In terms of social usage, or in simply trying to get along with others at any level, it is usually ill advised to anticipate or speculate on the precise motives for other people's conduct. In our own social circles, we generally accord one another that modicum of respect, which accepts at face value, each individual's representation of his own motives--if any is offered--and do not insult by attempts at an uninvited alternative analysis.
On the other hand, in political and ideological debate, it is very easy to fall into a tendency to ascribe motives--motives, which in the case of foes, may be very uncomplimentary, indeed plainly insulting. Is this ever advisable? Your guide has written pieces in this Handbook that treat the psychological underpinnings of emotion driven arguments. We make no apology. We have sought to further Conservative understanding of why voices on the Left are so fervid in their pursuits, so intolerant of other viewpoints, so nasty in their rhetoric; so determined to undermine values, institutions and customs, many on our side consider sacred.
There is a place for such analysis in parochial discussions among those committed to preserving a heritage under incessant attack. But when a Conservative debates an ideological issue, or the merits of a Conservative versus a less than Conservative candidate, speculation on an adversary's motives can only restrict and contract the potential pool of possible converts to the position being propounded. It will offend those less committed, in the same manner that hearing malicious social gossip, attributing ignoble motives to one of your personal friends--or even just a friendly acquaintance--offends you, the reader. It does not persuade. It closes minds to your argument.
There were many nuances to the debate over "Civil Rights," which loomed very large in American public affairs from the 1930s through the 1960s, that will illustrate our point while, at the same time, suggest how to deal with the subject of motivation, where necessary, in a way that will not appear, to an uncommitted observer, to be unfair.
We have dealt with the 1909 Socialist origins of the NAACP, both in this Handbook (Chapter 13) and in other essays. The "Civil Rights" movement originally grew out of Fabian Socialist influences in American academia, to be later nourished by the Communist Party affiliated with the Bolshevik take over of Russia. Most of the demands that the movement made in the 1950s and 1960s, had been spelled out in the Communist Party platform of 1928. When the advocates of Class Warfare found that the United States were not fertile fields for their poison, they latched on to the race issue as a metaphor for class conflict, by which they could recruit a host of well intentioned "liberals" to travel down a common road.
Thus Communism was involved in the issue, and it was important that Conservative Americans understand what was going on. We worked personally with anti-Communist groups that exposed that involvement. Yet that certainly did not become the best argument against the actual policies being advocated. Conservatives, who relied merely on attributions of Communist sympathy to the adherents, failed in efforts to reach many who were more interested in the arguments for the changes being sought, than worrying about who was making those arguments. To those persuaded that the American tradition had been unjust to minorities, the attribution of bad motives fell on deaf ears, and appeared to be a "cheap shot."
This was unfortunate. The real argument against the "Civil Rights" movement was not that which went to motives, but that which actually analyzed what was being sought and its effect on the once cherished principles and traditional institutions of a free people. As shown in Chapter 5, much of it was harmful to the very minority interests being sought to be advanced. As shown in Chapter 19, many of its aspects were diametrically opposed to the most basic principles of individual liberty. The debate could have been far better focused on our side than it usually was--especially in the Northern States. As it was, an over-reliance on emphasizing the Communist sympathies of some in the movement, hurt both opposition to the movement and, because of parallel factors, the anti-Communist cause as well.
The Leftist attribution of "bigotry," "hate" and "fear," as motivating opposition to the "Civil Rights" movement, would similarly have backfired, had Conservatives given more attention to refuting ideological arguments, rather than discussing the Revolutionary associates of the advocates. Correctly addressing the ideological arguments would have provided a much stronger basis for explaining to the innocent, just how serious, in fact, were the Communist and Socialist menaces.
A philosophically similar debate over South African racial policies from 1948 to 1990, illustrates the same tactical error--although, there, the error was more one of their overseas friends than one of their own. Many Americans, who identified with our parallel settler history, felt a kinship for the South Africans, seeking to preserve theirs amidst a sea of other peoples. Thus when a hue and cry arose against the South African Government in many overseas quarters, South Africa was not without a substantial number of Conservative American defenders.
As the Communists were significant participants in the attack on Settler interests in Southern Africa, and because South Africa had enormous strategic importance with respect to world trade routes, as well as having an immense store of vital raw materials, it was only natural to argue America's self-interest in the Cold War, as a reason for maintaining friendly relations with the South Africans. From there it was an easy step to attribute pro-Communist motives to those critical of South Africa's "Apartheid" policies. But this argument did not reach those who had already succumbed to the big lie, shouted on campuses around the world, that "Apartheid" was tantamount to a cruel subjugation of non-white peoples.
Considering what has happened in Southern Africa since 1990, it is truly tragic that so few actually analyzed the South African policies or the reasons for those policies. In truth, they were more in line with traditional Western concepts of fairness than the alternatives, and were fully compatible with efforts to understand and codify the nature of a "nation," as well as bases for fair dealings between peoples. Many of those, turned off by the imputation of Communist motives, might have listened to a discussion on the attributes of a nation, with an historic exposition on how such truly varied nations--for South Africa is today a multitude of "nations," as that term was traditionally understood--came to be under a single Government. "Apartheid," in fact, was an effort to restore dignity and independence to those distinct nations, rather than condemn them forever to an arbitrary map, drawn by Empire builders of the past.
Another type of argument, where the attribution of unflattering motives is more the rule than exception, yet scarcely more likely to convert the uncommitted, is in debates over economic policy, where easily identifiable subjective factional interests are in play. While it is certainly relevant, and a reason for rejecting a program, if it will serve the particular economic interests of one faction at the expense of another or of the public in general; speculating on a particular advocate's personal stake in a debate is never going to be as effective an argument, as discussing the actual issues involved, free of subjective or invidious personal references.
And if in a political campaign, one feels a real need to cast aspersions on an opponent's motives; he, who has at least laid the ground work by a logical treatment of the actual issues, is in a far more effective position to do so. Prove your foe's positions irrational, ridiculous or simply contrary to the interests of the constituency involved, and then, and only then--if you feel you must--take your swipe at his motives.
A very emotionally charged case, in point, would be the debate over abortion. It does not advance the cause for ending an avalanche of legal abortions in America, if those, who want to restore the traditional legal strictures, continuously refer to those who perform or defend the performance of abortions as "murderers." While they may be baby killers, they do not think of themselves in those terms. And legalized killing has never been defined as "Murder." How much more effective we can be, if instead of insulting the morals, ethics or motives of those on the other side, we simply analyze the issue as suggested in Chapter 21.
One could make similar points over such questions as Constitutional interpretation, rights to private arms, immigration or a number of aspects of American foreign policy. Such questions have also been covered in the preceding handbook.
A final note: No suggestion, on any of the subjects cited as examples, is speculation. In a lifetime of defending traditional values, your guide has never had a problem in meeting the arguments to which he has alluded, at any time or anywhere.