Conservatives and the Culture War
Matt Lewis has a piece about the so-called “culture war” and how it’s become pretty clear that conservatives lost.
Predictably, conservatives tended to ignore this inconvenient truth about the culture, persuading themselves that winning elections — and ostensibly passing conservative laws (though they did that less frequently) — were what mattered. (Or maybe it was that they convinced themselves that because they could win elections — because the American public supported their politics — it implied a “silent majority” of Americans were still traditional, salt-of-the-earth types.)
In the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, Republicans did quite well electorally. Simultaneously, however, our society became coarser, more permissive, less traditional, and more socially liberal. And while politicians won elections, our young people turned to Hollywood for guidance. For every Republican elected, there were 10 films or songs (many of them quite good, actually) selling sex, drugs, and violence. Of course, this all comes down to that clichéd line about the breakdown of the family unit. It’s clichéd because it’s true.
Andrew Breitbart was a lone voice in this regard in the 2000′s, pointing out the need for conservatives to become a part of the entertainment industry hell or high-water. If we couldn’t make inroads in that area, there was no hope of winning the day.
The conservative press has largely abandoned the field of cultural criticism. Every conservative magazine reaches far more readers online than in print, but almost none of them publish much cultural criticism on their websites—and that includes the ones whose print editions have decent back-of-the-book sections, like The Weekly Standard and Commentary. The most high-brow conservative magazine, The New Criterion, publishes almost no fresh online content at all. (Cross-posts from Roger Kimball’s PJ Media blog don’t count.) Apart from the occasional blog post at The American Conservative, there’s just nothing on fiction, non-fiction, TV, or movies. For comparison, the websites of The New Republic and The Nation have whole sections devoted to books.Most conservative websites will publish pieces denouncing a film or a novel for liberal bias or applauding it for its conservative moral message, but they run precious few proper reviews. Speaking as a reader of these websites, I say it’s all right for a good writer to say what’s conservative about a piece of art, but it would be so much better to have a conservative writer say what’s good about it.
In this last election, conservative businessman Sheldon Adelson spent millions to no avail trying to get a Republican elected president. He has since stated he’s not giving up on politics and will continue to pour money into the coffers. Instapundit Glenn Reynolds has a bolder suggestion for Adelson:
My suggestion: Buy some women’s magazines. No, really. Or at least some women’s Web sites.
The thing is, those magazines and Web sites see themselves, pretty consciously, as a propaganda arm of the Democratic Party. So while nine out of 10 articles may be the usual stuff on sex, diet and shopping, the 10th will always be either soft p.r. for the Democrats or soft — or sometimes not-so-soft — hits on Republicans.
When a flier about getting away with rape was found in a college men’s bathroom, the women’s site YourTango (“Your Best Love Life”) led with the fact that the college was Paul Ryan’s alma materin a transparent effort to advance the Democrats’ War on Women claim that Republicans are somehow pro-rape. A companion article was “12 Hot Older Men Who Endorse President Obama.”
Similar p.r. abounded across the board: Sandra Fluke is a hero; Sarah Palin is a zero. Republicans are all old white men (women or minority Republicans get mocked or ignored).
This kind of thing adds up, especially among low-information voters. They may not know or care much about the specifics, but this theme, repeated over and over again, sends a message: Democrats are cool, and Republicans are uncool — and if you vote for them, you’re uncool, too.
If conservatives are serious about a comeback, this is the path to victory.