How does one know he's in the midst of a revolution -- at the end of an era? Usually, recognition awaits the retrospective view. But these days, signs of the revolution we are in litter the landscape. The principal sign? The collapse of key institutions. Certainly since the beginning of the 20th Century, four institutions have set the nation's ideological course: Entertainment. Still lopsidedly leftwing yet playing a decreasing role as it descends into the cultural swamp. Don't be surprised if one day entertainers, en masse, exit stage left. The academy. Still way out there, especially in the liberal arts and certain social "sciences," and still dominant, yet under heavy assault by free-marketers and anti-behaviorists chalking up consistent victories. Private prestigious colleges have not helped by pricing themselves beyond the reach of most parents' ability to pay. (At the elementary and secondary school levels, the storyline frequently cites mediocrity, dreary achievement scores, and new initiatives followed by failed reform followed by academic under-performance. Home schooling may truly be the last take-things-into-their-own-hands refuge of parents desperate for the principled, intellectually disciplined education of their young.) The church. With Catholicism mired in a fen of pederasty, and establishment Protestantism grown effete, religious energy in this hour of a new Great Awakening has transferred from "mainline" denominations to evangelical, non-denominational, frequently "mega" churches bubbling over with parishioners and infectious religious enthusiasm. The mainstream media (MSM). Now, each day seemingly more irrelevant to the public conversation, aided greatly by its own ideological arrogance and a cultural rush from the printed word. Newspapers continue to suffer from hammered circulation syndrome, magazines drift toward oblivion, and Barnes and Noble is putting itself up for sale. The English language's definitive 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary likely never will see another printed edition. IF THIS isn't revolution -- the end of an era -- what possibly could be? Which brings us to the Tea Party and the MSM. Entertainment, the academy, the church, and the press -- all historically leftist -- dominate the rhetorical environment that fuels our politics. All define themselves and the Democratic Party as centrist -- or moderate -- and by their definition the middle of the political spectrum moves ever left. The so-called middle is dominated by leftists -- with genuine moderates and conservatives defined out of the middle as extremists. Gallup consistently has found the nation's adult population terming itself conservative, as opposed to liberal, by a factor of two -- twice as many conservatives as liberals. Yet our principal opinion-molding institutions lean lopsidedly toward the other end of the ideological spectrum. If not in actual decline, mainline churches simply are not experiencing the growth of evangelical churches. Conservative parishioners don't relish being dished a weekly dose of leftist pablum. Similarly, conservative readers, viewers and listeners have departed the MSM for talk radio (where liberals are few), conservative websites, The Wall Street Journal, and Fox News -- dominant in cable. Likewise, network news continues to hemorrhage viewers -- the hearts of few among them beating pit-a-pat for the likes of cute Katie Couric et al. As with mainline churches, so with the MSM: The energy has shifted away -- to niche radio, to cable, to the Net. IT IS clear the MSM missed the Tea Party, primarily because the MSM wanted teapartiers either to fail outright or to drive the Republican Party farther down toward oblivion. The opposite has happened. We now are in a revolutionary hour, poised for historic gains by a Republican Party energized by teapartiers tired of being force-fed a leftist diet -- in movie theaters, in colleges, in churches, and by a mainstream media rendered increasingly irrelevant. Like kids shouting from the crowd's fringe, the MSM stand over there with Nancy Pelosi and chief polarizer Barack Obama mouthing nonsense about taxes and the Ground Zero mosque and homosexuals in the military and illegal immigration, spinning their wheels over a spewing well in the gulf, apologizing to our enemies, and dissenting from the notion of American exceptionalism. Either they get it too well or they don't get it at all, and so they increasingly are isolating themselves from the discussion -- and pushing their leftism on a populace tuning them out. So the MSM is reduced to haranguing teapartiers charging forward in the political vanguard and sealing the end of an era. Comes now the revolution. It is here. And you (as O. Henry wrote nearly a century ago) -- and you, madam and sir and all of us, are in it.
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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