There was only one undeniable issue in the last election, one issue that was the true cause of Obama winning, and the effects of it are to be found, not in what conservatives did or think they need(ed) to do, but in what it is that they think they are, and in what the nation thinks it is. The most obvious fact about the election was not that Romney lost because 10-15% fewer conservatives showed up to vote (or voted 3rd party), though that appears to be true, or that people when given a choice between a Leftie, and a Leftie-lite, chose the more authentic option, which is also to some extent true; those aren’t the true causes, and neither is whatever else you want to throw in regarding fraud, media spin, etc – those are all simply demographers noise.
The real issue, the true reason why Romney lost, was that given a choice of the policies represented by Obama and the Democrat party he leads, more than 50% of the populace lacked a sufficient level of understanding of what America is and what its constitution means, is, and requires, to enable them to recoil in horror at the prospect of those policies becoming reality, hissing “No friggin’ way I can allow that – no friggin’ way I can vote for that!‘
That is the real issue, and the only issue of substance worth thinking about.
If you think your culture, or your memory of it, is attractive to the youth’… er… Millennials .. or appeals to the Hispanic… er… Lat… hell with it… to anyone, then you might want to check out these two articles, one from NRO’s Kevin D. Williamson, his post “Risk, Relativism, and Resources” & the other from Bill Hennessy, his post on “This is why I feel sorry for Millennials“. As Conservatives, we tend to think that our ideas are naturally attractive, I mean, who could possibly have a problem with having the liberty to blaze your own trail, making it on your own, etc. – that’s what America’s all about! Well guess what, not everyone seeks to take the risks that it takes to live that kind of life, and many, if not most, feel that a system which enables such risk taking, threatens those who prefer a life of safety and comfort.
Conservatism, the revolutionary ideals of classical liberalism that our Founders fought for, are not a threat to those who want a life of comfort and safety, but they won’t think so, not without understanding them better, anyway. And not without your understanding them well enough to explain why your ideas are not a threat to the happiness they wish to pursue.
The problem is that our culture is no longer united in believing that, and that means it isn’t there to back you up.
Once the culture has been fragmented, as ours has, once a culture has reached the point where it is more likely to be referenced in mockery, than with respect, or in many cases may simply be ‘gone’ from people’s minds entirely (and thanks to our schools, that is pretty much the case), then it can no longer be referenced by people as an authoritative and substantiated word on an issue – the tank is empty – what it once had to say to the culture at large, is no longer there in their minds to be referenced in an argument, especially not in a political one.
If you try to pursue policies that seem conservative, without grounding them in the truths that conservatism springs from, what you will get will bear a striking resemblance to what John Boehner & Mitch McConnel have been demonstrating to the nation over the last couple months: Political spin on the half shell.
Conservatism, in the United States of America, is supposed to conserve the radical, revolutionary and only authentically new philosophical & political ideas of the last thousand years, ideas which were broadly understood at the time of our Founding Fathers – if neither the culture nor the people within it understand those ideas any longer, then your message will be received by them as the empty slogan it has no other means of being; without the necessary understanding – yours, theirs, or both – that it requires.
That message isn’t something you can ‘reach out’ with, if those being reached out to don’t already have some agreed upon understanding of it, it becomes simply ‘messaging’, spin – and to their ears, words spun in opposition to them.
I hate to break it to you guys, but Conservatism is not a bumper sticker movement, it is not a Gadsen flag movement, it is not an ‘appeal to the youth’… er… Millennials .. or ‘appeal to the Hispanic… er… Latinos, oh excuse me, ulllateennn-Ohhhs’ or an appeal to any goddamn other issue related movement. Messaging is fine and all when everyone understands what the message refers to, but once that is gone, it is no longer helpful.
The entire set of assumptions, of beliefs and ideas, preferences likes that conservatism typically depends upon, aka Culture, needs to be reestablished, before we can refer to them in a way that will again lend its weight to an argument.
- “Liberty will enable you to live your own life”, is a winning argument. ‘Liberty will enable you to live like Ozzie & Harriet‘ is not, not if that culture was raised on Family Guy.
- “Family values” are not a winning message to people raised in divorced, remarried, redivorced & reblended households. That culture reference isn’t there between their ears, and the cultural clutter conservatives typically try to prop their message up with, is weighing their message down.
A friend who was at a statewide conservative gathering with me last month, later said to me,
“…. many people don’t really have a consistent philosophy behind what they believe … in other words, they might believe the right things, but they don’t know why. Which is kind of the job of culture. We can’t all be intellectuals. Some of us got jobs.”
Which is exactly the case, and which is why culture, and respect for it, is so important (and why the left has been attacking it for so long) – it conveys the best understanding of the best of those the culture has produced, sparing every person, as it should, from having to do the due diligence of understanding every point themselves (Descartes, J.S.Mill, and other idiots aside, it is NOT sensible or even possible to doubt everything (see In Praise of Prejudice )).
Culture is a reflection of who you are and want to be, and represents the accepted answers to arguments most people likely don’t want to bother delving into. Except in rare instances, you cannot use your cultural example to win an argument against another’s cultural example, because a cultural reference is not a means of discussing an issue, but of answering one.
Cultures are not (and cannot be) won or defeated by means of being preached or imposed (short of total war), but only by means of people in one culture wanting to emulate that of the other. The attractiveness, the sense of something being worth emulating, is the only means of cultural change. It is how ours was changed out from underneath us, and if you don’t understand that, you are not going to be much of a help it righting it.
Are you, as a conservative, conveying your message in a way that anyone who isn’t a conservative, would like to emulate?
Conservatism is not the same thing as your favorite old movies or music, it isn’t allegiance to a party, or even your oh so consistent support of this political option or that one. Conservatism is, and only is, the response that is made by those possessing a particular set of ideas and their understanding; and that understanding, together with a basic knowledge of how they’ve played out in the history of mankind, together with a sense of why it is right that they should (hello to the Arts), such a person becomes one who chooses those choices which command a further respect for their fellow man and for the liberty of all; such a person recognizes their shared nature and Rights which ‘self-evidently‘ leads to those policies, and so seeks to conserve them.
Without that, you get people seeking the power of using networking to advance their causes – nullification, secession, Fed Marriage laws, ‘moderating’ the 2nd amendment… If you get your wish, that people become more effective and efficient in pushing what they want, without understanding what and why they should… we’ll just get the mirror image of what the left is selling… Power, which by any other name, would smell the same.
So reach in, identify the core, the essentials that DO appeal to anyone and everyone, jettison everything else, and get on with it!
Don’t change your message – unburden it. ‘Liberty will enable you to live your own life‘, is the right message, it is a winning argument, and if you, and many others go about living a life worth living, others will notice it, and they will seek to emulate it, but not because you messaged your lifestyle or political opinions to them strategically, but because you live them in a way that others would like their own lives to reflect.
You cannot, if you are a conservative, expect to use the law as a means of changing a culture (unless your purpose is to corrode and destroy that culture), but that doesn’t mean that the principles of law (liberty), kept to their essentials, can’t be used to bridge the cultural differences we have, they can. There is no reason why security seeking and risk averse people who find themselves on the left today, can’t find security and safety under conservative ideas as well – it is in fact the only place they can – because those principles Are beneficial to any rational culture, and because those who find themselves within the other cultures can see them as being valuable and worthy of emulation and promotion (if the noise doesn’t keep them away) – that is why people have traditionally come to America.
Today we need to transmit that same sense to the people born in America, so that they will seek to become Americans as well, as did their forefathers.
For you part, present something worth paying attention to, without warding people off with your own personal preferences, and people will pay attention to it. In spite of themselves. The Truth that’s discovered from within, can lead to questions that will change a culture, even your own, from the inside out.
We all know that ‘the Truth is out there‘, find it, bring it in, make it yours, and it’ll spread… Ring the Bell!