The war that the Republican Party lost last night was much more than a political war. It wasn’t simply lack of turn out, lack of money or a bad campaign. What was lost was a culture war.
In 2004, John Kerry won the 18-29 youth vote over George Bush by 9 points, with a 54 to 45 split. On Tuesday, Barack Obama won that same demographic by 23 percent, with Barack Obama taking 60 percent to Romney’s 36 percent. Not only that, but they’re voting in larger numbers. This represents a larger problem for the GOP and ultimately the country: There is a large majority of the young generation that values the support of the government over their own freedom, and the GOP has not figured out how to reach them with a message of freedom and independence. The conversation centers around what each party will do for them, and if that continues, the GOP is in a death spiral.
Conservatives can blame the old white guys, Todd Akins and Richard Mourdocks for being a distraction. They can throw around voter fraud accusations, and boycott every Hollywood type that makes an endorsement they don’t like or says something dumb. The truth is, these are all symptoms of a much larger problem for which no one has proposed a solution: Conservatives long ago ceded entertainment to the Left, and in doing so isolated themselves from demographics they absolutely need to reach. This isn’t a problem that is going to be fixed by better GOTV or more SuperPACs. What needs to happen is a cultural shift that cannot happen in one election cycle, nor can it happen with the attitude of so many on the Right toward American culture.
The culture shift a subtle one that has taken decades. Ronald Reagan had a Hollywood background. He knew how to talk to people so they would listen, and he knew how to be relevant, even into his 70s. This didn’t mean that he changed the principles or ideas of Barry Goldwater, he just understood that the things that worked in 1964 would not work in 1980, and he spoke to people in their language. The result? He took the youth vote by 20 points against Walter Mondale in 1984, which kept the country center right for 20 years.
Single women, who went 67 percent to Obama this week, have been sold a bill of goods by the Left since the 90s. Women have been told that empowerment comes from sex, and that we have a “right” to things like birth control. Television models the Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle of shoes and parties and sex without consequence. Meanwhile, America wonders why women walking around with iPhones and Kate Spade bags at Ivy League colleges are demanding that we pay for birth control they could acquire at Wal Mart for $4 a month.
If social media has taught us anything, it’s that people today wait for the message to come to them. Most will not go looking for political theory or dive deep into policy discussions. The Left understands that the low information voter is the norm, and their message is conveyed in a way that reaches the person who makes political decisions based on their friends Facebook posts. It’s subtle and many times it’s not even overtly political. The culture has embraced leftist ideology as a whole, because the Left has been able to infiltrate movies, music, social media, and television so that the majority of people don’t even know that their worldviews are being influenced.
The answer is that conservatives will continue to lose unless they understand that they need to take the fight to where people actually live. The majority of Americans do not live in the conservative news sphere. They do not tune in to talk radio, nor do they attend political gatherings or rallies. They’re not following you on Twitter. Their political views can be translated into “Vote with your lady parts” eCards that make the rounds on Facebook and resonate with millions.
What this does not mean is that there should be a dumbed down version of the message. There should not be imitation humor sites or cheaply made movies that bludgeon people with a conservative message. There is an incredible wealth of talent, and there should be an effort to join them and push back instead of shunning artists and movies because of political differences.
Make good music. Make good movies. Make good art. Not “conservative” movies or “conservative” music. People tune out, and it quickly becomes a preaching to the choir scenario. Embrace humor. There doesn’t need to be a separate conservative arts world, and we need to play on the same field. Support the actors and artists that are actually in Hollywood and making great movies. The work doesn’t need to be flag waving, overtly political rah-rah stuff to plant seeds and influence the way people think.
Unless there is a concerted effort to spend time understanding and embracing the culture of the people they are trying to reach, the Right will become increasingly irrelevant. A culture war cannot be won when you’re sitting behind your computer complaining about the state of the nation. Get in the game and take it back.