Why have we lost battle after battle for at least the past century?
It’s because we tend to make the good the enemy of the perfect, the pragmatic the enemy of the ideal.
To be clear, it’s because the most passionate among us have adopted a rigid, dogmatic, uncompromising “either-or” stance in the fight.
Rather than winning hearts and minds in the trenches inch-by-inch, we drop rhetorical nuclear bombs and make enemies of potential supporters.
There’s one critical distinction that explains this tendency and, if understood, can overcome it and make all the difference to our success:
Do we view the fight for freedom as an election-cycle battle, or as a 100-year war?
These vastly different mindsets generate completely different strategies and tactics and produce completely different results.
If we view the fight as an election-cycle battle, the battlegrounds are primarily political and governmental.
The tactics include:
- Public, energetic, and angry marches and demonstrations
- Passionate, vitriolic, and partisan commentary that preaches to the crowd and riles the base but fails to win new supporters
- Literal, logical, and personal argumentation
- Directing energy primarily at getting individual political candidates elected
But in a 100-year war, the battlegrounds are cultural and educational, and the short-term tactics above shift to the following long-term strategies:
- Personal, lifelong, classical education in the quiet of our homes
- Respectful, thoughtful, open-minded discussion with people across the whole spectrum of belief, with the intention of winning hearts and minds, rather than simply spewing passion or proving how smart and “right” we are
- Symbolic, metaphorical, and artful story-telling and persuasion
- Directing energy toward reforming education, building families and communities, and becoming successful entrepreneurs (see the three choices in FreedomShift by Oliver DeMille)
In a 100-year war, we moderate our passion and smarten our strategy.
We heal the roots of our demise, rather than hacking at the symptomatic leaves.
We reform from the outside-in and bottom-up, rather than the top-down. In other words, we focus on fixing ourselves, rather than Washington.
We understand that studying Montesquieu in our homes is far more effective than waving banners in the streets.
We spend our time and energy teaching the rising generation the depths of freedom and political philosophy, rather than debating opponents in chat rooms and on radio and TV shows.
We build successful small businesses, rather than complaining about losing jobs overseas.
In a 100-year war, idealism and pragmatism aren’t mutually exclusive. We’re more concerned with direction than destination.
In other words, we don’t reject particular policies because they’re not ultimate, black-and-white ideals.
Rather, we judge them based on whether or not they take us closer to the ideal, however slight the progress.
In a 100-year war, we learn and teach principles, rather than fight candidates.
To be perfectly clear, we don’t waste time forwarding mass emails about the status of Obama’s birth certificate.
Most importantly, in a 100-year war, independent freedom lovers create an inclusive tent, rather than an exclusive club.
For example, many conservatives denigrate environmentalists, or as they’re disdainfully labeled, “tree-huggers.”
But many of these environment-conscious, thoughtful people are also highly-conscious and passionate about local, organic food production and sustainable agriculture — which is a primary battleground for freedom.
So rather than building on common beliefs and bringing these people into the tent of freedom, many conservatives banish them with narrow-minded labels.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is also a favorite target of many conservative commentators.
But wise freedom-lovers would do well to harness their energy.
The truth is that they raise a critical point that most conservatives fail to see: Vast inequities in wealth distribution and power are, in fact, killing America — every bit as much, if not more so, than governmental wealth redistribution from rich to poor.
The government does favor those with capital over those with little or none, big businesses over small businesses, which creates these unfair and unsustainable inequities.
We don’t have to occupy Wall Street with them, but we can at least be wise enough to recognize where we agree in order to work together toward a more free, just, and sustainable society.
We can start winning more friends and creating fewer enemies. We can be pragmatic coalition-builders, rather than dogmatic clique-builders.
I’m as passionate about freedom as anyone — freedom is my mission.
But passion alone isn’t going to win the fight for freedom.
The war will be won through wisdom.