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The Folly of Staging Unwinnable Fights

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Boxing gloves hanging on nail on wall

The recent controversy surrounding Kim Davis in Kentucky should not be understood as a milestone in the struggle for religious liberty, but it does illustrate a dangerous, destructive tendency among too many conservatives. The problem with her fight was that she had no chance to win: there is no way, legally or politically, to stop Rowan County from issuing licenses for same-sex weddings.

The same mentality surrounded the doomed, foolish government shutdown nearly two years ago: with Obama as president, there was no chance of pressuring him to abandon Obamacare. A third example involves the recent push by some presidential candidates to end the long-established understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment regarding birthright citizenship. To do that, advocates must either amend the Constitution or dismantle the current Supreme Court—both impossible.

If conservatives keep staging unpopular fights they can’t conceivably win, the disillusioned grass roots will lose interest in fighting—and in conservatism.

It’s more important to do right than to feel self-righteous.

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  1. Jon  •  Sep 8, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Listening to your show… I understand where you are coming from regarding “unwinnable fights.”. I do think though that Kim Davis may be standing as an example of how people should stand up for what they know is right. For too long, Conservatives have just been sitting idly by while the liberals radically change the DNA of this country. Maybe if people get mad enough, and maybe if people stop sitting by quietly and start to do what is right and take stands, maybe things will start changing for the better. People could start calling out coward politicians, voting out the bums, and making donors scared to give to candidates and groups who oppose what is right.

    • Dan  •  Sep 9, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      You think she’s standing up for what is right? By denying someone a right given to them by the federal government of this country, because it violates her own religious beliefs? That’s absurd.

      • Roman Makovetskiy  •  Sep 10, 2015 at 12:25 pm

        What country about ?
        This Country was build not by the gays for the gays. If Christians tolerate that individuals they should pray for Christians 24/7 for comfort they have, but not to “spit in the well you drink from” Another words show up yourself in meddle east… cowards wouldn’t do that

      • David  •  Sep 14, 2015 at 4:15 pm

        She is right but for the wrong reason. If it is a right, the SCOTUS has already ruled that it cannot be licensed. It also cannot be taxed. How does she deal with that? Also, the federal government doesn’t “give” anyone rights. It recognizes them and protects them, at least that’s what I learned in school

  2. Paul David  •  Sep 8, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Dear Michael,

    I’m sure you’ll be skewered, but you are absolutely right here. I personally think gay marriage is a joke, and the Supreme Court made a jackass decision regarding it…but that makes the argument a moot point for now. The only way to win the “gay marriage” battle, is like with many other issues, the fight must be waged in the court of opinion. Given the decades of propaganda, and the sea change of attitudes, that particular fight might be a lost cause anyway, and for the foreseeable future have to move on to other cultural issues (and NOT abortion either!) …but to fight this one like the woman in Kentucky is doing is foolish, besides illegal. There are fights worth going to the mat for, in our epoch, this is probably not one of them.

    Many thanks,


  3. Roman Makovetskiy  •  Sep 8, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    1. Kim Davis in Kentucky are winner and all good morale people too. You too smart to not know that.
    2. Illegal emigration is not $100K as you’ve said and here is why:
    a)Employers – jail them for one day first time if they hire illegals. For 1 week second time. 1 month third times and so on
    b)Renters – same as to employers.
    c)Free buses to borders with free food.
    Illegals will deport them-self. I am not mention Mexicans I say ALL ILLEGALS ANY NATIONALITY

  4. Roman Makovetskiy  •  Sep 8, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    1. Kim Davis in Kentucky are winner and all good morale people too. You too smart to not know that.
    2. Illegal emigration is not $100K as you’ve said and here is why:
    a)Employers – jail them for one day first time if they hire illegals. For 1 week second time. 1 month third times and so on
    b)Renters – same as to employers.
    c)Free buses to borders with free food.
    Illegals will deport them-self. I am not mention Mexicans I say ALL ILLEGALS ANY NATIONALITY

  5. Scott McElroy  •  Sep 8, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    Michael, Kim Davis may not have been able to win, but she got a few good punches wouldn’t you say?

    We didn’t get into this mess with one fight, and we won’t get out with just one either. And sure as shooting would never stand a chance by sitting idly by.

    The ones that actually DO have the power and authority to win this battle have betrayed the trust of the people. Politicians, lawyers and courts ignored the law and the people. Sitting back and watching our country, it’s values and traditions be dismantled just doesn’t sit well with some. I dare say, Kim Davis is a hero to those people.

    I heard you ask, no demand a strategy for winning this issue from one of the listeners. I do not think the strategy involves waiting for the same politicians, lawyers and courts to fix it. No, instead, hundreds if not thousands of good punches like the one Kim Davis landed. After all, she got the issue front and center again, didn’t she?

    Remember, when you embark on a long journey, it begins with one step.

    Thanks for reading.

    • Roman Makovetskiy  •  Sep 10, 2015 at 11:33 am

      Well said. 100% for.

  6. Nani  •  Sep 8, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    I too am pragmatic, but I’m a stickler for fairness. I’d really like to see Moslems held to the same standard as Christians. Somehow we have to RESPECT their religion but no one has to respect ours.

    I’d love to see the same kind of protesting from the Right as the Left when some political BS happens.

    I remember a news video where protesters took to the street and harassed Jewish owned shops — and other people took to the street and pushed back. THAT is what we need to see EVERYTIME a Christian is harassed or Black Lives Matter takes to the street.

    I can see where Michael is coming from, but I think we sometimes think it is more important to take the high road, not comprehending that the road is being broken beneath our feet.

  7. Julie  •  Sep 8, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    It is important to always be courageous and stand up for what we believe – especially when our religious liberties are being trampled on. This country was not founded on the cowardice of weak-kneed people who didn’t have the courage to fight back, but upon the backs of patriots who risked their very lives to defend their freedoms and stand up against tyranny. Fight back, and fight back hard, America! Be a Rick Santorum! Always strive to be a true hero and a patriot!

  8. Angela  •  Sep 8, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Michael, I must disagree with you, that only the fights we can win should be fought. The reason for the fight is based on values, morality and faith. Whether it can be won or not is not the concern, rather what is the right and morally correct stance. If the only battles fought were the known winners, then there would have been no reason for David to fight Goliath. I’m sure in those days, if you would have asked any one of those bystanders if David had even a slight chance, the answer would have been a resounding “no way”. We Christians have a moral obligation to follow the law of the Lord, whether we win or not here on earth does not matter. What matters is when our days on earth are done, and we reap the rewards for the life we lived and the persecutions we endured.

  9. Ben Avery Ware  •  Sep 8, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    We can all go down quietly like the Republicans did in California. Are there any left there? Any statewide elected Republicans in Washington state? That strategy has worked well. (At least Slade read the tea leaves and cut a deal for the house redistricting.) You want us to follow that?

  10. TRACY  •  Sep 8, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    I believe that Kim Davis took a stand. She decided that performing a particular act violated her religious beliefs. She assumed that the rights given to citizens of this country concerning religious freedom applied to her as a Christian just like they do to those of other faiths. Was she wrong? There was a price to be paid for her actions and she paid it. I believe our country as a whole would be better off with more people like her in it. People who are willing to pay a price for their christian values. Even if they dont believe they will win the fight. Their stand could very well inspire others to engage in debate instead of keeping their silence. I think the policy of “picking only those fights you think you can win”, has led us to where we are now.

  11. Jim Bird  •  Sep 9, 2015 at 12:07 am

    It only took one month and a couple of days to imprison the first radical Christain terrorist racist homophobe. Obama must be chomping at the bit to roundup the other several million totalitarian thugs; maybe Putin has room in his Siberian gulags. Illegals in this country are impossible to find because they vote several times on Election Day, use free services, murder people here who are then released since it’s illegal to convict them, and deep down gosh darn it, they’re really nice people. I’m so happy I don’t give a shit about this country any more; listening to apologists and appeasers in the media and Republican Party lie on a daily basis. There is no more country, civil society. Nothing ever changes for the better. We are a Banana Republic. Why not elect Hillary, she’ll never go to prison. Let her deal with thermo nuclear WWIII which has already started. I will lay you 5 to 1 odds she will not defend Western Europe a third time (actually fourth) in the last 100 years. This is my last time listening to Michael defend Republican cowards and explain why liberal thugs are really good folk. I’ve come to the realization that I’ve wasted over forty years of my life following politics, watching the news, staying current, thinking that my vote counted and thinking most congressmen were not idiots
    and thugs. I literally hate this country now. I will not be betrayed for the n’th time or donate or campaign for two-faced blah, blah, blahhhhhh ever again. My mind is free at last from literal raging hatred of what has happened to our country because, frankly Scarlet, I don’t give a damn.

    • Becky  •  Sep 9, 2015 at 9:43 am

      Where will you go?

      • Andy  •  Sep 9, 2015 at 10:37 am


      • Jim Bird  •  Sep 9, 2015 at 10:39 am

        That’s exactly what a liberal “friend” of mine said when I asked, “how will doctors, nurses, medical staff make a living under ObamaCare?” Laughing, he said, “where will they go?” He’s a small town (retired before he was 60) city planner in California who makes more from his pension, 10 years later, than he made his last year working in city govt. and of course is paid by the tax payers who no longer have jobs here.
        For me, I’m physically going nowhere, but my mind will be tiptoeing through the tulips instead listening to any media trying to figure out the exact day our economy collapses – you know, the day that govt. ceases to function, no more checks from the Govt, anarchy, rioting, banana republic stuff. I have kids and grandkids I’m going to enjoy until that time inevitable time comes. I’ll be a typical liberal – “outta sight outta mind” mentality, hate America, what a great country, huh!

  12. Gene Wood  •  Sep 9, 2015 at 7:11 am

    A caller to your show yesterday called you a leftist is disguise. I might not go that far but you are certainly a RINO. I’m so sick of this go along to get along that you push. What good is having a opposition party if they never fight for anything. Sometimes you lose a fight but you will never win anything without trying.

  13. Jim Bird  •  Sep 9, 2015 at 11:26 am

    Michael, for the record, as I sign off and leave following the world of politics and media forever in this “comment” section of your website, I wish you and yours the very best of all things good in your life. There is not one malicious fiber in you. I’ve been listening and learning from you for, I think(?), about 20 years. I even remember you being interviewed in LA on radio and TV with your book “the Class of 65” with David Wallachinsky(?).
    Thank you Michael, only the best.

    • Brian Harmon, Retired Econ Professor  •  Sep 22, 2015 at 1:48 am

      If your comments are sincere, which I have no reason to doubt, I applaud your thoughts. I too respect Michael Medved very much. As long as I don’t have to read your idiotic rants anymore, this story has a very happy ending. The conservative movement will do very well without you, I am sure.

  14. Donald  •  Sep 9, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    With all due respect on this subject, I heard your comments concerning Kim Davis’ situation on last Friday and you had two comparisons to her situation I would ask you to potentially reconsider your position. The first was the Civil Rights movement in the US. Michael, how many Blacks actually were killed before Civil Rights’ perception in this country begin to change with the national broadcast of the march from Selma to Montgomery seeing the beatings of Blacks by racist law enforcement? You see, sacrifice is key. Kim Davis’ situation and her relationship with God may have required that she be the one to sacrifice her job position to bring the attention to the issue of SCOTUS unconstitutionally enacting law…this is the position of the Congress. Last, I would like to hear your position concerning Pharoah being the law of the land in Exodus 1 and demanding that the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, kill all of the Hebrew males born to the Hebrew women yet they refused because as the Scriptures say, “But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.” (v17) In fact due to their decision to fear God and not commit infanticide the Scriptures say, “Therefore God dealt well with the midwives…” (20a). These women intentionally disobeyed Egyptian law because of their fear of God. Each of us have to make a conscious decision concerning obeying the laws of man and God’s law. Why would Kim be wrong if God has instructed her or her fear of the Lord restricts her from disobeying His Word? True, she could resign, but what if the Lord has not instructed her to do so? I would love to hear your response…be blessed.

    • Bruce Pennington  •  Sep 10, 2015 at 12:43 pm


  15. Michael Robinson  •  Sep 9, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    Your Christian convictions should not be about changing anything, it should be about honoring God. If Kim Davis, based on her religious beliefs (Bible), believes issuing marriage licenses would violate her beliefs, she should refuse to do it. Because in our country the government should not be allowed to force us to violate our beliefs to accomplish their goals. Kim Davis did not take a job she knew would violate her beliefs, that changed when the supreme court issued their divisive decree. So she could compromise or stand? All the government had to do was provide a person willing to issue licenses to gay couples. Remember she did not issue any licenses to anyone. She did not discriminate against one class of people. She refused that service to all. We live in a country where men have forgotten fighting is not always about winning, but about principles. Many people have died standing up with no fanfare or historical recognition, but their legacy lives on in those who saw and followed their example. If God approves then as a Christian Kim Davis won. That is what it really matters. We will one day stand before Him and some of us will be greeted with, “well done thou good and faithful servant”.

  16. Bruce Pennington  •  Sep 10, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    I would add another comparison to Donald’s 2: Governemt officials of post-war Germany and Japan (including several from France, Italy, Poland, ect) were imprisoned and executed for “doing their government duty, following the lawful orders of their bosses.” Executing Jews and millions of others was the law of the land. THE WORLD told them afterward that they should have refused and disobeyed those orders. They should have followed their consciences. Since they didn’t, since they did their sworn duty, we killed them and imprisoned them! If you believe that Kim Davis was wrong to follow her conscience – YOU OWE THE FAMILIES OF ALL THOSE EXECUTED AND IMPRISONED WWII CRIMINALS AN APOLOGY. I suggest you write to them and appologize for America’s involvement in holding them responsible for not refusing to do their duty.

  17. Lee  •  Sep 10, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Listening to Bobby Jindal and Micheal wonders why Trump is gaining popularity. Just listen to the whinney tone of Jindal and he sounds just like Bush and Kasick. Milk toast. Today the Republicans that control both houses of congress could not stop the Iran deal! For once since Reagan there is a candidate that is willing to kick some butt, take some names. Jindal proposes that a candidate push conservative principals forward….really?!! What the hell has that done in the last 12 years? And now at this instant Medved is asking Jindal what congress should have done to stop this deal from going forward. Once again the same old milk-toast response, control the purse strings? Really? They could not even figure out how to stop Obama in his illegal executive mandates. Anyone wonder why Trump is leading in the polls? Not excited about the package, but like that he is acting and sounding like what I’m thinking. The time is over for playing nice-nice in the sand box!!!

  18. jguy  •  Sep 10, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    Kim Davis is a government employee …as such she does not get to determine what
    she will do because she must uphold the constitution. Period. She should resign
    or be terminated immediately …… her relationship with homosexual issues are
    between her and her God…but not after she takes a government oath and accepts
    the paycheck that goes with that office. BUT….. in recent times REPUBLICAN
    Governors illegally did not enact the affordable care act and the Holder justice
    department picked the laws they liked and disliked….this is all ridiculous. Should
    a postal clerk be able to refuse to sell stamps to people he or she disagrees with
    or the local cop be able to refuse service to someone who is not of their same race
    or religion? of course not….. this is a dangerous slippery slope.

  19. Jeff  •  Sep 15, 2015 at 7:30 pm


    I have been listening to you for a long time. You said the same thing about Ted Cruz when he was fighting Obamacare. First all we had to do was win the Senate. We did. Nothing happened. I can’t think of a single thing that conservatives have won in a long time. There seems to be a lack of courage. The Democrats fight dirty. Unless people put up a fight, the America that you love will be gone. How many years can you and your colleagues tell us how much trouble America is in and not expect people who believe you to play their small part. Is the culture war that you fight everyday theoretical or is it real, requiring courageous people to participate. You should know that most of the important fights in history seemed unwinnable at the onset

  20. Jim  •  Sep 16, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Sorry Michael– you’ve taken the wrong premise (that Davis wanted to DENY Marriage licenses to Gays). From day one, Davis and her lawyer begged the Governor and legislature to ALLOW HER TO ISSUE THE VERY SAME LICENSES, but WITHOUT HER NAME OR SIGNATURE. She in no way would stop her deputies from doing just that. And on top of that, she was targeted BECAUSE of her objections (as licenses were being issued to gays a mere 30 min drive away). You’ll never see the gay-stapo forcing Muslim Bakeries, or Mosques to cater to service them (as one might get their head cut off), and in typical do nothing gutless Republican fashion, you’re happy to stand by and allow it to happen against Christians. I’m looking REALLY HARD for something– ANYTHING that the Republicans have “fought” for since taking over the House and Senate. I’m drawing a big frickin’ blank… (perhaps you can reply with all the big Republican wins against Obama here) and you wonder WHY outsiders like Trump, Carson, and Carly are trouncing mainstream (Bush, Lindsay) candidates. I’ve listened to talk radio since getting out of the Marines in 1992, and have come to the sad conclusion that the Republican party and establishment press needs an XXL sized enema, if anything to get them to grow a pair– if not, they might as well just go away and get the Democrat destruction of America over with (it will collapse, and there will be a more colonial type response with lots of dead people before the Constitution is restored). Bold colors Michael– all I’m seeing from you, Will, Krauthammer, etc. is pale pastels.

    • Curt  •  Sep 17, 2015 at 12:00 am

      There is no logic to supporting Donald Trump? You ask what we have to lose? How about the election? We would all like to see true conservative principles Instituted. I would agree that Republicans have not done a good job of opposing Obama. However, I understand the reality of the political situation makes it extremely difficult. A government shutdown will not work. Why on earth would Obama give in on his signature initiatives? He didn’t when he was actually running for re-election and had something to lose, why would he now when he has nothing to lose or gain? So, we can choose as our alternative somebody who doesn’t even start with conservative principles. Sounds like the strategy is: if you can’t beat ’em join ’em.

    • Curt  •  Sep 17, 2015 at 12:35 am

      Bold colors instead of pale pastels. Interesting to use a Ted Cruz line being as conservatives have abandoned him in favor of a blowhard who was a liberal until 20 minutes ago (still is on many issues) and has less chance of getting elected than Bernie Sanders. Tantrums are for children. It’s time for real conservatives to get serious and get behind Ted Cruz. We need a candidate that can win with ideas and not just snarl insults. HINT: “I’m going to be so good your head will spin” is not an idea or a plan.

  21. Rick  •  Sep 16, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    As much as you say you get it, you seem to be underestimating the logic that underpins support for Trump. It has everything to do with Obama’s (and Congress’) misleading and lawless behavior. Voters have been lied to over and over again. That is a fact. Why would anyone care about a candidate’s specific prescription for problem solving? – It is likely unreliable anyway. What voters can care about and should judge is the candidates’ priorities in problem solving as well as their criticism of politicians who have lied in the past. You say you take politics seriously and therefore question Trump. You must realize that Trump was not part of the scamming by U.S. politicians during the past many years. What’s to lose?

    • Jim  •  Sep 16, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      Exactly Rick– We’ve been told year after year by Medved, Krauthammer, Will, etc. that WE need to hold our noses and vote for the moderates (who in turn, either lose, or when elected stand for nothing). I’m reminded that the likes of Krauthammer and Will opposed Reagan in 1980 as well (though you’d never know it today by the way they gush). I might as well have stayed home and let the Democrat win. I’m not saying Trump is a Reagan, but you are right… there is nothing to lose. At the same time, we teach the spineless and valueless crony capitalists amongst the Republican party their time is up. Someone needs to start reversing this mess, and Jeb!, Krispie Christie, and Gang of 8 Rubio, etc. aren’t going to even try…

      • Curt  •  Sep 17, 2015 at 12:03 am

        Trump is no Reagan. Gee you think? I’m so weary of hearing folks complain that they had to hold her nose to vote for the Republican candidate. Tell me, who would you rather have voted for last election? The field is wide open? Tell me. Donald Trump?

    • Curt  •  Sep 17, 2015 at 12:01 am

      There is no logic to supporting Donald Trump? You ask what we have to lose? How about the election? We would all like to see true conservative principles Instituted. I would agree that Republicans have not done a good job of opposing Obama. However, I understand the reality of the political situation makes it extremely difficult. A government shutdown will not work. Why on earth would Obama give in on his signature initiatives? He didn’t when he was actually running for re-election and had something to lose, why would he now when he has nothing to lose or gain? So, we can choose as our alternative somebody who doesn’t even start with conservative principles. Sounds like the strategy is: if you can’t beat ’em join ’em.

    • Brian Harmon, Retired Econ Professor  •  Sep 22, 2015 at 2:05 am

      In your conclusion you state that “Trump was not part of the scamming by U.S. politicians during the past many years.”
      That is clearly not true, since he gave money to Nancy Pelosi and numerous other enemies of freedom. That certainly should be considered taking part in “the scamming by U.S. politicians during the past many years.” Wouldn’t you say?
      Trump shares the guilt for all the horrible things that Pelosi and her pals did to America.

      • Yochannan  •  Sep 22, 2015 at 2:57 pm

        Written by a person who obviously has never had a business dealing with Government agencies. Anyone in the construction or development industry would know that it would be almost impossible to be successful in business if one didn’t play the game of liberal Government and its agencies. Trump knows that, and he knows how to play their game….pay-off is the only way to get anything done in the Construction/development industry, or to become successful with government agencies or Banks. You are expected to pay-off those that can kill your projects. It is an example of the corruption existing with those holding Government positions in America. Only the likes of those in business like Trump will recognize that. We need an Executive in the Executive office like Trump. He will make America profitable.

  22. Irwin  •  Sep 18, 2015 at 1:26 am

    Michael, in disagreeing with you that Republicans should only fight the battles they can win, I echo and should add to what “Angela” (Sept 8) said. Battles can have both short-term and long-term goals.

    Remember that Rosa Parks was guaranteed to lose (short term), as were the lunch counter sit-ins. They continued their seemingly losing battles, getting their message out and wearing the opposition out until they finally won.

    The conservatives must continue to battle for principles even in a losing cause (short term) because if they don’t continue the fight, their message will never reach and change the minds of sufficient of their opponents to gain a victory (long-term). The key is not to fight one losing battle and quit but to fight battle after battle, wearing down the opposition and spreading the conservative message to more and more people until eventual victory.

  23. Rizzo  •  Sep 19, 2015 at 8:10 am

    This is absurd, the notion of an “unwinnable” fight. Liberals NEVER consider their positions as being “unwinnable”. For that reason, America is where it is. Republicans are consistently unwilling to fight for our beliefs and for what we know is right. Michael, it is because of you and people like you, that we even have the notion of an “unwinnable fight”. You only want to fight, when you believe victory is assured. Throughout history, America has fought, not because of the assurance of victory, but because the fight was worthy and necessary. The fight for religious freedom, is worthy and necessary.

    Perhaps, we can borrow a tactic from the left and declare cities all over America, as Sanctuary Cities for religious freedom.

  24. Brian Harmon, Retired Econ Professor  •  Sep 22, 2015 at 2:17 am

    This is no time to gloat, but now Kim Davis has been released from jail and the state is considering a compromise in which he will keep her job while still holding true to her principles. Maybe her point all along was that she should not be required to sign the marriage licenses herself if her assistants were willing to do so. If the state government goes along, she has won a small battle for religious freedom and the reasonable accommodation of religious belief. I
    However, if her goal was the immediate end to gay marriage, you are right, she was guaranteed to lose.

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