Saturday, July 18, 2015

Memo to Conservatives: Abandon Culture Wars

New York Governor Roosevelt (1929-32)
"Never let your opponent pick the battleground on which to fight. If he picks one, stay out of it and let him fight all by himself."

--Franklin D. Roosevelt (1930)

Roosevelt was a political master, winning the White House four times while successfully hiding his inability to walk. Roosevelt’s advice to pick always your own battlefield and never fight on your opponent’s represents the soundest two sentences I’ve seen on winning politics. It echoes the teaching of Chinese 6th century BC military strategist Sun Zi, who in The Art of War wrote, “if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.”

It’s time conservatives stopped losing the culture wars. It’s time for conservatives to leave liberals to fight “all by themselves” and move to a new battlefield.

There’s evidence conservatives are catching on.

From Ben Domenech, founder of the conservative "Federalist":
Most people speak about issues through the lens of culture, sports, and relationships, not based on elections and legislation. That's why our most popular stories are about sex, pop culture, faith, child-rearing, and more, and why we don't write gauzy profiles of congressmen. [T]he politics of Taylor Swift, Neil de Grasse Tyson, and John Oliver matter a lot more than the politics of another white guy in a Brooks Brothers suit who has a plan to save the country.
From conservative Heather Wilhelm, in “RealClearPolitics”:
Welcome to the culture wars, which have little to do with actual culture, and everything to do with harnessing raw government power. In the wake of [the marriage equality] Supreme Court decision, numerous commentators called on conservative Christians and other same-sex marriage “dissenters” to call the whole thing off. Here’s the weird thing: I suspect that many of them would if they could, at least in the political arena. Many Americans, after all, just want to mind their own business. It’s the ever-growing government, weirdly, that won’t drop the topic—and it’s the ever-growing government, ultimately, that won’t let the culture wars die. If current trends continue, we can expect more of the same.
From Kevin Williamson, writing in the conservative National Review:
there has never been a better time to be anything other than a straight white male in America. Women are thriving in higher education and the workforce. The Supreme Court just declared gay Americans can now marry anyone they please. We have elected and re-elected the nation’s first black president, and there is a good chance he might be followed by the first female president. [emphasis added]
You have to credit the Left: Its strategy is deft. If you can make enough noise that sounds approximately like a moral crisis, then you can in effect create a moral crisis. Never mind that the underlying argument — “Something bad has happened to somebody else, and so you must give us something we want!” — is entirely specious; it is effective. . . Democrats argued that decency compelled us to pass a tax increase in the wake of the [financial] crisis, though tax rates had nothing to do with it.
And again from Benjamin Domenech, along with conservative Robert Tracinski:
The 2004 effort to push state measures designed to stop gay marriage in tandem with George W. Bush’s re-election effort was a Pyrrhic victory, one which contributed to the Great Sort that eliminated the last of the Reagan Democrats. The efforts of religious leaders and traditionalists to win the argument at the ballot box won temporarily, but could not last in a country where [conservatives] no longer controlled the culture or the courts, and where these non-traditional relationships were depicted as healthy and normal on a daily basis in mass media and social media. The eventual triumph of the Counterculture was ensured.
Time to fight elsewhere.

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