I haven’t turned on the radio yet, (and I won’t until I head out to the gym), but I can only imagine the shell-shocked pundits riding the airwaves right now. What went wrong? How could Romney lose? He was exactly what the establishment asked for, and he even pandered to us loopy Constitutionalists a little.
I don’t know if you all remember, but about a year and a half ago, Rush Limbaugh read some of my stuff on the air. I was lamenting the state of my peers, convinced that they were too self-involved to vote against Barry. The Free Candy Party, or some such nonsense; I’d have to go back and check. Rush did not agree with me, thinking I was too pessimistic, but I know my generation. I know those coming after me. I have not sequestered myself from the culture the way so many older, more established, more influential conservatives have. Rush is an optimist, not an establishment guy, and he believes that Americans want to live the American dream that Reagan promoted. I would really love to believe that, but I cannot. All evidence I have seen is to the contrary, and it bummed me out enough for me to quit political writing altogether.
So here’s my theory: Having ceded the culture war decades ago, the right has continued to lose touch with popular culture, even while believing that because they watch Dancing with the Stars they are somehow still “hip.” Each generation brings its new “sexy” “young” conservatives who are generally younger versions of their elders. Maybe they’re thinner, or female, or have fake breasts and expensive highlights, but they’ve got the same degrees from the same schools and have had the same career trajectory as their predecessors. They’ve got law degrees or poli-sci degrees or whatever, and they sound the same as the old guys.
The Right does not speak the same language as the majority of the people in this country. I’ve been spending far too much time on Facebook lately, as having no blog to come home to, I was quite lost. I started to get concerned when I asked my 200-something friends — most of whom I know personally to be quite intelligent and well-informed — whether Benghazi made any difference at all. I was starting to feel a little echo-chamber-y there toward the end, as each revelation about the Administration’s criminal incompetence in Libya was rocking my world and yet causing not a ripple amongst my peers.
So I asked them what was up. The few brave wonderful souls who answered me weren’t all that concerned about it because they didn’t quite know what all the fuss was about. Not because they’re uninformed, but because they either don’t have time to be an obsessive like myself, or they trust that any news that is worth knowing will make its way out through the proper news channels.
And the language of the culture has painted conservatives as old, out of touch, rich, white, racist men. I’m not any of these things, but the right has decided that the best way to combat this caricature is to just ignore it. To send tweedy, law school nerds out to appeal to the “youth” vote. And though our problems are Legion — there are no adults left, we’re all so distracted from distraction by distraction that we don’t even know what the hell is going on, we have an entire underclass of takers who’ve no real interest in contributing a thing, &etc — our inability to communicate effectively with a growing mass of perpetual adolescents, to tell them why self-sacrifice is a virtue, why working hard is important, why becoming an adult at some point is preferable to living life as an eternal child is a key issue. It hobbles us. We’re speaking another language.
And it’s not working. So what’re you going to do about it, punks?
[As an aside, I think that choosing gay marriage as the hill to die on is a misstep. Being gay and being conservative are not mutually exclusive. But where are conservative-leaning gays to go? To a movement that has generally decided that the only way to deal with them is to completely delegitimize them as people? It's the same issue I have with religion and homosexuality, but expanding upon that is for another time. People, gay or straight, grow up and (most of them) have kids, and then the world looks a bit different. But if only one side of the political debate sees them as people, there's a problem.
I personally don't think that gay people getting married is one of the seven signs of the Apocalypse, and I think that people who love each other should be able to get married and have families without feeling like second-class citizens. I think that finding the balance between broadening our horizons as a movement and remaining true to principle is key. And we aren't a monolithic movement. There should be room for everyone. We don't brainwash and we don't hate.]
You can bet there will be more in coming days. I can’t stay quiet on this.