One of Mrs Thatcher's great insights was: First you win the argument; then you win the election.
To win the argument, you have to make it. In the Westminster system, you make the argument for three or four years, then you have a six-week election campaign. That's when the system's functioning, which it certainly wasn't under, say, Andrew Scheer's Tory leadership in Ottawa.
But, even when it's not functioning, somebody's making an argument. Thus the fatal miscalculation of David Cameron when he decided that the Brexit referendum would be the best way to put the EU issue to bed once and for all. By then every electorally viable political party - from the Tories to Sinn FĂ©in - was "pro-Europe". Nigel Farage had been making the argument for twenty years, but, because he had no real political party to advance it, it didn't get him anywhere at UK general elections. So, the minute Cameron called a referendum on Nigel's issue in splendid isolation, it gave Farage a shot at the second half of Maggie's great formulation: He'd won the argument; and Cameron delivered up a mechanism that allowed him to win the vote.
In the American system, it is, as the Brits say, arse over tit: As Monty Python once asked, where's the room for an argument? There are no parliamentary debates, so you never see a Dem senator going at it with a GOP senator. Even more strikingly, there are a bazillion political talk shows, none of which ever features a Dem senator going at it with a GOP senator - the way that even the most despised BBC, CBC, ABC yakfests routinely feature opposing legislators debating health care or the Irish backstop or Covid response.
Instead, there is a multi-billion-dollar two-year campaign, which is all polls, fundraising, horse race piffle, telly ads for the halfwitted, plot twists of no interest to anybody normal (ooh, look, Cory Booker is up from point-three to point-four in Iowa!), all culminating in a stilted pseudo-debate tediously moderated by a pompous mediocrity asking questions all framed from the left's point of view. You'd almost get the idea that the entire racket was designed to eliminate the very possibility that someone might make an argument.
My Republican chums now tell me I should be excited because Susan Collins won by nine points and Mitch McConnell managed not to lose as many Senate seats as expected. But when was the last time Susan Collins or Mitch McConnell ever made an argument? Ms Collins is famously "pro-choice", but that's merely a label, discussed only in crude arithmetic: conservatives have to work hard to drag Susie over the finish line in hopes she'll be grateful enough to give us the fifty-first vote for some rock-ribbed originalist judge who'll discern a provision in the Civil Rights Act that means your daughter has to compete at school track against a six-foot-two hunk with magnificent cleavage and a touch of five o'clock shadow.
So now we're told that we all have to rush to Georgia for two months to focus on the run-off election because those two GOP Senate candidates are the only things that stand in the way of Biden-Harris ramming the Green New Deal down your gullet, and giving statehood to DC and Puerto Rico, thus greatly diminishing Susan Collins' importance in Senate arithmetic now and forever.
Maybe. But it really would be nice if these guys would make an argument for something once in a while, instead of just saying we're the fellows to block the other fellows. I mean, we've been here before even within the shriveled perspective of political memory: A decade ago we were told we had to back Republicans because they're opposed to Obamacare. They raised a zillion dollars, saved their seats, won total control in 2016 ...and had no plan.
It's not enough. Last time round, the only guy making real arguments was Trump: Build the wall, renegotiate Nafta, get tough with China... So he won the argument, and then he won the election.
If they succeed in taking him out, we're left with Republicans who have no argument other than process: Vote for me, so we'll save the Senate. If we save the Senate, we can block Biden's judges. So we'll save the courts, so they can keep ruling that, er, Obamacare's unconstitutional and that Pennsylvania shouldn't be monkeying with election rules this close to the big day.
Wouldn't it be easier to stand for something?
~In contrast to crap useless GOP small-ball, the left plays for big victories - like the above-mentioned abolition of biological sex, and latterly the imposition of ChiCom definitions of free speech. As I mentioned on yesterday's Mark Steyn Show, only a month ago Big Tech "suppressing" The New York Post's Hunter Biden story was kind of a big deal. Now it's all suppression all the time.
Twitter and Facebook enjoy constitutional protections denied, for example, to this website. Because they're not publishers, merely "platforms" open to all and taking no editorial position.
Unless, that is, it's unhelpful to "President-elect Biden".
So say you're a poll observer who comes forward and makes an affidavit sworn under penalty of perjury and filed in a Michigan courthouse. Unless that document is filed under seal, it enjoys legal privilege and anyone is free to quote it and cite it not just in court but in a newspaper or book or television show.
Alas, what you are not free to do is distribute it on Twitter under the ever more brazen throttling of that totalitarian weirdbeard Jack Dorsey.
I have been warning for months that, if Dems win, things will go very south very fast on the free-speech front. They haven't really won, but they're acting as if they have, and one reason they're getting away with it is because constitutionally-protected "social media" is running a one-party state.
Big Tech is just one more thing the do-nothing GOP never made an argument on. A day late and a ...well, no, they've got all the dollars they need, so even the clichĂ©s don't work with these guys.
~Back on the Covid front, it's time for more lockdown. Last night I joined Tucker Carlson to ponder the latest rules from New York and California. Click here to watch:
Tomorrow, Friday, I'll be here to answer Mark Steyn Club members' questions live around the planet on another edition of our Clubland Q&A. That's at 4pm North American Eastern time/9pm Greenwich Mean Time. Hope you'll swing by.
~We opened The Mark Steyn Club over three years ago, and I'm thrilled by all those SteynOnline supporters across the globe - from Fargo to Fiji, Vancouver to Vanuatu, Surrey to the Solomon Islands - who've signed up to be a part of it. My only regret is that we didn't launch it eighteen years ago, but better late than never. You can find more information about the Club here - and, if you've a pal who might be partial to this sort of thing, don't forget our special Gift Membership.
Oh, and if you're seriously chafing under the prospect of election fraud and attendant litigation without end, there's no better cure than booking a berth on our Third Annual Steyn Cruise sailing the Med next year - and with Conrad Black, Michele Bachmann, John O'Sullivan and Douglas Murray among our shipmates. We'll be attempting some seaboard versions of The Mark Steyn Show, Tales for Our Time, our Sunday Poem and other favorite features. If you're minded to give it a go, don't leave it too late: as with most travel and accommodations, the price is more favorable the earlier you book - and, if this post-election fiasco goes south, you'll surely be grateful for a break from Kamala.