Conservatives have no plan to win the culture war. You intend to rule anyway.


Republicans would have to make changes to win the hearts and minds of the youth. You have no intention of doing that. Instead, they intend to kill democracy.

In this age of dull Fox News propaganda, Q-adjoining conspiracy nonsense, and sophomorically slippery Quillette Contrarianism, it is not easy to find genuinely thoughtful conservative writings on American politics. So it was with some pleasant surprise that I read this morning a great essay by Tanner Greer, who, although written from a very different political perspective than I am, makes some important points about the culture wars, the currents of history and conservative politics. Yet even Greer misunderstands the nature of the moment and the danger of reaction on his own part.

The thrust of Greer’s argument is that cultural wars are long wars that are staged over generations in order to win the hearts and minds not of adults but of children and grandchildren; that liberals paved the way for victory in the culture wars decades ago, just as Hayek, Goldwater, and other conservative activists before them had done since the 1950s; that the Liberals definitely have won these culture wars by making Americans under 45 blatantly progressive or even socialist; and that conservatives have no plan to defend themselves at the generational level. Greer is right to despair over the foolish optimism of his colleagues who believe millennials or zoomers are becoming more conservative. He deplores the short-term retreat tactics of Republican politicians who use culture wars to win elections decided by the old rather than fighting for the hearts of the young. These points are argued much more intelligently than most conservative essays.

Still, Greer makes two fundamental mistakes. The first is to believe that the left’s victory for the youth is based on a determined manipulation of science, media and cultural spaces rather than a mostly organic response to terrible conservative politics and politics. Greer notes that younger generations will always be looking for new ideas to deal with problems that are beyond the perspective of older orthodoxy:

The emerging cohort has many reasons to thirst for new ideas. Old orthodoxy, which is supposed to solve the problems of a bygone era, will find it difficult to explain crises in the new one. These events will shape the new generation; a group of insurgents who can explain these formative events with their own program will attract converts to the cause.

But Greer does not recognize how disastrous these older orthodoxy were for those who grew up in the shadow of the Southern Strategy against Civil Rights, Obscene Inequality, the Climate Crisis, the Great Recession, and two Eternal Wars (one of which was predicted) over willful lies, for which no one was held accountable) and unsustainable health, housing and education costs. Conservative orthodoxy has not only failed. It has failed so miserably that people under 45 have an abysmally small share of the nation’s wealth, will never have it half as good as their parents, are burdened with massive health and educational debts, have less paid jobs with less reliability and at the same time entitlement more education and experience and cannot afford mortgages or rents because the elders pushed prices into the stratosphere refusing to allow more housing. They have seen their elders utterly neglect the climate crisis that is threatening to destroy human civilization, while using their right to vote to elect George W. Bush of all people, then Donald Trump, and refusing to take the left pole distract American politics further to the left than Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden. Conservatives should consider themselves lucky that young people have found protagonists in people who are decent, responsible and tolerant of the obscene status quo, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Bernie Sanders, rather than in much more destabilizing characters.

In so far as liberals tried to bend educational and media institutions to their will, what did conservatives expect from thoughtful people in response? Lee Atwater’s political program? What did conservatives expect from moral people about LGBT problems after the Stonewall riots and after officials from the Reagan administration allowed AIDS to become a global pandemic because they thought it only killed gays? What exactly did Conservatives expect from intelligent people of goodwill in response to a movement that brought Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney to power? Is not the apotheosis of Donald Trump Prove among conservative voters that liberal academics were right from the start about the roots of conservative grassroots politics?

But Greer makes an even more serious mistake: he believes his colleagues do not understand that they lost the culture war and have no plan for a coming progressive millennial orthodoxy:

Understanding this is equally clearing and frustrating. Clarifying because it gives us a clear idea of ​​what needs to be done and what not. Frustration comes from this second point: since culture wars are long wars, there are no quick victories. If you reject the fast-crystallizing orthodoxy of American millennials, your short-term options are limited. The millennials are a lost generation; they will persist in their errors until the end of their days. Yours is a doomed cohort – and for most of the next two decades, that doomed cohort will be in charge.

But like all Orthodoxy, yours will stumble at some point. Today’s orthodoxy will encounter events it cannot explain. Today’s hopes will be the source of tomorrow’s worries. When these concerns arise, a growing generation will look for alternatives. The job of today’s insurgents is to build a coherent criticism of this orthodoxy, a compelling vision of a better way, and a series of networks that can guard the fire until that happy day comes.

In reality, they do. It’s just a wicked plan Greer refuses to acknowledge, the culmination of the same logic that started with Nixon. You don’t want to win the hearts and minds of Generation Z or Generation Alpha with new ideas. You do not intend to win a majority of the American vote today. They do not believe that a democracy that does not favor socially conservative white evangelicals has a right to exist in America. You do not see this graphic as a task of persuasion; they see it as a crisis that requires a theocratic totalitarian response.

The Trump ethos and those who stick to it is not about winning the culture war. They only intend to rule and inflict as much pain as possible on their enemies from a minority position. Conservatives intend to dominate the Senate forever with an increasingly extremist minority of white evangelical voices In spite of represent less than 30 percent of the country. They intend to enforce regressive policies with justices of the Federalist Society Supreme Court appointed by presidents who lost the referendum and use different rules to get nominations under Democratic presidents than under Republican presidents. They intend to suppress liberal voices and then refuse to certify democratic victories when they happen anyway. You intend to keep the legislature forever stop Super majorities with far fewer votes.

Conservatives see no reason to withdraw from this plan, no matter how much generational change there is. They have no intention of moderating themselves or their ideas to meet new challenges – in part because it is impossible to envision a “conservative” response to the climate crisis, housing costs, or radical inequality that conservative white evangelicals who have no intention of decentering to give up illegally acquired power.

They just want to rule – no matter what it takes and no matter how many lines they cross.


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