I’m not much of a whiner, nor am I someone who makes predictions. I’d hoped for a Romney victory, though more for an Obama defeat. But that, when you think about it, was the problem. While there’s no doubt Romney would’ve been a much better President than the current occupant of that office, when people are presented with a choice between the vague they know and a vague they don’t know, they will pick what they know.
Romney offered a vision of American that was different, but didn’t spend a lot of time explaining how it would get to different other than that it would. He took a lot of criticism for not giving specifics on his tax plan, which was understandable since you don’t negotiate with yourself, but beyond that what was his plan? For all the criticisms I heaped on the President for speaking in platitudes and offering nothing specific for a second term could have easily been said about Romney, but I wasn’t going to do that because “you dance with the one that brung you.”
I wanted Obama defeated but suspected people wouldn’t switch someone they know for someone they don’t know with a seemingly slightly different vision. No one buys eggshell curtains to replace off-white ones and thinks that will be the difference maker in the living room.
As for the demographic issue everyone talks about, it’s not as large of a problem as people who can make money off of telling people it’s a problem would have you believe. At least not yet.
The reason Latinos didn’t vote Republican had less to do with a rejection of conservatism than it did conservatism not being offered to them. Not only is Romney not much of a conservative, he never tried to sell even a slightly conservative vision to them. Appearing on Univision once and running Spanish language commercials is hardly making a pitch. You can’t win people you don’t talk to and ask for their vote.
But more than race, the real demographic problem is one of age.
Young people of all races today are growing up in a country where their default setting on politics is liberalism. It’s not because liberalism is so great, it’s given them 50 percent unemployment amongst recent college graduates, it’s, more destructively, that they’re being inundated with the idea that the government is where to look to improve their lives. Couple this with a hesitance to reach out to certain demographics because of the seeming electoral futility of it and you find yourself in the situation we reside, only worse in the future.
Andrew Breitbart used to say “Politics is downstream from culture,” and he was right. Liberalism in entrenched in every song, movie and TV show where success is treated worthy of scorn and not admiration. The only place anyone hears a conservative message is where it’s clearly labeled as such. Conservatism is treated as something excluded from culture and liberalism is treated as culture. Neither is naturally true, but when conservatives give up on culture, ceding it to liberals, you end up where we were Tuesday night. And I don’t want anymore Tuesday nights.
But, at least right now, I see nothing to make me think we aren’t in for a lifetime of Tuesday nights in the future. Yes, conservatives will win elections, probably the White House back in 2016 because the economy will still be so awful, but down the road the picture is bleak because we aren’t even making an effort in the culture.
Let me explain what I’m talking about. There are movies and then there are “conservative movies.” Have you seen the Atlas Shrugged movies? I’ve seen untied shoelaces more entertaining. Did you watch An American Carol? I’ve had more laughs reading the phonebook.
The problem with “conservative movies” is they’re conservative first and entertaining second. That’s upside down. They’re so interested in beating you over the head with their message that they’re awful. Subtlety is lost.
Comedian Adam Carolla is the perfect example of what we need. He’s not a down-the-line conservative, more of a libertarian, but he is entertaining as hell. His daily podcast on iTunes is hilarious, I never miss one. He also rails against the intrusive nature of government, taxes and bleeding heart liberals in general. But he doesn’t do a show to beat you over the head with that message, nor is it a constant refrain. He’s funny, and that’s his priority. He’s also crude and rude because he’s interested in entertaining his audience, not converting them. But through entertaining them a seed is planted, an idea hatched.
On: his show Wednesday, Carolla talked about Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren, Fauxcahontas from Massachusetts. Of her election he reflected back to her DNC speech when she told everyone “the system is rigged” against them. He said, “Horrible, horrible message – by the way, she’s senator now, senator of Massachusetts, Harvard Law professor. She was born in 1949, so I don’t how long the system – or what she had to do to overcome the system. She did a f@*king excellent job skirting a rigged system.”
But he wasn’t done. He continued, “The point is – why is she explaining to people the system is rigged against them? I f@*king hate that message. It’s a horrible message, because whether you’re playing chess, football or trying to get ahead in the workplace, once you learn the system is rigged against you, then why bother going outdoors? She’s going to fix the rigged system, but how did she get to where she is, if the system was rigged? She’s not 28. She’s not a male. She’s not anything but white, and she’s not even white. She’s a Cherokee, remember? What did she do to overcome the system? She did what everybody should do – she worked hard.” (You can listen to the clip here.)
The language might not be your cup of meat, but you’re already agreeing with the sentiment. If you only want to win with people who talk and think exactly like you do get ready for a lifetime of Tuesdays. I, on the other hand, want to win; and I wouldn’t mind laughing along the way.
Carolla was in DC on Thursday to do a stand-up show. I’d interviewed him Monday for my radio show and went to see him again. But I knew he was coming to town months ago and thought having him to one of the big conservative/libertarian think tanks to give a talk or take some questions and riff would be a good idea. Our side is always talking about how we can reach out to younger people, which is good since the average age of donors to all think tanks is 2 years past death.
So I called friends at 2 of the biggest think tanks in the world to see if they would interested in hosting this event if I was able to pull it off. While my friends were interested, they knew of Carolla and are fans, they had to run it up the flagpole. When the did, no one saluted.
For the old guard Adam Carolla is too edgy, too crude and doesn’t agree with them on everything. For all their lip service about reaching out, when the chips were down and they had a chance to put their words into action…they balked.
Conservative “leaders” talk a good game, but they don’t play it at all. They’ll sit silently while President Bush spends money we don’t have, racking up huge deficits, because he agrees with them on some things, but they aren’t even willing to entertain the prospect of an event with someone who agrees with them on economic issues because he might put his thoughts in a way that would offend people who aren’t the target audience and wouldn’t attend anyway.
You can’t win people you don’t engage, you can’t grow anything if you aren’t willing to plant a seed and you’ll never win if you aren’t willing to play. The “Conservative Movement,” as it is, has to either adapt to win or adapt to not winning. Not change, but change how they do things. And go places and accept people who don’t toe the line 100 percent, even if it makes some people uncomfortable.
The current crop of conservative leaders are to be admired for what they accomplished, but they will not be around forever. A new, younger group has to emerge with a new attitude. As they are, that new attitude has to come with them, and it has to be, at least conceptually, accepted by the current leaders if that transfer is to be a smooth and successful one. It’s the only way to advance the ball.
If they aren’t willing to do that we all might as well take that ball and go home because, while the game goes on, the score will already set and we’ll be on the losing end.
Derek Hunter is Washington, DC based writer, radio host and political strategist.: You can also stalk his thoughts 140 characters at a time on Twitter.