Experts at Losing

Why does conservatism so readily accept cultural oblivion?

From its inception, Scragged has emphasized the importance of learning about history to help with understanding the present day.  Wherever possible, we seek to gain enlightenment by comparing the events of the past with what we're living through.  This might be as far ago as Confucius or the Old Testament, or even cavemen and Neanderthals, and everything from that day to this.

Taking the long view of history helps keep up our spirits through day-to-day setbacks.  It's a little bit like the standard advice to not check your 401k every day.  The value goes up and down naturally which can be needlessly stressful, because as long as the overall trend is upward - which, history tells us, it generally is - that's all that matters and the everyday fluctuations are just noise that can be ignored, unless you are an expert day-trader.

Neither the writers of Scragged nor most of its readers are political professionals for whom the daily news cycle is the stuff of life and paychecks; so, our somewhat distanced perspective is both less common and, ideally, more optimistic.

In recent times, though, this has been strained to the breaking point: we are running out of historical analogues that can be used to argue that this all ends well for America.  Consider German statesman Otto von Bismarck's observation that

God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.

Why might this be? Abraham Lincoln shed some light in his Second Inaugural Address:

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces but let us judge not that we be not judged.

Lincoln was noting the fact that, despite the North and the South being involved in a civil war, they both held pretty much the same worldview, followed the same religion, held dear to most of the same fundamental beliefs, and were generally of the same underlying culture.  Yes, the subject of slavery was a pretty major difference, well worth fighting over, but that was really the only such major difference.

From that day to this, we've all said and eventually sang "God bless America!"  And He has - yes, even in the throes of the Civil War, which as bad as it was could have been so much worse.  The whole reason our Founders accepted the infamous Three-Fifths Compromise to permit slavery in their new nation was because without it, there would have been no single new nation.  There would have been at least two, more likely 13, which would without doubt have been easily picked off one at a time by the Great Powers of Europe.

Even fourscore and seven years later, it was still an open question whether America could survive the Civil War uninterfered with by Europe.  The South certainly was counting on England to intervene on their side; some historians credit Prince Albert's intervention with preventing this.  Obviously, if the still-powerful British Empire had declared war on the North, the Civil War would have ended very differently and much worse for the fragmentary bits that used to be America.

To return to Lincoln:

...if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'

That's pretty much what happened: more Americans died during the Civil War than in all other American wars combined until around 1960, and the previously-rich South was transformed into what amounts to a Third World country until well after WWII.  No one can say that America has not paid a heavy, heavy price for the sin of slavery.

Do our children know this?  No, they do not: they're being actively taught that America is fundamentally evil, in animated song and verse.

Bending the Arc of History

To understand how we got here, we need only look at recent history, and the strategies of our political parties.

We're all familiar with the social upheavals of the 1960s encapsulated by the term "the sexual revolution."  Of course there was more going on than that, but what had been a solid consensus of what America was supposed to be, at least in principle, broke down in that decade and has never been restored.

The establishment of that day was not nearly as robust and farsighted as it had been decades earlier, but it also wasn't as utterly feckless and corrupt as today's Deep State elites.  It took awhile, but in the 1970s, somebody did the math and determined that there were actually a great many more normal squares than there were dirty hippies, and thus, power both political and on the street should rightfully rest with traditionalists.  From this realization came Jerry Falwell's "Moral Majority," which at the time was on to something: traditional churchgoing Americans were, in fact, a majority.

As has been discussed extensively, that's no longer true: while a majority of Americans still claim to be Christians, traditional Christian doctrines are vanishing rapidly, disavowed even by most claimed Christians.  If you don't believe in God, this probably isn't much of a concern, but if you do, the question has to be asked: why should God bless America when a supermajority of Americans support abortion, homosexual unions, and countless other religious/social issues that the God of the Bible finds abominable?  And don't forget how many cultural observers and social scientists over the years have noted that what we describe as Judeo-Christian ethics tends to be very helpful to a functioning society, even in the complete absence of Christianity as such.

Again, from the point of view of societal evolution, the utter failure of American conservatism of all stripes is striking.  Books have been written exploring the underlying causes, but fundamentally there's just one: conservatives do not know, have not understood, and have long forgotten how to convince people to share their views, even their own offspring.

The Moral Majority is a crystal-clear example of the problem: Fifty years on, what's happened to the Moral Majoritarians?  Well, most of them, like Jerry Falwell himself, now reside in cemeteries, voting exclusively for Democrats if at all.

What about their children and grandchildren?  It's long been documented that over half of church-raised children abandon the religious beliefs of their parents; conversion of church outsiders is so rare as to be statistically irrelevant.

The same is true of conservatism in a political sense: even when living in a Third World combat-zone dystopia, the citizens of California and Chicago simply cannot bring themselves to vote for a Republican under any circumstances.  As CNN reports of a native San Franciscan mother who's spent years wrestling with her drug-addicted son's life on the street:

"I'm liberal," Tilghman said. "My politics have stayed the same and things have gone crazy around me."

So... how on earth could you allow your politics to remain the same?  Is not continuing to vote decade after decade for the same corrupt Democrats who've destroyed your city, the very definition of insanity?

Simple: for a century, the Left has concentrated on controlling all the means of mass education, communications, cultural influence, and societal pressure.  Leftism is now the default expectation; for most people, it takes an overwhelming mental effort even to contemplate the possible existence of conservative principles, much less to act on them.

Jerry Falwell and his followers correctly identified the public schools of that day as having been corrupted by leftism, but rather than choose to fight for them and for all American children, they elected to withdraw their own kids, efforts, and influence into newly-created private Christian schools.  This seemed to work... for a while.

But those "good Christian kids" still lived in the same world, watched the same TV, read the same books and newspapers (plus the Bible) as everyone else; a few decades on, only the strongest retained their church-taught beliefs against the onslaught of literally everything else in their lives.

We now have several generations of Americans that have never encountered a conservative position as founded on anything but a cartoon Nazi devil.  How are we supposed to gain any traction against pink-haired, drug-addled leftists who don't even accept what's between their legs and what it's supposed to be used for?

Perhaps we can't - and if so, we're doomed, straight up, with an upcoming generation whose fundamental definition of themselves is inherently at odds with tolerating the mere existence of anything conservative.

The Left looked at the voters of the 1970s that were rejecting them, and decided to simply replace them - most obviously by importing unlimited numbers of impoverished socialists from everywhere else in the world, but also by propagandizing and "grooming" American children to reject everything that made the America of their forebears great.  Conservatives just assumed that "the wrong shall fail, the right prevail" by natural course of reality, ignoring the logical consequence of American exceptionalism: there's a reason America is the "last, great hope of mankind," and it wasn't because we're the inevitable culmination of Manifest Destiny.

What's Worth Doing?

This brings us to the one question that hovers in the background of every Scragged article: what, exactly, should we do?

We know what doesn't work - namely, everything tried in the last 50 years or more.  The election of Donald Trump came the closest, in that the only substantive domestic-policy victories of the past several lifetimes came as a direct result of his holding office.  But there's only one Donald; he may have created a movement but he hasn't created any effective successors, or even much in the way of coattails.

Ever since Bill Buckley founded National Review to "stand athwart history yelling 'Stop'," conservatives have reveled in writing well-argued, thought-provoking works of political analysis - yes, like Scragged.  Meanwhile, the Left has organized and recruited mouth-breathing thugs, psychopaths, and perverts of every possible variety.  Which, over the long term, has held sway?

There really are only two choices.  Either we learn to persuade others to our point of view, or we defeat or intimidate them by physical or social force as they've been doing to us for decades.  We don't welcome the latter, and barely begin to know how to go about it; but we seem utterly incapable of the former.

This is not something that can be done from the top down or en-masse.  Scragged is not likely to be persuading many frothing feminists to hang up their pussy-hats.  Probably you know a fair number of people who are unpersuadable of anything right and sane.

But, surely you have some friends or family who, while viewing themselves as default-Democrats, still don't feel comfortable with riotous "mostly peaceful" protests or tripping over a dozen drugged-out junkies on their way into the office?  Does everyone you know truly believe that government knows best how their money should be spent, and can solve all ills if only they take more of it? Hopefully most of your friends don't think you personally are "literally Hitler", and may at least give you a hearing - if only to point out obvious Democrat-powered disasters?

Do you have any friends who like their gas stove?  It's been well documented by the mainstream media that the government is, indeed, trying to - no, not actually rip your gas stove out of your kitchen, but prevent you from ever getting a new one, and to make it as difficult and expensive as possible to get gas to use in it.  Perhaps the lady of the house might find this off-putting?

Presumably most of your friends own and drive cars?  What do they think about the massive increase in car prices?  Do they ever hope to replace their current rustbucket?  What do they think will happen to car prices if Joe Biden succeeds in his push to ban new gas cars?

If they have an electric car, what do they think will happen to electricity supply and cost if power plants have to cut emissions by an impossible 90%?  Where do they think the rare earth minerals to build their electric car battery will come from?  Are they aware that California, immediately after regulating gas cars and trucks out of existence in the future, forbade electric car owners from charging theirs due to a power shortage?

None of these issues are directly political on their face - they're very practical and hit home squarely in the pocketbook.  Yes, a vegan type may not care - but a soccer mom may very well.

It may not even be necessary, or wise, to propose any answers, much though we love to do so and as obvious as they may be.  Often it's enough to ask pointed questions, giving facts as to why those questions are directly relevant to their own personal lives and happiness.  If they're of even moderate intelligence, the doubts, once planted, will eventually bear seed.

Hope and Change

Is there any chance that America can be turned around?  None whatsoever if we give up on even trying to persuade people, one at a time, one issue at a time, on fundamental questions.

The ground for this is riper than you might suppose: survey after survey demonstrates the complete collapse of faith in every major American institution. Americans know they are being lied to; they may not fully understand why or by whom, or what the truth is, but they know beyond doubt that we're heading in the wrong direction.

If we can at least help them to understand the nature of that wrong direction, that's a major first step on the road to a turnaround.  Sometimes enlightenment doesn't come all at once, but one drip at a time.

Otherwise, well, we conservatives can just carry on as we've been doing, making all the right arguments that nobody listens to of what Congress "should" do or Americans "should" want - but don't.  Where's the point to that?

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments

At a time the GOP should rally around its strongest candidate, they splinter. Were they born losers?

May 22, 2023 4:01 PM

"We know what doesn't work - namely, everything tried in the last 50 years or more. The election of Donald Trump came the closest, in that the only substantive domestic-policy victories of the past several lifetimes came as a direct result of his holding office. But there's only one Donald; he may have created a movement but he hasn't created any effective successors, or even much in the way of coattails."

100% true and accurate. We absolutely know what does not work - the two party system and the meaningless labels used to connote conservatism with the label republican, and liberalism with the label democrat. Even the phrase "two party system" is a canard. It's a one (uniparty) party system masquerading as a two party, two polarity (right/left) system. In my opinion, THAT is worth changing and changing drastically. "CHOICE" is what is needed, and a multiple party system should provide more choice. Same with school choice..if we want our kids to not go to public schools and get indoctrinated, then school choice is the answer. Same with the health care system.. If you don't want a woke MD, choice is the answer. The uniparty doesn't want you to have ANY choice in any decisions.

Trump, in my opinion, should have already started a 3rd party and made sure uniparty rinos are not welcomed and are excluded from joining. Same with RFK.he should start a 4th party.

While I'm aware that this idea will not solve anything in particular, it would be a direct, offensive hit to the uniparty and the entrenched DC swamp. The republicans swallowed the tea party whole in no time and out of that co-opting, we got Paul "rino" Ryan. The Dems swallowed occupy Wall Street whole and now we have bank failures, sky high inflation, and a government controlled digital currency on the horizon.

One can see that any threat to lessen the status quo the uniparty has is critical to us having CHOICE. The uniparty and deep state work hand in glove to eliminate all choice and to control every aspect of life.

Both Trump and RFK has legions of people who would support them and at minimum, dilute the stranglehold the uniparty has - over us. I could envision Vivek being part of a MAGA 3rd party and maybe even Tim Scott. And we all know the rinos who would remain under the uniparty/republican banner. Nicki Haley and even DeSantis.

Is this the answer? Probably not.
Continuing to basically do nothing will only guarantee it gets worse.

Disruption to the status quo is key.

May 23, 2023 12:07 PM

Had a lengthy discussion, last night, with an advocate for children's rights of gender selection.
At it's conclusion, the advocate took my hand and said "Thank, thank you so much. You have shown me the truth, the light and the way. I am in your debt; you have changed my life forever!"


May 23, 2023 1:05 PM
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