How the Left turned electoral rejection into triumph (and what Conservatives can learn from them)
We must finally acknowledge the scope of the damage that’s issued from attaching too much importance to electoral victories and too little to cultural losses. Through this immense misassessment, conservatives, long America’s natural majority, have lost the better part of two generations, and at the same time allowed the Left to enormously enlarge its voter base from abroad.
These two phenomena, tenaciously engineered and supported by the Left over five decades, their importance too often deprecated by those who should have known better, have coalesced to create the present political environment. In that environment, sustained one party presidential government by the Left has become a real possibility. Intelligent and bold political efforts could still avoid this outcome, but it’s late and there is little room for error.
History, which is fond of irony, has brought Middle America to its current fragile circumstances through the improbable agency of multiple conservative electoral victories. Conservatives’ perhaps inevitable complacency, and consequent inattention to culture and borders following those victories gave the Left a free hand outside the political sphere. It did not miss its chance.
In 1968, the old America, appalled by the events of the preceding several years, elected Richard Nixon and thereby rejected the 1960’s. The presidential election of 1968 was not, as is often erroneously claimed, a narrow victory for Middle America. When the votes of Wallace, who carried five states and got double-digit popular vote percentages in ten others, are added to Nixon’s, that election amounted to an overwhelming rejection of the chaos, violence and social destructiveness of the late 60’s. Nixon’s 1972 landslide reelection erased any remaining doubt, or so the victors believed -- the 60’s had been rejected.
To conservatives, Carter’s 1976 victory was a mere noxious aberration, as they stormed back with Ronald Reagan in 1980, ’84, and ‘88 (in the last of those years winning handily with Reagan’s surrogate, George Herbert Walker Bush). For the conservative victors, the war had been fought and won. And won again.
Except for the nagging detail that such wars are never permanently won. When confronting the Left -- with its perpetual compulsive urge to social destruction and glassy-eyed pursuit of utopia through the tender embrace of government -- the war is never won for good. The Left never gives up, never apologizes for its unnumbered gross failures, and never, ever, goes away.
That truth -- unfortunately for the great America Middle -- was forgotten, or never learned, by the political victors of ‘68, ‘72, ‘80, ‘84, and ’88; as was forgotten the related truth, that gaining and holding political power in a universal franchise republic depends on the composition of the population and on what that population believes -- both of which, “over the long run,” are constantly changing and infinitely malleable.
When the conservative winners from those years should have been struggling to gain, hold and expand a voice in America’s universities and larger culture, a presence that might have complemented, strengthened and, ultimately, maintained their electoral triumphs, and should have been ensuring that America chooses its immigrants, they instead immersed themselves in the easy spoils of ephemeral political victory. Alas, in the euphoric flush of victory it’s hard to focus on remote dangers. From government posts they went, not to the educational and cultural fray, but to the generous rewards of the corporate world and the comforting same-think of conservative magazines and foundations.
They were needed elsewhere.
Thus, in 1968 the road was cleared for the Left to begin its immensely successful long march through the key cultural institutions of America: Its aims were, first, to change the views of the young, and second, to bring major electoral reinforcements into a stubbornly conservative and uncooperative nation. Well beyond its hopes, it succeeded in doing both.
To alter the views of the young, the leftist boomers and pre-boomers who had made the 60’s (who were not a majority of those generations, as recent voting patterns repeatedly show), simply retreated to more tractable and pliant institutions: to the already vaguely liberal, weak-kneed and easily rolled universities, particularly to their social science, humanities and education departments, from there, gradually, to the K-12 public schools, and outward into the popular culture.
In all these niches, key institutions in forming the attitudes of successive generations, they worked assiduously through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s to promulgate a new view of history and society, in which all of American and Western Civilization before the 60’s is portrayed as evil and in need of fundamental transformation. For at least the last two decades that puerile falsehood has permeated America’s educational world, from kindergarten through graduate school, and has similarly dominated the world of popular culture.
In consequence, with each presidential election the age below which most of the US electorate is largely uninformed about its own civilization’s history and achievements has risen by about half a decade. For 2016, it will hover at around thirty-five, more or less, up from about thirty in 2012. Do the math, bearing in mind when the content of public (and most private) education, as well as the images projected by the popular culture, had fully embraced the Left’s radical revisions. The new orthodoxy -- that the West/America/Europeans (read: whites) are all bad all the time -- began to be mainlined into America’s educational bloodstream at all levels, and into the popular culture, by the mid-1970’s. By the mid-90’s it had become overwhelmingly dominant in both realms. Today, that orthodoxy is all almost anyone under thirty-five remembers from school history.
The purveyors of this poisonous and transparent falsehood go so far now as to demand that no response to it be heard at all, on pain of ostracism or worse. The new President of the University of California -- a political graduate of the Obama administration -- has helpfully explained in recent weeks that almost all even slightly conservative views are “micro-aggressions” against minorities, and has requested students and faculty to self-monitor their speech to avoid such transgressive and threatening heresies. Little objection is heard from the long tamed and easily cowed professoriate.
The singular achievement of the Left’s efforts since the 1970’s is that few Americans under thirty-five have been exposed to facts or ideas that would enable them to challenge the constant drip of wrong-headed leftist civilizational self-loathing that has been risibly presented to them as the story of our culture.
But this was not all that happened during “the long run.” In the many decades following 1968, the Left was at work on a second front in its efforts to remake the American electorate: The domestic population had proved disappointingly unreliable in presidential elections, and might become so again. So, employing the Immigration Act of 1965, and the too-ready compliance of many buyable or clueless Republicans and self-interested, shortsighted businesses, the Left imported a huge new supplementary client population. More recently, this second front has received unknowably large reinforcements from our sitting President, who, ignoring Federal law, has granted amnesty by executive order to large percentages of those who entered the country illegally.
And so today, looking forward from 1968, we have arrived at “the long run.” Most of the World War II generation and all its predecessors, which elected Ronald Reagan twice and his stand-in once, have departed; as has a large segment of the 1930-45 pre-boomers. They have been replaced by those under thirty-five, whose yawning information gap and distorted world view can hardly be blamed on them, and by the millions of newcomer dependents, whose hunger for government benefits and gratitude that their illegal entry has been forgiven make them a natural constituency of the Left.
In short, while conservatives were celebrating electoral victories, they neglected America’s most important attitude-forming institutions and the all-important detail of who is allowed to live in America. Today one consequence of this dual neglect occupies the White House.
What to do?
First, though it’s important to know what happened while conservatives erroneously thought they were winning, it’s also helpful to realize that all is not lost. If nothing else does, the Left’s own recovery from its crushing defeats of the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s should convince conservatives that in America electoral victory by one side is never assuredly permanent.
Second -- and extremely important for tactical choices over the coming year -- it needs to be clearly recognized that an astonishingly large remnant of the old America has survived the Left’s onslaught. Reality is amazingly stubborn, and a substantial part of the American public is still in touch with it. Very probably that “remnant” still constitutes a majority of the US electorate, and, if the issues of intense concern to it are forcefully addressed, victory at the critical presidential level is very probably achievable in 2016. Regaining the presidency -- as history should have taught us once and for all -- will hardly assure a meaningful voice in the culture; but without the presidency it’s hard to conceive of any route at all to that goal.