Conservatives: Get ready to lose the culture war
Perhaps the greatest single piece of sociological, cultural and political legerdemain in the last 40 years has been liberals convincing the country that they have not moved left since John Kennedy’s death. Despite George McGovern, Roe v. Wade, the welfare state, gay marriage and now the Obama attack on religion, liberals have managed to present themselves as the voices of reason in a country gone crazily right wing. And the more liberals move left, the more hysterical their rhetoric about the right grows. At this point, anyone who claims that a balanced budget is good economics or that there are physiological differences between men and women is stamped a Nazi.
And it has worked. Liberals have dragged the country to the left. People may complain about higher taxes and Fox may crush MSNBC in the ratings, but Americans increasingly favor government spending, political correctness, politics as personal therapy with no obligation to the confinements of reason, the president as national Santa Claus, gay marriage and sex without consequence. Liberals keep getting elected to Congress — and the White House. If Rick Santorum is the GOP nominee in the 2012 election, he will lose, and badly. Obama is at 50 percent in the polls. America is becoming not just a liberal country, but a left-wing one.
Conservatives need to accept that. At this point, the healthiest thing for conservatives to do is to simply admit that we are going to lose the culture war, and perhaps the country — and that this is okay. In the great span of history, countries, empires and republics rise and fall. It’s not written that America must survive. Our ultimate allegiance is to God. But like the Spartans in the movie “300,” we can make a brave last stand that may redound positively to future generations after America, financially and culturally broken, has hit bottom.
A good example of how the liberals, who keep moving left, paint anyone who doesn’t move left as a dangerous reactionary can be found in a recent op-ed by Jack Shafer, a media critic for Reuters (Shafer is also responsible for the famous monkeyfishing episode). In “Wasting Away in Dementiaville,” Shafer recommends that the Republican nominees for president retire to “Dementiaville,” a “mock 1950s village” that the Swiss are building. Dementiaville is “a carefully staged illusion” set up to resemble the 1950s so that old people will feel comfortable. Shafer explains:
When campaigning, Republican presidential candidates tend to build their own little Dementiavilles, cherry-picking what they consider the best of the 1950s as they call for the return of cheap energy, U.S. industrial and military hegemony, a more business-friendly economy, and respect for authority. … This idealization of the 1950s persists because few who invoke the decade bother to remember it correctly. Yes, it was a wonderful decade for some, but it doesn’t take a McGovernite to point out that Jim Crow, segregation, Little Rock, and the mistreatment of women and homosexuals should strike those years from the utopia registry.
I’ve been watching the campaign pretty closely, and I don’t recall any of the candidates even mentioning the 1950s. “Few who evoke the decade bother to remember it correctly”? Who evoked the decade recently, or even in the last few years? Can Shafer name them? In fact, the people who most often evoke the 1950s are liberals like Shafer himself (the last person I recall doing it aside from Shafer was Paul Krugman). The left is always conjuring the 1950s as an example of the horror show that conservatives are intent on dragging the country back to. It’s a way of puffing themselves up with borrowed virtue by posing as defenders of civil rights. “Yes, it was a wonderful decade for some,” Shafer writes, “but it doesn’t take a McGovernite to point out that Jim Crow, segregation, Little Rock, and the mistreatment of women and homosexuals should strike those years from the utopia registry.”
Who still considers the 1950s utopian? Can Shafer quote them? What person alive today doesn’t qualify the civility of the time with an admission of the horrible racism, especially with academia talking about racism nonstop and Hollywood making movies about it every 10 minutes?
Irving Kirstol once noted that the way to become a neoconservative in the 1960s and 1970s was to simply stand still while things changed around you. Shafer is a perfect example of how the left ignores its own success. And it’s a good strategy. To acknowledge that America has changed would be to admit that the country has moved left, and to admit that is to admit that there is no risk of a return to the 1950s, that most Americans are increasingly okay with gay marriage and the welfare state, that we have a black socialist president and that Mitt Romney is not Bull Connor. And to admit all of this is to risk losing the utopia that is (always) right around the corner. Liberals will take us there if they have to violate the Constitution, reason and basic decency. It’s important to convince the people that any time a conservative wants to balance a budget or insists that men and women are biologically different, the galloping sound of the Klan is right outside the window. We now live in a world where the left calls us sexual dictators not because we oppose contraception or its wide availability, but because we won’t pay for them to use it. That, friends, is a left-wing country.
Shafer rejects 1950s authority, yet can’t comprehend that there is today even more respect for authority. The difference is that the authority we respect today is the authority of liberalism. Instead of Dementiaville, we live in Hippiestan.
In Hippiestan, the state should be able to force religious institutions to pay for contraception — what kind of crazy demented fool could hold otherwise? No one in Hippiestan recalls that Al Gore, Jesse Jackson and Ted Kennedy were all once pro-life, much less that Kennedy even wrote a letter defending his position. Fewer and fewer school kids in the schools of Hippiestan know anything about the Cold War, much less recognize names like Whittaker Chambers and even Ronald Reagan (they do know Senator McCarthy!). John F. Kennedy, a tax-cutting war veteran who was murdered by a communist and dragged his feet on civil rights, has been refashioned as a civil rights hero (the embarrassing recent tapes of his Jackie Kennedy insulting Martin Luther King notwithstanding). Teachers’ unions are gods in Hippiestan; when teachers are asked to contribute 3 percent of their paychecks to their pension, they declare that they are being attacked by fascists.
In Hippiestan, Occupy Wall Street is a mainstream movement.
Note the things that are considered by Shafer the three pillars of retrograde thinking and 1950s America: “U.S. industrial and military hegemony, a more business-friendly economy, and respect for authority.” How awful it would be to endure such things!
As subjects of Hippiestan faced with, as Shafer might put it, hegemony and respect for authority, conservatives can do little but prepare themselves for more loses, and ultimately defeat. And when that moment does come, best to go out like the brave men in “300,” holding out for faith and reason even when your own people have lost both.
Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.