The Right Can't Win the Culture, but the Left Can Lose It
Ten years ago, if you leaned right, you could speak up against only socialism (especially universal health care), immigration, or gun control. On any issue where the left's philosophy threatened the moral foundation of society, there was no fighting it. They would ruin your life from top to bottom if you resisted. And by "they," I mean not just the left. I mean everybody with any kind of power, including movement conservatives and certainly Christians. Everyone was sympathetic to the left (and hostile to critics), working for the left (and protective of leftists' income), or deathly afraid of the left (and determined to avoid backlash).
The left controlled education, arts, the news, social media, big business, the legal establishment, government, and most of the professions like health care, therapy, and child services. The left also had indirect control over the military and the churches. Military personnel and clergy both led conservative constituencies but answered to elite leaders whom liberals could easily terrify into submission.
Put simply, the world was the left's to lose.
The left is losing the world anyway
Disney and Netflix are cratering. Florida, the state with the third largest population, passed an anti-grooming education law that Texas could not pass only a year earlier because of Republican fears of backlash. Most of the world, and notably almost all of the developing world, has not followed the left's directive to antagonize Russia. It looks likely that Roe v. Wade will get overturned and states will be able to abolish abortion.
Stephen Herreid of CatholicVote is one of the few on the right who didn't ghost me to please easily embarrassed right-wing grifters in the dark 2010s. I called Stephen after reading that a pro-family group's offices got firebombed in his Wisconsin town by people angry about the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade.
"I'm okay," Stephen told me. "And by the way, I have been meaning to ask you. Everything that got you banned eight years ago is now mainstream conservative positioning. How's that feel?"
Apologies to us early victims of cancel culture are unlikely. I won't hold my breath waiting for conservatives to acknowledge that they once shunned people for saying things that now they say to win elections.
Nonetheless, I can't congratulate the right for winning. I was there, on the front lines, and I saw firsthand how it went down. The right wing sought only the appearance of defending cultural values. Really, conservatism was defined as free-market capitalism, and everyone wanted to avoid the toxic and unwinnable social issues associated in people's minds with church ladies, emasculated clergymen, and moral busybodies. It never dawned on the right that Americans by and large liked traditional social values a lot more than being
told they should be happy without health care.
Nobody won the culture wars of the last fifteen years. The right lost every battle it tried to fight. Things turned around when the left lost even more.
So how did it turn around? The shift can be explained by ignoring the right and simply looking at what the left did wrong. Below are the six unforced errors that explain this mystery. (This is a cold calculation of what the left did wrong, with as little moral valuation as possible.)
- Picking Joe Biden
In 2020, the left had dynamic candidates for president: Sanders, Warren, Gabbard, Yang, Booker, Williamson. I'm not saying I would vote for them or want them to win. But they were fun. With that lineup, you'd have to make a huge mistake to lose.
The left spurned all its rock stars and chose Biden.
Joe Biden is an utter parody. In his past he was racially insensitive, a plagiarist, known for creepy sexual behavior, and even famous for tacky hair plugs. He has shown utter callousness to the middle and working classes crushed by inflation. He pampers his son and covers up for his corruption. He couldn't handle a withdrawal from Afghanistan but wants to provoke Russia, the nation with the most nuclear weapons on Earth. His incompetence has opened people to the possibility that liberals are wrong about literally everything. None of the right turn could have happened without Biden.
- Failing to investigate the 2020 election
I recently watched 2000 Mules. The film documents widespread fraud in American politics. The left did not want any discussion of voter fraud in 2020. If anything, the left's position was "voter suppression," which leftists defined as any attempt to safeguard elections against voter fraud.
In my opinion, the left erred in silencing the issue. Republicans have engaged in fraud, too — the film admits as much. The thought occurred to me that maybe so many RINOs backstabbed Trump on the election fraud issue because they had been using the same election-rigging system to stay in office. Had Democrats not pursued censorship, the gamble by the left would have probably paid off. Instead, the left went full Orwell and convinced everyone that leftists were the ones hiding massive structural electoral fraud, thereby making fraud a partisan issue on which the left was the guilty party.
What if the left had green-lighted an honest discussion of fraud? First, authorities would have found fraud by both sides. Second, the Democrats could have split hairs and acknowledged enough fraud to avoid looking like Pinocchio but not enough to see results reversed. Third, voters would not have lost faith in the whole liberal establishment.
- Persecuting the January 6 protesters
The events of January 6 backfired; Trump had to leave the White House, and Biden is president now. Today, nobody on the left cares about January 6 outside a small Beltway-obsessed crowd. Gas is over four dollars a gallon, and many people have to choose between buying milk or eggs because they cannot afford both. The footage of a few hours in Washington, D.C. does not depict an insurrection, and none of it looks worse than the left's marathon of "anti-fascist" chaos throughout 2020. This is nobody's urgency.
Shadow courts formed, based on the ludicrous claim that January 6 was treason by people wanting literally to overthrow the government with Trump flags, biking helmets, and pieces of police barricades. The party that popularized "punch a fascist" suddenly acted shocked at images of men punching each other. Democrats have enhanced their reputation for being out of touch, narcissistic, and crassly cynical. They have also created a class of martyrs with Solzhenitsyn-style stories about the January 6 gulags. See Julie Kelly's excellent reportage, which will feed the anti-Democrat narrative for years to come.
- Dropping the ball on grooming
After the mileage leftists got with "MeToo," you would think they would have taken away an important lesson: NEVER side with groomers. Same-sex grooming is no less poisonous than heterosexual grooming, as the right-wing Catholics learned in 2002.
The leftist choice to back Disney against Ron DeSantis and Florida's "don't say gay" law was pure folly. In 2021, Virginia elections were heavily influenced by parents outraged about sex assault in trans-friendly bathrooms. It had become obvious that Critical Race Theory was not the education issue that galvanized voters; the creepy LGBT curriculum was a bigger deal. So many people had experiences like mine (I speak here as an abuse survivor), being pressured and even abused as children in same-sex settings, usually by adults who couldn't understand or respect boundaries around kids.
I had worked on countless teams trying to get people to talk about LGBT grooming for well over a decade. When conservative groups finally found a champion in Ron DeSantis, and the law passed, the left could have taken a wiser path. Leftists could have come out and said something like "all grooming is wrong, no matter the sex of the perpetrator or victim." They could have apologized to survivors of same-sex abuse like me, who have spent years being targeted and defamed by gay activists. They did that with their own side's hetero harassers like Bill Clinton and Al Franken. Why couldn't they admit that their gay funders like Terry Bean and Ed Buck were creeps, too?
The Florida law would have harmed nobody if the left's initial claims were true — remember, leftists claimed that nobody was teaching about sexual orientation in kindergarten anyway. To use this defense was to admit this point: if they were teaching such things to kindergartners, it would be indefensible. In other words, the left's own response reinforces the fact that people were right to see sexual orientation discussion with kindergartners as obvious grooming. All that remained was to excavate evidence of such discussions (which took no more than Libs of TikTok doing a day's work), and the left sank itself with its own contradictions.
Now people in America know they can talk about gay grooming without being branded as a complete outcast. They know that "homophobia" as a term has encompassed many logical concerns about protecting vulnerable people from sexual intimidation. And the Democrats will go down in history as people who wanted gay donors more than they cared about the well-being of children.
- Confusing their racial narratives
Despite the Democrat party's racist past, the party has a reputation for racial justice. Until two years ago, polls showed the party's unchallenged grip on people "of color," winning about 90% of black voters, about 75% of Asians, and 67% of Hispanics.
The Democrats could have used their perceived advantage on racial issues if they had not clung to an antiquated black/white discussion on race. There is some logic behind the slogan "black lives matter" — after all, slavery was a singular catastrophe for the United States, and it was the black race that was enslaved. It is indisputable that no race has been as loyal to the Democrats since the 1960s as has the black community.
But many non-white people are not black, and insisting that no other race appear in a "matters" slogan is a means of indirectly dismissing other non-white races or making them a much lower priority than issues affecting black people. On principle, this seems somewhat off base. As a strategy it is not a good idea. The non-black, non-white population is growing rapidly, while the black population in the United States has plateaued at about 13%. According to Pew, between 2000 and 2019, the U.S. added around 46 million new people. Of this increase, 24 million were Hispanics, 8.4 million were Asians, only 6 million were black, and only 1.6 million where white.
What does this mean? Over 70% of the increase in the entire U.S. population came from the growth in Hispanics (over 52%) and Asians (18.2%). Black people made up only 13–14% of the Americans added to the citizenry — yet black people were about 13% of the population to begin with. So the dogged insistence on emphasizing black people's struggles as greater and more urgent than those facing Asians and Latinos was a form of electoral suicide. The appearance of the term "BIPOC" signified that the left wanted black and indigenous people, the groups not growing, to be set apart and favored over Latinos and Asians, the groups that were exploding.
Have the pro-choice and pro-LGBT causes helped black communities? Black babies are aborted at higher rates, while LGBT men have the highest risks of HIV. Taken as a whole, the progressive policy package harms the black community by limiting their population growth, which in turn harms the Democrats because they have tied one of their most important signatures — their identity as the racially better party — to the outcomes for this one community at the expense of other minority groups.
- Dismissing social cruelty
In a recent clip from The View that came across my YouTube feed, I realized something. The women on that show are rude, in a way that would be offensive regardless of their political vantage point. Sunny Hostin, Joy Behar, Whoopi Goldberg, and Ana Navarro were interrupting and making snide comments to such a degree that it was unwatchable. I reflected on what has gone wrong with the left — why do they sound so mean? And I realized I was not simply overreacting.
The left was certainly attuned to issues of respect and tone. After all, their mean argument against Donald Trump was that he sent mean tweets from his presidential media count. Leaders on the left could have done much more to contain the prevailing nastiness among progressive advocates.
Image: U.S. Navy via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.