, Obama selectively concedes mastery of the topic to someone else. The result? Obama comes off as the fellow learner, not the lecturer—and who doesn’t trust a fellow learner? Fellow learners don’t control us, right?
So before even discussing points, Obama uses SC to frame himself not as an advocate, but as a humble student wishing only to share the trusted wisdom he has received.
Sound good? Oh, he’s only getting started. Let’s fast-forward:
“There doesn’t have to be a conflict between protecting our citizens and protecting our Second Amendment rights. I’ve got stacks of letters in my office from proud gun owners, whether they’re for sport, or protection, or collection, who tell me how deeply they cherish their rights, don’t want them infringed upon, but they still want us to do something to stop the epidemic of gun violence. And I appreciate every one of those letters. And I’ve learned from them.”
Got that? More SC, now reframing himself as learning from traditional opponents, not advocating against them. Moving on:
“Aurora is very much a purple city. It’s got a majority Republican city council; a majority of the state legislators are Democrat. But they came together understanding that out of this tragedy there had to be something that made sense. And so we’ve seen enacted tougher background checks that won’t infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners, but will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”
Ah, now he’s selectively conceding the notion that only Democrats have the answers. This creates an air of bipartisanship (dishonestly of course, but remember; Democrats don’t do conscience). By the way, the Democrats in his audience (which was virtually all Democrat) knew full well that he didn’t really believe in Republican virtues. As a former Democrat, I can say this with full confidence. It’s like atheist Democrats not minding when their candidates act like Christians in order to win elections. Democrats don’t care about anything but winning, since only winning can get them control over their fellow citizens.
In fact, Democrats are so well-trained in this deception, they even applaud these lines.
“Now, some say, well, we already have background checks. And they’re right. Over the past 20 years, those background checks have kept more than 2 million dangerous people from buying a gun.”
Now he’s selectively conceding an actual point—and look how well it works! Look how open he appears; how reasonable!
There’s a couple more of these coming up, but right now, I want to share how the Left views Selective Concessions: They see them as pure gold. For a skilled Leftist (not the clumsy ones we sometimes witness on Hannity), the first task in forming any argument is to find those areas of your opponents’ views that you can concede, because these comprise the gold that will purchase your victory. Whereas the Right foolishly tries to hide or evade SC, the Left seeks it out. Worse yet, when we hide or evade our opponents valid points, it only makes those points look all the better when our opponents voice them.
Basically, the usual strategy on the Right is “Debate Suicide.” We don’t see the gold. And then, we find ourselves dumbfounded by the effectiveness of an Obama speech proposing absolutely wretched policies on Gun Control.
Let me give just one more example from Obama’s speech, and try to imagine how uncomfortable and outmaneuvered you’d feel as a Republican watching this at work in a room full of open-minded, independent employees:
“How do you rebuild some trust? And I told the story about two conversations I had. The first conversation was when Michelle came back from doing some campaigning out in rural Iowa. And we were sitting at dinner, and she had been to like a big county, a lot of driving out there, a lot of farmland. And she said, if I was living out in a farm in Iowa, I’d probably want a gun, too. If somebody just drives up into your driveway and you’re not home — you don’t know who these people are and you don’t know how long it’s going to take for the sheriffs to respond. I can see why you’d want some guns for protection.”
Oh no! Now he’s conceding a point! He’s giving an inch, so we’ll take a mile!
Hardly. Obama knows exactly what he’s doing (actually, his writers do, but it’s the same thing). By conceding this point, he gives much greater legitimacy to all his other points.
Do you get the idea? SC is a miracle device; that gold lining you can find in the cloud of your opponent’s argument. Look for stuff on which you agree and lead with it—it’s quite simple.
Could I defeat Obama’s speech? Oh easily, and so could you! Throughout his speech, Obama made points that were rife with poor reasoning, and the way to attack them was by undercutting his assumptions—showing his statements to be unreliable—but unfortunately, I don’t have time to describe this here. Another time, perhaps.
Instead, let me share an example of how I’ve used SC—on this same topic. This is a paraphrase, of course—I can’t remember the whole talk. But a couple days ago, I was faced with a hardcore Leftist who was preaching Gun Control to those around him. Rather than talk over him or beat him down, I let him rage on for a couple minutes. Then, I spoke (I’ll call him “Bob”):
Me: “Bob, it sounds like you’re saying that you don’t feel comfortable knowing there are guns all over the place. Well, good! I’d be worried if you got a thrill from the presence of guns!”
Bob: “Absolutely! You never know when someone will have a bad day, and I don’t want them packing when they do!”
Me: “And of course, we want to make as sure as possible that guns aren’t in the hands of dangerous people, right? I mean, while anyone can have a bad day, we usually have knives nearby, but we don’t just grab them and start slicing away. The big concern is the crazies, like the kid who shot up that theatre.”
Bob: “Oh sure! We need background checks.”
Me: “What would you want those checks to look for?”
Bob: “Well, criminal histories, I guess. Drug use—“
Me: “—How about psychosis? You know, mental illness, psychiatric counseling—"
Bob: “Oh sure, those are important.”
Me: “I agree! I mean, every one of those recent mass killings were committed by psychotics who showed lots of signs, but we just ignored those signs because our system keeps protecting this group or that, this condition or that…we need to stop protecting groups and just look at each person.”
(Notice how Bob’s temper has gone down. And while those around us were previously being drawn in to Bob’s views and distrusting Conservatives, they now see me—a known Conservative—as the more reasonable one. Thanks to SC, they’ll trust almost anything I say—though unlike a Leftist, I won’t use that to unfair advantage)
Me: “Look, bottom line, I want fewer people being killed. But we have to keep two things in mind: First, all these mass killings happened in Gun Free Zones. Every one of these mass killers specifically targeted places where no one would shoot back. Second, none of these killers would even have thought of obeying laws that limit how much ammo you can carry. I mean, does anyone here seriously think that the kid who entered a Gun Free theatre with intent to kill innocent lives would actually restrict his ammo because, you know, he wouldn’t want to break the law? Seriously?” (laughter)
Me: “So let me ask a few really simple questions:
1. If virtually all mass killings happen in Gun Free Zones, why would we want more Gun Free Zones?
2. Until we can guarantee that criminals will be limited by these laws—and no one’s dumb enough to think that—then these restrictions will only guarantee that the victims will be less armed than those who would do them harm. Do we really want that?
3. One Senator—who happened to be a Democrat, but I’d feel the same whatever his Party—actually lectured young mothers on how much ammunition would be “appropriate” for protecting their children from intruders. I mean, is that his call? Jeez, I think that should be the mother’s call! How does he know how many intruders will enter her home, or whether they’ll limit themselves to legal ammo levels?
4. What if—before we start disarming victims and lowering the ammunition carried by law-abiding citizens—what if we instead secured our border to stop much of this inflow of drugs and violence into our country? And once we close off the borders, what if we then actually enforced the laws already on the books and started disarming these gangs and crazies? Right now, we’re securing nothing, disarming no one who ignores our laws, and instead we’re disarming the easy people who want to obey the laws—but they’re not the ones I’m worried about! I mean, are you?”
(By this point, even the Leftist was nodding in agreement--which surprised me. The others were completely won over. To finish it off, I used SC one more time)
Me: “But hey, background checks are great! Guns are too dangerous to be sold to just anyone, right? I guess my only concern is, who would oversee the checks? I mean, does anyone here wake up in the morning saying, ‘Man, I sure trust my government!’” (laughter)
Me: “So let’s get a good system in place, but let’s also be careful just how much power we’re giving to politicians. I mean, they always look the other way when their buddies are involved. I know that’s walking a difficult tightrope, but the safety of kids and communities is worth more than simplistic answers where we just disarm the easy people. We can do better.”
Understand, I’m pretty experienced in this, but you don’t have to say all the right things. What really matters is Selective Concession. Just look for that gold in any conversation--those areas where you can grant validity to your opponent, and how you enjoy learning from people on all sides—and the rest of your points will sound 1000% better!
In so doing, you won’t be giving up on your principles; you’ll be protecting them.
And maybe…just maybe…your opponents can start sputtering and stammering.