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.

Helen Rittelmeyer writes about the lack of culture analysis and critique in today’s journals of conservative thought: (Hat tip: RealClearBooks)

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.


Of Think Tanks and Ox Hides: Jim DeMint and Conservative Scholarship

So the best Senator in the U.S. Senate, South Carolina’s Jim DeMint, surprised everyone last week by resigning his seat to take the job as President of conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation. While it’s disappointing he won’t be leading the sane-wing of the Senate any longer, his move is probably the right one. First off, it has to be emotionally draining to be the voice of a minority within a minority. DeMint wouldn’t “play ball” which meant he wouldn’t buckle to the Democrats and abandon his principles. He also created headaches for the elite GOP by backing conservative candidates for the Senate. Yes, you can debate the notion of whether it’s better to back “winnable” candidates over more conservative candidates and there were certainly duds, but imagine if Charlie Crist were the Republican Senator from Florida right now?

Second, while it’s a long shot, DeMint can probably do more for the conservative movement at Heritage than he can in the Senate, which shows you just how far the Senate has fallen in prestige and legitimacy. Nevertheless, what we know from this past election is that the public is woefully uninformed. You can only do so much to educate the public, but let’s not forget that if a particular 407,000 Obama voters had instead voted for Mitt Romney, he’d be president. If DeMint and Heritage can hone in on that, who knows?

Of course, the Washington Republican elites are glad to see him go so they can get back to the business of rubber-stamping the Democrat agenda. I especially love this bit from Jennifer Rubin:

Let me first explain why this is very bad indeed for Heritage. Even DeMint would not claim to be a serious scholar. He is a pol. He’s a pol whose entire style of conservatism –  all or nothing, no compromise, no accounting for changes in public habits and opinions — is not true to the tradition of Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk and others. By embracing him, Heritage, to a greater extent than ever before, becomes a political instrument in service of extremism, not a well-respected think tank and source of scholarship. Every individual who works there should take pause and consider whether the reputation of that institution is elevated or diminished by this move. And I would say the same, frankly, if any other non-scholarly pol took that spot.

Yes, not a serious scholar. Our modern-day serious scholars have done such a bang-up job for the movement, haven’t they? Look at Bill Kristol. He’s just going great-guns right now. I’m not an expert on Burke or Kirk, but did they really argue for compromising with parties who negotiate in bad-faith? Maybe they did. I’m not a conservative scholar either, but I do know that living in a Republic I very much yearn to have some representation. Though I don’t live in South Carolina, I always felt DeMint represented me more than anyone in my sorry state.

Heritage seems like a great organization, but in light of recent events maybe it’s time for some new thinking at the ol’ think tank? Or is that not the point? Maybe it’s not about elections or an informed public but just sitting around and saying “we’re scholars!” that’s more proper and right. Let’s write a bunch of scholarly papers that can published in scholarly journals read only by scholars like us and then hope the rest of the world comes around. That’s academia in a nutshell, no?

With that in mind, let me leave you with a quote from this website’s namesake, Zarathustra (i.e. Nietzsche):

For this is the truth: I have moved from the house of the scholars and I even banged the door behind me. My soul sat hungry at their table too long; I am not, like them, trained to pursue knowledge as if it were nutcracking. I love freedom and the air over the fresh earth; rather would I sleep on ox hides than on their decorums and respectabilities.

Thus Spat Zarathustra

Rick Santorum v. Individualism

A nice catch by Jim Hoft over at Gateway Pundit of some Santorum remarks to NPR in 2008:

This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues.

That is not how traditional conservatives view the world. There is no such society that I’m aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.”

Sorry folks, but that’s a deal-breaker for me. Maybe other candidates I’ve voted for in the past felt the same way, but they were a lot better at hiding it. Santorum has been making in clear that he is an implacable enemy of libertarianism. That’s his right but I’m not going to vote for it. No promises but if he is the nominee in November I might have to pull the lever for Gary Johnson. But like I say, a second Obama term would be so damaging I might have sell part of my libertarian soul.

What a freakin’ mess.

Mitch Daniels Out

Not too long ago, he looked like the great GOP/Tea Party hope: a Midwestern governor who had his state running like a well-oiled machine; conservative; dull; just what America needs after four years of megalomania. Then he started making odd statements…saying social issues should take a back seat; generally I agree with that, but there’s no reason to pronounce it when you need the support of social conservatives; and saying he couldn’t really debate Obama on foreign policy. Folks, I could debate Obama on foreign policy and win in a route. Thus, his star began to fade, but what ho? The establishment, elite GOPers started to love him. Yikes! Now we find out (supposedly) that his wife doesn’t want him to run. Look, I’m no more sexist than any other man but this doesn’t exactly help his alpha-male rating.

So it’s probably for the best that he has decided not to run. Jeff Goldstein over at Protein Wisdom explains why better than I can: (emphasis mine)

The truth is, at some other moment in time, Daniels may have made a good GOP candidate. But this is an election where, win or lose, conservatives have to make their case and present a clear, unambiguous, and unapologetic defense of liberty, individualism, free market capitalism, natural rights, and the rule of law proceeding from the Constitution. Whether you like Daniels or not — and many swear by him — it is clear that his particular worldview is that conservatives must bracket social and “wedge” issues; strain to be liked (as opposed to merely being likeable); and bend over backwards to understand and in some ways accommodate the opposition.

This was the same counsel we received by a cowed GOP establishment in 2008 after McCain, who ran just such a campaign, was soundly whipped. And it’s the same advice being repeated back to us — by mostly those same people — that we’re to heed now that the 2012 election season is in its infancy, lest we be marginalized as extremists and rhetorical Visigoths.

No offense, “pragmatists.” But pound sand. We need to wake Americans up and give them a definitive choice. Those who would tell us the era of Reagan is over — that conservatism / classical liberalism itself needs be re-imagined as a sort of big government, low-tax “compassionate” nannystate — are not among those opinions we should bother with.


Time To Take A Deep Breath And Remember History

This Delaware Senate race has led to a lot of debate and hurt feelings in the punditry. Allahpundit, Dan Riehl, Mark Levin, Ace, Patterico and many others have been mixing it up over what are (or were) the right moves in this and other primaries. This inevitably has led to arguments over purity of the party and the role of the moderates, and of course the moderates are crying they’re an “endangered species” and there are fears the party will strive for “purity” so much the GOP will lose elections that could easily be won with people like Mike Castle.

Now is the time to take a deep breath and remember that the political mood at any given point in history is fleeting. Remember how conservatives thought in 1994 that they’d finally won the political wars once and for all? Remember just two short years ago these same conservatives thought socialism was unstoppable?

Of course you do.