Argue stem cells on the merits
Following President Bush’s veto of funding for embryonic stem-cell research, I noticed a striking difference in the way conservatives advance their agenda as opposed to the methods of moderates and liberals.
While out of power for decades, conservatives became very adept at discussing ideas based on their merit. They had little to lose by freely debating (seemingly unpopular) ideas. Most conservatives remain idea-focused.
But liberals and moderates discuss only the popularity of their ideas, largely ignoring their merit. Ever hear a liberal discuss politics without attacking the extremism of his opponent or hailing the “mainstream” quality of his own ideas? Liberals place such emphasis on political and cultural popularity that they fail to persuade. They assume their “wide support” is gospel truth, until they start losing elections and legislative battles, one after the other.
The president’s opponents illustrated this debate tactic. Senator Harry Reid, D-Nevada, accused Bush of “crushing the hopes of millions” and placing ideology over “sound science” by vetoing funding for embryo destruction. Representative Nancy Pelosi, D-California, cited a figure saying 75 percent of Americans agreed with research destructive to embryos. Senator Charles Schumer, D-New York, said, “The president can have his own deeply felt beliefs, but he shouldn’t impose them on the vast majority of Americans who don’t want to abide by those beliefs.”
In these barbs against Bush, liberals never made a case for why embryo destruction was so essential, as opposed to the alternatives of stem cells taken from adults or from umbilical cords. The president was asking, “What is the specific merit of embryonic destruction, and what is the good in destroying one life with the intention of saving another?” These are lives, as Bush pointed out, in a ceremony attended by several children who were conceived in test tubes but originally meant to be discarded.
Liberals only cited popular will, celebrity supporters and a projection of beneficiaries. Bush’s opponents mainly attacked his motives and never effectively addressed his legitimate ethical concerns.
In pushing for stem-cell-research alternatives that do not rely on destroying embryos, Bush stood on principle. He defended his decision with sound ethical reasoning, not by citing phone polls or attacking the extremism of others. Supposedly outnumbered, he did what he thought was right.
In the long term, his is a winning formula.