Culture and the Republican Party are in an estranged marriage. Having been separated for decades, the two hardly ever speak, and when they do it is just a shouting match where both parties hurl insults at one another and go over a laundry list of complaints involving every mistake the other has made during the tenure of the relationship. If this union is to be saved, it is going to require Republicans to take the first step toward reconciliation, as culture, like most brides, wants to be pursued after by her paramour. In other words, if the Republican Party wants to win the White House, they have to first win the culture.
Conservatives who are serious about restoring America to its roots as a constitutional republic need to realize it is going to take a lot more than electing the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan into the presidency. Restoring liberty and fiscal responsibility is going to require a shift in ideological thinking at the national level, and that means persuading the culture at large that common sense solutions presented by conservatism are what is best for the United States. The culture at large is primarily made up of twenty-something hipsters who enjoy pop art, indie music, and the musings of Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. Without winning over this demographic long-lasting change is impossible.
Whoever holds sway over the culture, holds almost unlimited political power. Liberal Democrats know this, which is why President Obama has spent so much time and money finding ways to connect with the culture and win its favor. He has made appearances on late night talk shows, performed in comedy sketches with famous actors, understands how to take advantage of cultural trends, and uses social media effectively. This is why President Obama is sitting in the White House today.
On the other hand, the Republican Party always seems at odds with culture, scolding it constantly, bashing and trashing what it produces, and never engaging it on its own level. Conservatives are doing the exact opposite of what Barack Obama is doing, and they are getting negative results. This is why the Republican Party must win back the favor of the culture, or they will not be able to win the White House in the next election. It is almost a guarantee that if culture is not engaged, there will be another Clinton presidency, which is not something this country can afford.
Being involved in culture does not mean abandoning principles, which is the view that seems to be held by most current members of the Republican Party. It is not the message that needs to change, but how it is delivered. Truth transcends mediums. While many establishment politicians continue to safeguard their political careers by remaining rigid in their opposition to culture, there is a small group of individuals rising up within the party that understand how to reach young people and minority groups, effectively beginning to expand the conservative voter base. One such individual is Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, who has found common ground with the younger generation by focusing on issues like privacy and debt. He has also been making an effort to listen and engage with minorities, listening to the issues that matter to them and presenting freedom oriented solutions to those problems.
Engaging in culture means that conservatives in the Republican Party must participate in the arts. These days, when a conservative or religious group creates a work of fiction, whether it is a film or book, it is usually cheesier than a bowl of macaroni, and the message, while good, is so overt that it comes off as preachy. When the message is overbearing, there is a lack of story and character development, which results in a lack of emotional substance. Audiences, especially young people, want to emotionally connect with the stories and characters in their pop culture fiction, so anything that fails to make that connection does little to persuade someone of the truth in an alternative viewpoint.
Conservatives and religious groups used to be able to create stories that connected and resonated with the masses, largely because the overall message and principles were contained in the subtext. Look at masterpieces like Lord of the Rings and Ghostbusters, which have had a profound impact on pop culture and also contain conservative themes. More recently, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has captivated audiences all over the world, raking in over $600 million in total ticket sales, and this movie has clear liberty-minded principles stamped all over it. The key to the success of this particular film is its ability to weave those principles into a compelling narrative driven by intrigue, likable characters, and super cool action sequences.
If the Republican Party wants to preserve American liberty, they need to make themselves culturally relevant again, using art and grassroots activism, both tools the left has hijacked from the right. By crafting great stories and killer art with a subtext containing a pro-freedom message, and by getting back out on the streets, lending an ear to the concerns of the people and offering real solutions, the Republican Party can win this culture, and in turn, win the White House in 2016.
Opinion by Michael Cantrell
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