Canada Kicks Ass
Conservative Culture:


ridenrain @ Tue Mar 17, 2009 6:35 am

The culture: what conservative politicians can do

There has been a dawning realization among conservatives recently that in order to triumph over the left, we have to win over the culture. As Mark Steyn has observed, “culture is upstream of politics.” What happens there eventually percolates down into politics. The real enemies of conservatism are not Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi or Chris Dodd. They are merely placeholder for our real opponents: Oprah Winfrey, Michael Moore and left wing directors like Steven Soderbergh.

This newfound awareness has led many conservatives to despair because they understand that we are weak on culture. Well, I say they are wrong to despair. The glass half full not half empty. Just consider how far we have come in the last two decades. 20 years ago, what the right sorely missed the most was a right-wing news media. Surely, if good news sources existed, our work would be done for us. Well, now we have got it: talk radio, the blogosphere, Fox News, conservative books. Unfortunately, it hasn’t made us invincible. But it has helped in many tangible ways. But in achieving it, we also able to see better what else is required. Conservative political parties and news sources aren’t enough. We need conservative culture as well. However, conservatives should be heartened that the trend line is positive. We are advancing. And the foundation for a lasting conservatism is being built, one brick at a time.

Nevertheless, conservative politicians (and conservative media outlets) can do a number of things to help out.

First, support conservative allies in Hollywood. We have a surprising number of fellow travellers in the entertainment industry, much more than we would have at first supposed because most of them are under deep cover. In Hollywood, the default culture is liberal and orthodoxy is rigorously enforced. But once conservatives there are organized, they can surface more easily and pursue conservative cultural activities more openly. Every effort should be made to encourage them. This is the idea behind Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood website and the Friends of Abe group in Hollywood, headed by conservative actor Gary Sinese. Conservative politicians must realize that the entertainment industry is not fluff. In fact, that it is more important than the serious financial and foreign policy stuff we are more comfortable discussing.

Second, support conservative allies in academia. Like the media, we have a surprising number of friends and allies there but we don’t know it because they have all hunkered down. This is why organizations like FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) are so important. For a long time, speech and political freedom has become increasingly under attack on campuses because of speech codes and campaigns to purge opposing viewpoints in the guise of fighting racism and harassment. However, in the past 5 years there has been pushback. Thanks to the fine folks at FIRE, many States have instituted free speech codes for universities that want to keep receiving government money. The long-term benefit of these laws cannot be overstated, even though this issue is under the radar screen of everyday politics.

Third, governments must begin to insist on political neutrality where coercion and/or public money is involved. For instance, university student’s organizations are unabashedly left. Thanks to university rules, they are entitled to a share of the tuition money collected by the school and are typically elected by only 10% of the student body. Student associations shouldn’t be allowed to expropriate student’s money. If they have a service to offer, then they should have to make their case to the students and operate on a voluntary basis. How about left-wing think tanks? How many of them receive government money vis a vis conservative think tanks? And then there are government funded public broadcasters like the CBC and the BBC. Most of these institutions are egregiously left wing and answer to no one. In Canada, there is also the National Film Board (employing 490 people!). This must change. Then there are labour unions that divert part of their budget to left-wing causes that have nothing to do with representing their workers. While I believe that how a union disburses its own money should be none of the government’s business, I think this argument falls down when a closed shop is allowed. Nobody chooses their jobs based of what the union does with ones dues. People consider it as just another one of those nuisances that one has to put up with in life. But they shouldn’t have to.

In Canada, we have to defang the Human Right’s Commissions, at least with regard to speech and ideology issues. Thanks to people like Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn not buckling under when they were brought before them, Canadians have recently developed a new-found awareness of what these kangaroo courts really do in the name of human rights, and they don’t like it.

In the US, the Presidency is a bully pulpit - to borrow a memorable phrase from Teddy Roosevelt. The only conservative President who used the bully pulpit to address broad cultural issues was Ronald Reagan. As a result, the cultural and sexual mores of America were far more restrained in the 80’s than they were before or since. It became cool to study manners, to be an entrepreneur, and to dress respectably. In the 80’s, monogamy was an in’ word and promiscuity was an ‘out’ word. (This happened long before the AIDS scare went mainstream, which was in 1985 when Rock Hudson was diagnosed. Prior to that, the heterosexual majority did not really think about STDs at all.) One obvious problem to implementing this strategy is that Barack Obama is President, and he is the most leftist occupant of the White House in history. However this is temporary condition (probably only another 3 ½ more years, the way his administration has been progressing). The more serious problem is that no conservative President other than Reagan ever spoke out on cultural matters. The first Bush did not. W didn’t either (not counting the war on terror, which is a security matter). The next Republican President must ... n-do-.html