Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
It seems that every time you turn around, someone is predicting the end of conservatism. Since a wave of populism swept President Donald Trump into the Oval Office, many have speculated that his ascent marks the final death knell for the conservative movement. But those who are concerned that conservatism is on its deathbed might want to take another look.
Recently, Republican strategist Shermichael Singleton penned an excellent op-ed for The Hill in which he discusses the potential death of the conservative movement. In the piece, he points out the growing influence of progressivism in American culture, especially among the youth. He writes:
“As liberalism continues to expand and make progress with an ever younger and more diverse America, conservatism has failed to articulate its purpose and translate that into a meaningful debate about politics and policy in a way that meets the challenges of today. Instead, it has become reactionary, incapable of addressing today’s problems.”
He’s not wrong. Socialism seems to be creeping into the zeitgeist of American youth. And the conservative movement, including the Republican Party, has not yet discovered an answer for the increasing acceptance of Marxist thought. A few months ago I interviewed conservative activist Mahgdalen Rose, who frequently discusses the lack of youth outreach on the right.
Rose explained that one of the reasons why the GOP has such a hard time reaching young voters is because they lack a coherent strategy. “They don’t run voter registration drives, they don’t strategize, the infighting (sabotage of each other) is so rampant that they can’t unify against anything, and they look at the fight against Socialism as a game.”
Singleton also points out that the conservative movement failed to articulate a message that explains why conservatism is still relevant to American society, especially in the age of Trump. “The root of conservatism from Latin is conservare, which literally means to preserve, but American conservatives have failed to articulate what is being conserved under Donald Trump,” he writes. “To the vast majority of the American people, conservatism appears to be nothing more than an ideology looking backward, but to be conservative does not mean that one has to be reactionary.”
Again, Singleton is correct. Despite winning big in 2016, the conservative movement has not yet found its voice – it has not yet figured out how to communicate its message in a way that resonates with America. Because of this, despite earning victories in the government, conservatives are still stuck reacting to the left’s attempts to move the country leftward. Instead of setting the narrative, we have become its puppet.
To make matters worse, the conservative movement, along with the Republican Party, has failed to attract a wider base of voters. Singleton writes: “And instead of expanding to make a case to new groups of people, conservatism has weaponized them and turned them into negatives, thus isolating groups that otherwise might have been new recruits to the ideology.”
The conservative movement, whose adherents claim to be a wide tent, has shown itself to be rather exclusive. When it comes to reaching different types of Americans, the right has been a dismal failure.
If you follow me, you know I’m passionate about getting the GOP to start speaking to minority voters in person. And I’m not alone; other conscious black conservatives are doing the same. But instead, the conservative punditry class still relies on the same tired talking points that repulse those they wish to attract.
Sounds pretty dire, doesn’t it? Despite gaining some wins and the rise of conservative media, the right is still not making progress in the culture. Let’s not mince words. Trumpian populism has eclipsed conservatism, which has been forced to take a back seat to competing ideologies.
It has become that nerdy, socially awkward, ashy – yeah, I said ashy – kid who nobody likes. It is the annoying hall monitor threatening to tell on everyone who misbehaves. And most importantly: It is unattractive.
Conservatism needs a makeover. It needs a new wardrobe. A new hairstyle. A new car. Also, conservatism needs some lotion. While conservatism is not quite in the mainstream anymore, we need to focus on reformation. We need to start doing things differently.
Fresh new strategies, tactics, arguments, and platforms are the only things that will revitalize the movement. Trump was a wrecking ball, and instrument intended to smash the GOP establishment to little pieces. But the conservative cultural establishment would benefit from a sound smashing as well.
There are signs that a change could be on the horizon, though. A recent Pew Research Poll revealed that Generation Z is more conservative than previous generations. This might come as a shock given the left’s stranglehold on our educational institutions. But it’s happening nonetheless, and conservatives now have an opportunity to make inroads with the youth.
Another positive development is the fact that conservative media is on the upswing, with more right-leaning content on the internet being consumed. Right-leaning content creators are expanding their audiences and reaching more people. These are both positive developments.
But be warned, nothing will change unless we evolve. What we do now will determine the fate of conservatism and what happens after populism fades. As conservatives, we must force the GOP to widen its base; they must be made to see that ignoring minorities and young voters will no longer be acceptable.
We must abandon the old talking points and messaging of previous decades and construct a new platform, one that will attract instead of repel. Otherwise, Singleton’s predictions might come true, and we will live to see the demise of American conservatism. Some things are no longer worth conserving.
What do you think? Is conservatism dying? Let me know in the comments below!
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