Culture Wars are a Long Game
Conservatives have lost it one generation at a time.
Apparently, the celebration of America’s Declaration of Independence sparked a lot of reflection on the state of the nation’s culture. Seemingly independently of Kevin Drum’s argument that liberals are mostly to blame, the conservative essayist Tanner Greer pushes back at the notion that the left has won the fight. He begins with a rather strained premise:
American conservatives never waged a culture war. Conservatives certainly fought, there is no denying that. They fought with every bit of obstruction and scandal their operatives could muster. But this was not a culture war. Rather, America’s conservatives fought a political war over culture. Republicans used cultural issues to gain—or to try to gain—political power. Their brightest minds and greatest efforts went into securing control of judiciary, developing a judicial philosophy for their appointees, securing control of the Capitol, and developing laws that could be implemented in multiple state houses across the nation. No actual attempt to change the culture was attempted.
But his next paragraph situates the premise in a way that we can accept it as a basis for discussion:
This was not thought necessary. Conservatives had the people. One decade they were called a “silent” majority; as the culture war heated up, that majority transitioned from “silent” to “moral,” but a majority they remained. In these circumstances it was sufficient to quarantine the cultural dissidents and keep them from using minority maneuvers (“legislating from the bench”) to impose their cultural priorities on the rest of us. Political containment was the name of our game. Republicans played it well. They still play it well, even when the majority of yesterday has melted away.
The left played for different stakes. They fought for American culture as the right fought over it. Their insurgency succeeded as Hemingway’s businessman failed: gradually, then suddenly.
So, in a sense, he’s beginning, albeit from the other side of the fight, at the same place Drum does: since the left is the one that seeks to challenge the status quo, it is they who have initiated the “war” and conservatives have merely sought to protect the culture from the onslaught. It’s a perfectly reasonable position, albeit one that doesn’t really fit a “war” construct. Counterinsurgents, after all, are very much fighting a war.
After that setup and some forays into previous cultural fights in American history, Greer gets to his central argument:
Cultures can be changed; movements can be built. But as these examples all suggest, this is not a quick task. Culture wars are long wars. Instilling new ideas and overthrowing existing orthodoxies takes time—usually two to three generations of time. It is a 35-50 year process.
He recommends four essays, two of which many OTB readers will likely be familiar with and two of which I must confess to not having previously heard of much less read, as starting points for the discussion. He provides links to said essays and some preliminary introduction but they rather defy excerpting. It’s worth reading through that discussion but most readers can leap ahead to Greer’s own exposition:
Generational churn helps account for the “gradually, then suddenly” tempo of social revolution. Cultural insurgents win few converts in their own cohort. They can, however, build up a system of ideas and institutions which will preserve and refine the ideals they hope their community will adopt in the future. The real target of these ideas are not their contemporaries, but their contemporaries’ children and grandchildren. Culture wars are fought for the hearts of the unborn. Future generations will be open to values the current generation rejects outright.
This will not be apparent at first. Beneath the official comings and goings of the cohorts above, a new consensus forms in in the cohorts below. Ideas will fester among the young, but their impact will be hidden by the inability and inexperience of youth. But the youth do not stay young. Eventually a transition point arrives. Sometimes, this transition will be marked by a great event the old orthodoxy cannot explain. At other times it is simply a matter of numbers. In either case, the end falls swift: the older cohorts suddenly find themselves outnumbered and outgunned, swept up in a flood they had assumed was a mere trickle.
For them it was a trickle. They spent their time with members of their own cohort. The revolution occurring below did not echo in their souls. It won no converts among their friends, nor even among their rivals. The new values remained the preserve of weirdos and extremists. Not so for the rising generation!
People do change their minds on issues, of course. But even those of us who continually read and debate the issues have a hard time keeping up with changes, whereas the younger generation never had any attachment to the old ways. And, even when we change our minds, it’s really hard to rewire our visceral instincts. Conversely, while racists, sexists, and homophobes will naturally seek to pass their worldview on to their kids, they’re fighting the tide in doing so. Some will, of course, be successful but the numbers will be much smaller than in the previous generation.
There’s quite a bit more to Tanner’s essay, which itself links to multiple other essays he’s written on the general topic.
While his central point, that winning the culture wars is ultimately a battle to change the minds of future generations, is almost certainly right, the lead argument—that conservatives haven’t lost the fight—is only defended by changing the terms of the debate.
Take the topic of religion, which is referenced only in one graphic in Drum’s essay but featured more prominently in Greer’s. He cites this tweet from Ryan Burge:
Leaving aside whether it’s particularly useful at this point to talk about Gen Z (my almost-22 stepdaughter and my just-turned-10 daughter and the three in between are all members) the direction is clear. And it’s especially remarkable given that the decline has happened despite a rather large influx of Latino immigration, which are likely more devoutly Catholic than those who have been here multiple generations. Given that religiosity is almost always a feature of conservatism, this is a war that is lost.
We see similar patterns on issues ranging from race relations to LGBTQ rights to marijuana legalization. Things that are “culture war” issues for older folks (including elder Gen Xers like me) are essentially non-issues for younger Millenials and, certainly, Zoomers. Or, rather, while they may be passionate about the issue, they simply don’t understand what the fuss is all about: of course we should call Bobby “Roberta” and recognize their pronouns if they want us to. Why wouldn’t we?
So, it’s fine to say that, rather than fighting a cultural war, conservatives fought a political war over the culture. But, either way, it’s been a losing effort.
They have not conceded, they have 6 warriors on SCOTUS and are determined to prevail by any means available in the 2022/2024 elections.
I know it seems like that and, certainly, having had a seat “stolen” from Obama rubs people the wrong way. But there have been some rather liberal rulings regardless. Obergefell was 5-4 and might not have happened under the current court—but it’s not going to flip back. Hell, Bostock vs Clayton County was 6-3 with Gorsuch writing the majority opinion.
@James Joyner: I hope you are right. But the Republicans put a legitimate religious fanatic on the court. Someone who was raised in a secretive cult and is still a devout member and, of course, still refusing to talk about it or even admit she is a member. I don’t know why more people aren’t creeped out about this.
The culture war is over how people interact within the society and regardless of whatever SC decisions emanate over the next few decades that march to modernity won’t stop. Little of what is being fought over rises to be a constitutional issue and even if marriage equality were reversed or trans rights severely limited from a constitutional perspective, individual states will move forward on their own.
Is there any element of cultural war for conservatives that is affirmative? That is, is there any thing conservatives want culturally that doesn’t impinge on a woman’s rights or doesn’t seek to oppress an ethnic or gender group? I can’t think of one. Even “religious freedom” intends to impose one set of religious values over other religions and non-believers.
If culture wars are long wars, isn’t conservative loss inevitable? The battle is about the rate of progress, not direction, when all that the conservatives can offer is regressive.
There are multiple strains of conservatism, including one that simply calls for evolutionary rather than revolutionary change for reasons Greer alludes to. There are also libertarian strains that basically call for everyone to be left the hell alone. And localist/communitarian strains that call for local rules such that local cultures can govern themselves accordingly and those who want to live differently can seek a more conducive surrounding.
I get all that, but you didn’t describe how any of these strains could be seen as affirmative for the whole populace.
Evolutionary v. Revolutionary – slows or arrests change, doesn’t propose change to an improved condition for any faction that isn’t regressive for another
Localists – isolates change so a community can maintain the status quo or regress from change they don’t approve of
Libertarians – could be construed as affirmative if there were a remotely balanced, equitable baseline, but this baseline condition doesn’t exist, so oppressive current conditions persist.
Where is the good stuff worth working toward as opposed to the all the purported bad stuff that must be worked against?
Do you know if they count Roman Catholics as Christians?
Mr. Social Conservative (a.k.a. Rod Dreher) has been having one of his periodic “alas, alas, America is degenerate and DOOMED!!!” handwringings over at TAC. This last one has been due to SCOTUS not granting cert to one of the Christian-florist-refusing-to-sell-bouquets-for-a-gay-wedding cases.
Honestly, I wish Dreher would have the decency to keep his mouth shut about anything involving law. He doesn’t understand it, doesn’t understand how SCOTUS works, and flies wildly off the handle when describing the supposed situation (and getting it all wrong.)
@Scott F.: You’re asking why conservatives aren’t progressives. But also assuming that expanded liberties are positive-sum, which traditionalists simply disagree with.
@charon: I don’t know where else it appeared, but it isn’t just the “Register-Guard”, wherever that is. It was also in my my little semi-pro local paper in SW FL. I assume it was a multi-million dollar national buy.
Judging by the Mexican Catholics I know, they’re no more devout than most people, but a great many are very devout to symbols like the cross and the Pope.
That last is very revealing. Whenever a pope visits the country, he’s like a rock star drawing crowds, people lining up the streets where he will pass through, etc. When you ask these people what the pope says or thinks, most don’t know, and they give the impression they don’t care.
It’s more a fetish than belief. Like the fetish of the Founders, the flag, the Constitution, etc. They don’t care what the flag represents, what the Founders stood for, or what the Constitution says.
I just think the left won the culture war because ideally people do not treat their loved ones as policy. Larkin’s poem is probably true about everything but it doesn’t apply to the categories that exist in the culture wars. In 1965, if you had a gay child you did not want that child to be unhappy because of policy. You wanted that child to have a good life. However, that was impossible to imagine because they were gay. And so you started, probably, to screw with the kid for their own sake, a thing that twisted you, the parent, because it was the wrong thing to do. Now, that life is far easier to imagine for your child. Your kid is gay. They come out. End of story. No revolution had to happen to make this occur. Just a few twists and turns of psychological dials which were, honestly, not hard to do. That’s why this crazy argument about ‘redefining’ male and female fails. Nobody cares. It’s not that big of a deal.
@Kathy: Sounds like the reaction to the Queen and the Brit royals.
I get that the we use the terms “culture wars” as a greater magnifier of issues but I rather we focus in specifics. Culture in by itself cannot be really legislated but when it comes to specific issues about daily life like sex issues or drugs or even religion, there is no doubt the country is becoming more liberal. Many of the laws passed in some states are against the will of the majority. For example, The percentage of people who approve of the new crazy gun law in Texas is remarkably low. Conservatives may want to legislate all kinds right wing signifiers but most people are against such, so they legislate from the courts, gerrymander and flat out refuse to recognize electoral results (not only Biden, see Missouri ACA expansion among many)- it’s clear they are swimming against the tide as shown by breaking so many political norms.
@James Joyner: The thing is about modern conservatism is that they believe that when others live the “wrong” way, they feel the need to personally interject themselves (witness COVID masks) and when the process results in a “wrong” election, they simply reject the result including using violence as encouraged by Trump.
Hard=right activists are numerous enough to dominate GOP primaries in most red areas. Thus, they have working control of the GOP without needing to be very numerous. The GOP represents a small number of people with disproportionate influence.
@charon: @James Joyner: The Supremes’ social conservatism is collateral damage. Charles Koch (to put a face on a lot of people and a huge pile of money) didn’t invest millions in the Federalist Society to reverse Roe v Wade. I’ve never seen any evidence Koch cares about abortion. He wants to keep his taxes low, undercut regulation of business, and delay doing anything meaningful about AGW until the last barrel of oil is dug up and refined. And to sustain that effort, gerrymander like hell, restrict voting, and maybe lay the groundwork for a coup.
@MarkedMan: is right, Barrett is a religious fruit cake. That’s a price Koch has to pay to get judges who can ignore AGW, and democracy. Plus, as I noted, he has to support GOP political interests to keep the whole thing rolling.
The social conservative court is of a piece with the rest of GOP politics. It’s all a faux populist cover for the policies of a small, Republican, wealthy elite. As always, look at what they do, not what they say. For two years GOPs had the Trifecta. Did they build a wall? Did they reverse Roe v Wade? Did they criminalize homosexuality? No, they passed a huge tax cut, appointed judges, and ignored AGW.
In 2016, when Trump won, my hope was that while the GOP held government, we would be able to hold the culture. (Pretty sure I wrote that here.) Well, we not only held the culture line, we advanced it, in part because Trump was so loathsome, but mostly because the yutes were rolling their eyes so hard at conservatives it was changing weather patterns.
Social change does however come with setbacks. Prohibition was an attempt at social change. It backfired and was eventually canceled. The Hippies were an attempt at social change, but they were amorphous and unrealistic and eventually decided to buy big houses in the suburbs in which they’d hang a Ché poster on one wall – first in the living room, then in the spare room, then in the garage. Religious revivals rise and sweep through the country at odd times, then moderate and recede. There are tides.
It’s all rather like war. There are grand designs that succeed and others that fail. There are sudden advances that are then reversed. The mistake is believing any of this is pre-ordained. There’s no advance that cannot be flanked. As soon as you start to believe the enemy is on the run and you launch yourself in gleeful pursuit, the cavalry hidden in the woods comes pounding down with Gandalf on Shadowfax. . . OK, that went slightly off the rails.
The point is that progress can be stymied, even undone. Only a fool assumes there’s no enemy force ready to counterattack, no possible reversal of fortune. Case in point, when murder rates go up, anti-cop sentiment evaporates. The peace movement in 1941 died in December of that year. Shit happens. Like overreach. Push a good idea too far, too fast, and you motivate the backlash and discourage your more moderate allies.
In just the last couple of decades we’ve gut-shot organized religion, and that’s been key. Kill the old morality to impose a new morality. But I don’t trust people and I don’t underestimate the power of the religious idea. I don’t think this is where we tear down the walls and salt the fields, I think this is where we dig in, because I don’t think the opposition is dead.
The little alarm bell going off in my head is the way both Right and Left are focused on the past. We’re arguing over Francis Drake, FFS, debating Confederate statues, apologizing for past misdeeds. Past, past, past. And no real picture of a better future. Once the icons are all smashed, people are still going to want something to decorate their walls. Gloom and guilt and the ostentatious wearing of hair shirts is not a picture of a better future. We are a nation built on ideas and myths, and all our ideas now seem to involve despising and revising the past and having no plan for the future. The Right sells nostalgia about the past, the Left pushes guilt and neither side has a vision. That’s a picture of a decadent society.
The cultural conservatives don’t really have an appealing message. Their main message is one of prohibition and exclusion, of being punitive and censorious.
I note that the article being cited starts with the religion graph above which suggests that the “culture war” is predominantly about religion.
But a major flaw in the premise is to assume that all the non-religious are liberal and/or hold liberal views. There is no reason to assume that the secularization of US culture is necessarily one-sided.
And, look, all of this becomes a “war” in the sense that those who lose power as cultural norms shift fight to hold on to what they see as “normal”.
But I think the dichotomous nature of the war metaphor is flawed. Take gay marriage. On the one hand, it was the mainstreaming of homosexual relationships, a win for libs! On the other hand, it was the further institutionalization of traditional unions, i.e., marriages. That is a win for the cons even if they don’t see it that way.
Yes, I‘m asking why conservatives could think they “win” a long culture war, seeing that there is nothing to win but to slow or isolate defeat. Progress is the end result regardless. Culture has worked that way for millennia.
Yes, I assume expanded liberties is positive-sum. Anyone who has gained liberties once refused them would agree, even if Traditionalists won’t.
No, I’m not trying to be snide to you and I’m sorry if it comes off that way. I’m just trying to understand this idea of “culture war” as anything but political.
@Steven L. Taylor:
Indeed, it’s simplified and limited. But the losing side certainly tends to see it in those stark terms.
Well, it’s one-sided when it comes to the losers. Religion has lost ground and they know it. But you’re right that we can’t assume that every atheist and agnostic or even a ‘don’t care’ is on one team or the other. But the institutions of religion certainly have taken a hit. Power abhors a vacuum and all that, so weakening religion leaves open the question of what replaces it. So far it’s Soul Cycle and Q-Anon.
@Michael Reynolds: Religion has lost ground, of this I do not at all deny.
I am questioning the notion, however, that young people being unsure of the existence of God means that they also favor trans rights or are not otherwise socially conservative.
I am almost certain that more of the doubters are socially liberal than socially conservative–but the data provided do not tell us these things.
This was part of the problem with Drum’s post and the subsequent discussion thereof–a lot of leaps of logic being made based on fairly limited polling data.
It is also true that a lot of the Olds in the survey who say they believe in God likely support trans rights and gay marriage.
One can only infer so much from these data.
I fear that punitive and censorious is an appealing message to many, maybe a third of the populace.
I think the secular happen to be on the Left predominantly, but I don’t think that being non-religious means you’re destined to be on this or that end of the political spectrum. It’s part of what worries me, that vacuum waiting to be filled.
But I also believe that while people on the Right are highly likely to profess belief in God, I don’t think they are unscathed by the general weakening of religion. I think Q-Anon and the Trump Cult are evidence of the weakening of religion on the Right. 2016 years was too long for a lot of people to wait for the Messiah to come and smite the heathen, so they traded Jesus of Nazareth for Donald of Mar a Lago. And right now they are almost literally waiting for their new savior to rise from the dead.
You have all the parts right there, and just aren’t putting it together.
We are a nation built on ideas and myths. We are fighting over the past to define those myths. This is the long game in the culture war.
I do think that the Left is missing some great leader who can tie that guilt and gloom about the past into a more positive message that resonates. Not just “this country is founded on genocide and slavery” but “we have made enormous progress”
The Fourth of July is the celebration of a slave owner writing some pretty words about equality, but Juneteenth marks the first major milestone in bringing those pretty words to reality. We should be celebrating the fuck out of Juneteenth, because it tells the American story that we believe in, and which should all believe in. Parades, fireworks, soul food… include everybody and don’t let it become a “black holiday.”
Add two more holidays — one for women’s suffrage, and another for the dismantling of Jim Crow. And celebrate them, don’t just make them a three day weekend.
The idea that culture is something that can remain static over time, much less that it is supposed to, is not a perfectly reasonable position.
So many changes coming so fast. I think the rapidity of change is what is so unsettling to some. Of course, there was no “smart”phone in the early aughts, so that explains a lot. Once that info dam broke, Jenny bar the door.
I believe climate change is a part of the acceleration, as it is doing the same thing- changing more rapidly. People feel this whether they know it or not. It’s pretty scary if you really think of all the floods and droughts and rising seas. Easier to go all Chernobyl and ignore it and pick ultimately futile fights about genitalia.
We are one glacier collapse away from what I imagine to be Cher in “Moonstruck”, when she slaps Nicolas Cage hard on the face and shouts “Snap out of it!”. If that happens, and the world begins to finally focus on survival, and the finger pointing starts and whocoddaknode begin, we will be having very different conversations.
Just my two cents. Who wants pie?
@Steven L. Taylor:
I notice this too, that the article begins with talking about culture, but then ends talking about socialism, as if they are the same.
Which is not at all true, on either the left or right. Its easy to see cultural conservatives calling for aggressive government intervention in the marketplace, and cultural liberals defending private property rights.
I’d characterize the main difference in approach by liberals and conservatives as alike to an old saying: you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
As to the Sheldon Cooper addendum, Trump failed to prove you catch even more with manure, though it proved superior to vinegar.
I think the idea of hyping Juneteenth, Women’s Suffrage etc as proof of progress is a very good idea. Hard to pull off.
Roughly 60% of the US population is non-Hispanic whites. Toss in another few points for Hispanics who identify as white, and you have about 2/3rds of the population. Needless to say a national celebration that vilifies 2/3rds of the population is a non-starter. Ditto women’s suffrage if it vilifies 50% of the population.
So for this to happen the narrative around that history would have to change in ways the Left is not gonna like. Progressives resist all efforts to paint US history as anything but a unique human rights disaster. And they are just as convinced they’re right as the Right-wingers who think US history was a tiptoe through the tulips with only a few unfortunate incidents, quickly forgotten. Both sides are blinded by the filters of morality that they impose, as well as by astonishing levels of ignorance.
I just watched Bo Burnham’s latest – an amazing feat of production – and was frustrated by the white-man’s-guilt obsession. Not that white people didn’t enslave Blacks and ethnically cleanse Indians off 99% of their land, that’s historical fact. But breast-beating by 2/3rds of the population is not going to endure. The backlash is already coming, and given that the people generating the backlash form a strong racial majority, as well as having disproportionate money and power, I can guarantee you the end state is not going to be white guilt.
This is why I keep going back to Progressives’ love of scorn, ridicule, guilt and gloom. You don’t build anything out of scorn. I say this as a man who has heaped mountains of scorn. I’m an iconoclast, an atheist before it was cool, a law breaker, all that good rebellious stuff. But I’m a fringe character, no one builds a society out of people like me.
This old saying isn’t actually true. A bowl of vinegar is actually a great way to catch flies, while a bowl of honey will catch almost none.
@Steven L. Taylor:
That was one of the arguments liberals advanced, and I think with good effect.
We could and should offer equally appealing rationales on behalf of immigration. Every advanced country on earth is facing a decreasing population. The US has so far been increasing slowly, but only because of immigration. If we want more workers we open the gates. If we don’t, then we face the same dilemmas as Japan, France, China, etc… with uncertain consequences.
Chances are I’m dead in 10 years, so why would I or anyone similarly aged care?
I so agree with this. To apply that thinking to the Right, one doesn’t build anything out of a sense of entitlement to power. This has been the main feature of the R’s points of contact in this battle. At the front the marchers howl about Obama’s birth certificate and the “election was stolen”, not cultural issues. As off-putting to those who are merely interested in improving their economic conditions, which is most people, as constantly harping about gay rights and such is.
@Steven L. Taylor:
True, but religion does allow for bigotry and racism to assume a cloak of righteousness, and to paint opposing views as literally diabolical.
@CSK: Roman Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, SDA (all of which are considered “cults” among the denominations I grew up in/with) even Satanists with the right letter after their names will be “Christian” enough. FG was Christian enough for these people while Jimmy Carter wasn’t. (Carter was pre-peak politicization of the church, but few that I can recall supported Carter over Ford.)
@Kathy: As does certain secular ideologies. Really it is self-deception to think Religion as Religion itself is the source.
I think of my dear elderly father who at once is a rabid athiest and rabidly anti-gay, etc. (and anti-Left) – rather does it very nicely with a purely secular ideological framing.
Religion also enables people to be quite kind and opening… as a non-believer myself I rather put it down to a mode of expression, not the actual driver or cause.
@gVOR08: The Register-Guard is the daily paper in Eugene, Oregon. I would classify it more as “AAA” than “semi-pro” but all of such designations are condescending. FTFNYT and WAPO are not the only “real” newspapers, and any community that has a local news outlet is automatically superior to a community that doesn’t. I’m sorry that your view of your local paper is so poor, but don’t worry, it’ll be gone soon enough. 🙁
Great idea! I won’t live to see it. But it is a great idea. Especially the part about celebrating it rather than just making it a 3-day weekend. Don’t know how that works in a DGAF society where “you’re not the boss of me” is the guiding principal though.
Well, sure. But that is a different issue than the point I am making about reading too much into polling data.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but… The slaves didn’t free themselves — white men freed the slaves.
And we are all better for it, Black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American… everyone who was there, and everyone who came after.
No reason to leave anyone out. Even our revered Founding Fathers who owned slaves… we are a step closer to living up to their ideals.
This is one of those spots where a binary is fine: You either celebrate the end of slavery, or you think Black people should be enslaved.
Some Southern dude comes from a family that owned slaves… let him tell himself a little White lie that his ancestors were a product of their times, and couldn’t have known better… but we’re all better than that now.
The story of America is either going to be the conservative story that Great Men founded the country and it’s all gone to shit since then, or the liberal/progressive story that Great Men founded the country and we are still working to meet their ideals.
Come on, man, you work with stories for a living. You’ve seen trans kids find parallels in Animorphs that were never intentionally there, and you’ve seen the power of that.
Say what you will about Thomas Jefferson — he raped his slaves and sold his own children — he knew how to write a pretty inspiring line about all men being created equal.
If only we knew people who write books for younger audiences, and who have a platform where they could start weaving that story of America into other stories, directly or through allegory. Be the propagandist you were meant to be, Michael (or ask your wife to, you know, whichever, you’re a team).
Maybe leave out the bit about Thomas Jefferson raping his slaves and selling the children, or George Washington’s wooden teeth being replaced with a new set that had slave teeth…
Seriously, though, if you don’t like the progressives tearing down the icons of our past and leaving nothing positive behind, then do something about it. You have the skills, you have the platform.
Be the change you want to see in the world, Michael.
You need to hang out with a better class of Progressive. I know of boatloads of progressives who don’t meet your broad brush description of the type – a great number of them are the creative types in my life. I recognize the progressives of which you speak. They are out there and tend to be noisy, but they lack numbers.
I’m guessing it’s mostly a matter of naming convention. If they more closely align with your political approach, they get labeled as respectable liberals.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: I think next year we could have a parade in the Capitol, fireworks, the President… use the Fourth of July as the template.
Invite the Republicans who will most want to try to point out that Juneteenth is when the Republicans freed the Democrats’ slaves. History of messy. Pull them into it, so they can’t just kill it next time there’s a Republican President.
Keep it white enough that it isn’t just relegated to a Black holiday, but not so white that it loses meaning. Also, we need Queen Latifa singing the Star Spangled Banner, or This Land Is Your Land.
(I would avoid “Marching Through Georgia”, and would want a broader parade than just civil war Union cosplay)
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
I believe The Former Guy was sometimes referred to as a “a baby Christian,” someone who’d come to Jesus late in life (like around 2016). That way the Trumpkins could write off/excuse/rationalize his previous grievous sins–to the extent they’d acknowledge he’d committed any.
I haven’t read Tanner’s article yet – probably will, but no guarantees.
This article, though, made me think about how uninformative I find the label “conservative.” As James notes upthread, there are many strands of “conservatism.” What he doesn’t say is that they range from outright Naziism to his moderate views and possibly a little beyond.
We have Douthat and Dreher and Barrett and any number of other “conservatives” who believe different things but want to shove those things down everyone else’s throat. Okay, maybe that’s a consistency, but James doesn’t share it.
Or those who tout the country’s founding documents, which include something about all citizens being subject to equal treatment under the law but want to shove gays back in the closet and want trans people not to exist.
So “conservative” looks to me like it contains too many contradictions and too much hatred. And a few genial but misguided people like James.
I stand by my insult in the spirit in which it was intended.
These are some musing on the implied question above: “Do people who self identify as “Conservatives” have any positive or life affirming beliefs?”
In the broadest sense, my impression is that a good number of such people do have positive and life affirming beliefs. I look at the caretakers for my mother-in-law and my mother. The ones that did a good job and respected my parents, the home and the family and therefore lasted in the job, share some common life affirming traits. Willingness to do a hard job with integrity. Personal responsibility. Respect for those in their care. Three of the main caregivers were (and are, in the case of my mother) working-class white from tough backgrounds, and all three are Trumpers. They are not in your face or angry about it, at least around us, but I’m pretty sure if I were to draw them out about it, the key appeal is that after a lifetime of getting looked down upon and disparaged because of the their education level, accents, and position in the work force, TFG and his minions are saying, “You are the backbone of this country and your common sense is valuable. These people who think they are so smart and so virtuous and talk down to you and lecture you are hypocrites and phonies and not nearly so smart as they think they are.” Is this how those blowhards Conservative leadership really feel? Hell no. But they never say that out loud.
On the other hand, what do they hear from the left? “Your life has been easy compared with this or that other group, and you should keep quiet about the ways you feel slighted. You have no right to complain and in fact should just sit there and let me lecture you on behalf of these other groups.”
How many conversations have gone like this:
Woke Relative: “It’s so unfair how family court treats people of color (or trans people, immigrants, etc)! Everyone should be treated with respect by the law”
Working-class White Conservative: “Yeah, the neighbor called Child Services on my sister, who left her kids alone when the babysitter cancelled at the last minute and she had to go to work or lose her job, and when she went up against the Judge she treated my sister like she was a child and lectured her and threatened to take her kids away. My poor sister was terrified.”
Woke Relative: “Well, she should have been grateful she is white. If she had been black they would have taken her kids.”
Clear message: “Everyone should be treated with respect, except you and yours who are not entitled to any sympathy if you are disrespected.”
Meanwhile, conservatives are up in arms over Vanessa Williams singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” on A Capitol Fourth last night. Even though the program also included God Bless America, America the Beautiful and This Land is Your Land, “Conservative Twitter jumped on the “national anthem” part and declared it “divisive,” “segregation” and “racist” to have any anthem other than “The Star Spangled Banner,” which was scheduled to be performed by Grammy-award winner Renée Fleming.”
Tell us again how liberals are the ones fomenting cultural war.
I don’t celebrate Easter, Christmas, Valentines Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, VE Day, VJ Day, or my birthday.
I understand and appreciate their historical and cultural significance, but I don’t “celebrate” them.
I refute your notion that I automatically belong to the “I Want Slavery Club” because I’m apathetic about “celebrating” anything.
The left is lambasting the right because the right is “insisting on oaths of loyalty”… While the left is doing exactly the same–only to nebulous ideals rather than people or parties. You hold up banners and require that people bow down to them.
I can’t agree with your position, support your goals, and keep to myself. Nope. I must bow down to the current banner and swear my undying allegiance and my (metaphorical) sword.
Screw bipartisanship; progressives are pissing off half the people that agree with them.
Now… My pasta is done so I’m going to go eat my culturally-appropriated meal, watch some TV, and relax.
Murc’s Law: Only Democrats have agency or any causal impact on American politics. – Scott Lemieux on Twitter. (Murc’s Law being a widespread fallacy.)
IMHO this whole topic rests on two category errors. The first is confusing politics with culture. The second is speaking of The Democrats.
Politics is entwined with culture because people vote based on some tribal identity usually defined by culture. But chasing cultural ends with political means is an error. Taking the extreme case, the ironman argument if you will, should GOPs succeed in obviating Roe v Wade, blue states would still have legal abortion (although conservatives would go for a federal prohibition) and medication abortion, transportation to blue states, and illegal abortion would thrive in Red states. We don’t have a culture war because it’s inherent, we have a culture war because Republicans want to have a culture war. They can’t run on policy.
Republicans have a kiss up, kick down, respect for authority, FOX News (sic) et al, and the Kochtopus, and it’s still misleading to talk about The Republicans. Democrats are anti-authority, more diverse funding, have a much bigger tent, and have no Party propaganda machine like FOX. There is no The Democrats. Yes, “Defund the Police” is indeed bad D messaging. Which is why actual D candidates don’t say it. But single issue activists will continue to say it. Are we to throw them out of the Party? And if so, how?
Fringe Republicans (maybe not so fringe) agitate for white supremacy, ending all immigration and ending birthright citizenship, mandatory gun ownership, outlawing birth control, overturning legal elections, the fraudit, and gawd knows what. And nobody cares because we expect no better of Republicans.
These discussions attribute way too much agency to The Democrats and not nearly enough to Republicans.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: I gave you a thumbs up for the insight and accuracy of your comments but it crushed my soul a little bit to do so, given the sadness of your last comment…
Oh, I am a propagandist, or more accurately a pedant, though I do my best to conceal it. The ability to add sugar to the medicine and use a deft touch is a key failure on the Left. One of the reasons they irritate me. Everything has to be explicit and everything has to be turned up to 11. They’re not wrong to pressure creatives to use their powers for good, they are wrong to try and dictate how we go about it.
Katherine has become a strong voice for environmental issues without ever using the words ‘environment’ or ‘climate change.’ We’re buying a new car for her and we realized it had to be an e-car or she’s off-brand. Thankfully I’ve stayed away from environmental issues. I’ve written more on race and sex/gender issues. But you do this with a delicate touch, and you have to be honest. Ram it down their throats and they’ll likely spit it back out. Present a case as honestly as you know how to do, make it emotionally resonant, and rely on the reader to draw conclusions. I’m rather proud that despite having been an atheist for 50 years a German publisher tried to get me to remove all references to religion in one series on the grounds that I was proselytizing. I told them to fuck off, although I imagine the rights person softened that a bit.
In GONE I have three characters who have different relationships to religion – a brutal thug who finds redemption in faith, a smug genius who loses her faith, and an immigrant kid who never doubts his faith, even though it condemns his sexual identity. You make the case: here’s one way to look at it, here’s another. Never lie or manipulate, never force. And it’s not a bad thing to make it all fun. The intended takeaway from my religious troika is not that you should or should not believe, it’s that you have the power to choose.
One less ego-driven example. You can guilt gentiles over the Holocaust or you can get them to read Anne Frank. Guilt builds resistance, but there’s no resisting Anne.
Michael, you do this a lot. Aren’t you on they left? Who then, is this “they”?
Well, everyone knows that “This Land Is Your Land” was written by a Commie and sung by a Commie.
Exactly. Here’s another one: When you are trying to convince someone about how something is unfair or unjust and they come up with an example from their own life, however ramshackle or tenuous, acknowledge their attempt to empathize and don’t belittle it.
It’s possible to be annoyed by the tactics of people with whom you otherwise agree.
Whoa. Now I’m really curious. Your birthday has historical and cultural significance. WHO ARE YOU!?
@CSK: Agreed. Although for me, truth be told, you could probably substitute “inevitable” for “possible”…
I’m just hearing that you hate Jesus, love, freedom, our military, workers, freedom again, and wish you were never born. Seems on brand that you support slavery too.
I want to share something with you that I only learned recently. There were something like 178,000 US Colored Troops serving during the Civil War. Grant’s Army of the Potomac in 1865 was in very large proportion made up of USCT, because the white guys who signed up for a 3 year stint had gone home. And honestly, they kind of deserved it.
I’m just a bit uneasy with “white people freed black people” as a framing. Yeah, it took the efforts of black and white together then, just as it will now. Lincoln was white, Steven Douglass was black. We worked together on this. Grant was white, Harriet Tubman was black. And white working class found common cause with black slaves, since the institution of slavery made their labor worth less on the open market. That’s politics that work.
Just for fun, I’ve been telling my brothers that Seattle doesn’t celebrate the Fourth of July at all, and that the fireworks and everything were on Juneteenth.
Why do I do this? Because I’m an asshole.
There was a round of “Without independence we wouldn’t have had the civil war or the emancipation proclamation,” which I think I handily won by explaining that Britain banned slavery in its colonies in 1833.
My dimmer brother now informs me:
So, it was the French all along. Among other things.
@Michael Reynolds: “Progressives resist all efforts to paint US history as anything but a unique human rights disaster.”
Well, sure they do, as long as you define “progressive” as “that guy who really annoys me so I claim everyone is just like him.”
This schtick got old long before Bill Maher beat it into the ground. We get it, progressives suck, you’re the only smart person in the world. I we promise to agree, will you stop posting fifteen versions of this every day? You’re such an interesting guy, and you are choosing to become a bore.
@Jay L Gischer: Yes. But without the whites it wouldn’t have happened.
I use hyperbole. I want to point out that Juneteenth belongs to all of us, not just Blacks, and it shouldn’t be just a “Black holiday” that gets quietly ignored other than being a three day weekend. It doesn’t demonize 2/3rds of Americans as MR was suggesting (also using hyperbole)
@Michael Reynolds: “Needless to say a national celebration that vilifies 2/3rds of the population is a non-starter. Ditto women’s suffrage if it vilifies 50% of the population.”
Why does celebrating Juneteenth vilify all whites? No one living now held slaves. And why would celebrating women’s suffrage vilify all men? In all the celebrations of the 4th yesterday, I never heard one person saying Fuck Britain…
@Jay L Gischer:
Wait a sec.Stephen A. Douglas was pro-slavery in the sense that he believed states should determine their own right to own slaves. Did you mean Frederick Douglass? Not the different spellings of Douglas/Douglass.
@Mu Yixiao: “The left is lambasting the right because the right is “insisting on oaths of loyalty”… While the left is doing exactly the same–only to nebulous ideals rather than people or parties. You hold up banners and require that people bow down to them.”
And here we go again, the same old conservative false equivalence.
Yes, in the current movement if you say something that is deemed offensive by some on the left, they will be mean to you on Twitter.
If you say something that is deemed offensive by the right, republican governors and legislatures pass laws to make sure you are not allowed to say them again on penalty of losing your job.
But yes, both side are exactly the same.
@wr: By the way, it was a Republican president who wanted the army to kill people who were protesting against him. I haven’t seen a lot of Bennington sophomores starting up hit squads.
The problem with This Land… is the version that gets sung at events like yesterday, have the verses that Woody wrote so the Almanac Singers could record and release it as a single. The record company loved the chorus and a couple of verses, but hated most of them.
BTW, Woody was never a member of the CP, though he did write for several leftist publications.
Oh, I know. But the way some righties carry on about Guthrie you’d think he was the out-of-wedlock spawn of rosa luxemburg and joe stalin.
@CSK: And they’d be happy to make the same conclusion about Anton La Vey, were he still alive, if he ran as a Republican. In fact, there’s already an untrue story about his “conversion” ready to go.
@gVOR08: Fringe Republicans (maybe not so fringe) agitate for white supremacy
And some Republicans in congress meet with people who advocate for white supremacy. But some blogger out there takes an extreme position. And we’re even. Because Steve Scalise, 7 term GOP congressman = unknown blogger.
@Moosebreath: Okay. How’s this: Conservatives were not the ones forcing the celebration sponsors to include the National Anthem of the Civil Rights Movement in the program. We’re done with civil rights. Those people have them now, and it’s time for them to let go. Stop picking at the scab. Be grateful that your place is so much better than it was for your grandparents and their grandparents. Quit stirring up trouble where there’s no need to have any.
@wr: sad, but true. People who are so stridently sure they are right (regardless of political persuasion) make me uncomfortable. Some admire certitude, but its twin brother is arrogance and they can be hard to tell apart.
@grumpy realist: “Mr. Social Conservative (a.k.a. Rod Dreher) has been having one of his periodic “alas, alas, America is degenerate and DOOMED!!!” handwringings over at TAC. This last one has been due to SCOTUS not granting cert to one of the Christian-florist-refusing-to-sell-bouquets-for-a-gay-wedding cases. ”
More like hourly meltdowns.
@Jay L Gischer: You need a story simple enough that my brothers can understand it and feel included. Are my brothers racist? Yes. But they’re not white supremacists (yet).
@wr: MR was suggesting that it would be hard to make holidays based around the milestones too freedom, because so many white people will assume that this excludes them, since they were the oppressors. See the current outrage over CRT.
Again, the story has to be simple and inclusive. It has to give good old boys in Oklahoma a chance to say “we did good.”
And if Mu Yixiao still won’t celebrate it, we will stick him into the FEMA re-education camp until he does. (I kid, I kid… no one leaves the FEMA re-education camps)
(He lives a sad life with no celebrations of any kind, just drudgery and lament… the FEMA re-education camps will be a kindness)
@Gustopher: “MR was suggesting that it would be hard to make holidays based around the milestones too freedom, because so many white people will assume that this excludes them, since they were the oppressors.”
The 27% will. And that’s it. And they are irretrievable. They will be offended by anything.
I think most white people today believe that slavery was evil, even if they don’t want to say America was evil for allowing it. Together we can all say “And on this day, we put behind us this great stain on our nation and moved forward together into the future.”
The 27% will insist it’s CRT. The people MR hates — that is, the progressives he hates — will start shouting about Jim Crow and the rest of our racial evils. But maybe the rest of us can say “You know, this was a good day and a great step forward for our nation, and let’s take a moment to celebrate that before we go back to fighting about the rest.”
@wr: I haven’t seen a lot of Bennington sophomores starting up hit squads.
That sounds like an interesting premise for a movie. Does anyone know if there is a writer out there in the BJ universe who could put together a script based on your idea?
Maybe Donna Tartt.
@Gustopher: That’s hilarious! We should all stand and salute those Irish who threw off their chairs of slavery so nonviolently! After all, when have the Irish been known for violence?
I’ve seen social psychologists say this is actually counterproductive, as it gets them focussed on their own trouble, which makes them less likely to help you for two reasons:
1. They start thinking, what if I help this person and then something bad happens to me and I no longer have the resources to help myself?
2. It leads to them thinking that everything is equally bad for everyone, so why should this person get special help I’m not getting?
The one particular thing I remember reading is that when we say we need to help people develop empathy, we really mean we should be helping them develop sympathy, because sympathy is more likely to lead to action than just empathy.