Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Way Ahead

     Charles Krauthammer just commented on Fox News that the Republicans do not have a structural problem, that the Obama victory was because of a few tactical blunders by the Romney campaign in the last few weeks. I can only disagree. If he were right, the Republicans would have gained seats in the Senate instead of losing them. Also, the presidential race would not have been close at all. The Republicans really do face a crisis, and the way they choose to resolve it will profoundly affect the future of the United States.

     The basic problem for Republicans is that most of the country is no longer in any meaningful way conservative. Throughout the past fifty years the country has moved consistently Leftward, with only two short opposite swings of the pendulum in the early 1980s and the early 2000s. Neither swing did much more than stall the overall movement for a short time. In dress, speech, and manners; in music and morals; and most spectacularly in religion, the country has shifted so far to the Left that today’s liberals routinely repudiate positions taken by their counterparts just two decades ago. A few traditionalists remain, but they hardly speak for the modern, fiscal conservative.

     With a shift of this magnitude, the Republicans might appear to have only two possible futures: continue to accommodate the Left and remain politically relevant on the margin; reject Leftist values and vanish like the Whigs. The part of the Party represented on Talk Radio will probably double-down its ostensible conservatism (though to a traditionalist such people barely appear conservative). The part of the Party residing inside the Beltway will probably support moderating the message, and will try to channel funds toward those candidates even more liberal than Romney in his political youth or Senator Scott Brown today. My strong suspicion is that neither plan, by itself, will be of much use.

     As noted, the country is drifting more to the Left every year. As long as that remains true, then the full volume conservatism of Talk Radio will only alienate more of the general population. At the same time, a kinder, gentler conservatism will never succeed in being more Leftist than the Left. As long as the ideas of the Left remain dominant in public discourse, the Left will continue to pummel conservatives at the ballot box. To solve the problem for Republicans requires understanding why the country is enamored of Leftist ideas in the first place.

     For more than a lifetime now, the Left has controlled all the wellsprings of popular entertainment, whether music, movies, or television. The Left has also controlled every public school and university, along with many of the private ones. The news media now transparently shill for the Left and protect Leftist politicians. In this environment, the American public can only encounter ideas that amount to politically correct, hard Left propaganda. The average American is exposed to a toxic drip, day by day, of Leftist ideology. Add to this the machinery of Big Labor, and it is a wonder any Republicans can get elected anywhere. (The House appears to have been saved only by shameless gerrymandering after 2010; ironically, the Senate appears a better measure of public political sympathies.)

     As long as the schools and universities remain Leftist, they will continue producing Leftist journalists (as well as judges committed to judicial chicanery). As long as the entertainment industry remains Leftist, it will continue corroding public values. Culture leads politics. Unless he is running in a safe House seat, a conservative candidate must either appeal to a Leftist electorate or simply lose. This is the dilemma of the Republicans.

     There is a solution, a way of slipping between the horns of the dilemma. Paul Ryan alluded to it in a speech somewhere along the line. As he put it, leaders change polls. Conservatives—never mind the Republicans—have to make the case for conservatism to the public at large. And, if they are to have a hope of success, they must start at the twin sources of Liberal orthodoxy: entertainment and education. Theirs will be a program requiring more patience than the Global War on Terror. It will last for more than a generation and quite possibly more than two. Bit by bit, conservatives will have to insinuate themselves and their ideas into the entertainment industry. They will have to make films and music and television programs with a deliberately conservative bent. They will have to make such things so as to appeal to large numbers of Americans, who must be shown conservative values in a positive light. Conservatives will also have to break the teachers unions wherever possible, to loosen the stranglehold such unions have on teachers themselves. They will have to confront liberal bias in academia, and support conservative professors wherever they can be found. And if they succeed some day in taking back Hollywood, in taking back the universities, and in taking back the judiciary as a result, they will have threaded a needle more difficult than the one Mr. Romney failed to thread tonight. As hard as that sounds, there is no choice but to try. In simplest terms, failure would spell the end of American liberty.

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