Friday, January 25, 2013

No good answers for a culture gone bad.

"conservatives have learned to succeed in politics[, but] politics itself has failed. And politics has failed because of the collapse of the culture. The culture we are living in becomes an ever-wider sewer. In truth, I think we are caught up in a cultural collapse of historic proportions, a collapse so great that it simply overwhelms politics."

--Conservative activist Paul Weyrich (1999)

That Weyrich quote comes from conservative Matt Lewis, writing in The Week. Lewis adds that “conservatives have made a shocking discovery: They are the ones in danger of appearing out of touch with middle America.” Lewis views the development as dangerous, because as Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed (and we noted here), "The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society."

Lewis goes on to say:
In the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. . . 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.
Lewis then quotes conservative Erick Erickson arguing, "Republicans should turn their attention toward — family." Erickson himself was quoting Rick Santorum from the 2012 Republican primary, who said:
The bottom line is we have a problem in this country, and the family is fracturing.
Over 40% of children born in America are born out of wedlock. How can a country survive if children are being raised in homes where it's so much harder to succeed economically? It's five times the rate of poverty in single-parent households than it is in two-parent homes. We can have limited government, lower tax — we hear this all the time, cut spending, limit the government, everything will be fine. No, everything's not going to be fine.
In Lewis’ opinion:
Strong families are the cure for much of what ails us. You pick the problem, and stronger families would probably render the solution moot. Consider a recent debate: We can put warning labels on violent games and movies, but that won't replace mom and dad being involved in their children's lives and being aware of what they are watching.
Lewis concludes, “Conservatives have largely lost the culture, and it can't be won back by passing some landmark piece of legislation. Instead, it's going to be a long, hard slog.”

There is no question Democrats and Obama are lined up behind Hollywood’s culture. When Obama recently gave us his anti-gun policies and recommendations, Peggy Noonan, in the Wall Street Journal, rightly focused on what Obama excluded:
He had nothing to say about America's culture of violence—its movies, TV shows and video games [except] there will be a study. [W]hen it comes to challenging Hollywood—where he traditionally gets support, and from which he has taken great amounts of money for past campaigns and no doubt will for future libraries—he doesn't seem to think he has to do the right thing. He doesn't even have to talk about it.
But conservative Mark Steyn won’t settle for blaming Obama. He, like Lewis, sees how hard any “fix” will be in our time of liberal culture triumph. Steyn writes in Commentary:
The trouble for conservatives is we have no good cop. That’s to say, we have no positive presence in the broader cultural space where real people actually live. We have all the talk-radio shows and cable networks we need, and the rest of the country is happy to leave us walled up in those redoubts. But culture trumps politics, and not just in the movies and pop songs, grade schools and mainline churches, but increasingly in the boardrooms, too. Instead of giving your hard-earned dollars to help drag some finger-in-the-windy squish with an R after his name over the finish line every other November, conservatives need to start fighting on the turf that matters.
Barack Obama is . . . not the exotic other, he’s all too typical.
Postscript: For those like me who generalize about Hollywood’s culture, there is “ZeroDarkThirty,” an expensive, violent (true to Hollywood here), superb film by Kathryn Bigelow (no conservative, but snubbed for a “Best Director” Oscar nomination anyway), with first-rate acting that honors working people doing their jobs extremely well, while barely mentioning the president who from afar oversaw their success. What a surprise such a film got made. What’s no surprise: Hollywood’s majority finds the movie’s ambiguity troubling.

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