It’s the Culture, Stupid

Conservative pundits are offering various postmortem reports following yesterday’s election, some of them appearing even before the patient was officially pronounced dead. My own analysis really isn’t worth a hill of beans, but the beauty of the blogosphere is that it doesn’t have to be to justify my sharing it.

As I see it, there’s a very simple explanation why the Republicans lost. Broadly speaking, the Republican Party represents conservatism (both socially and economically) and the Democratic Party represents liberalism. (If you don’t agree with this generalization, you might as well stop reading now.) Looking at the big picture of all the ballots held yesterday, not just the presidential election, it’s clear that America as a nation opted for moral relativism over economic realism. Over the last month I’ve closely followed the Twitter feeds of the Obama team and the Romney team, which gave a good indication of their core strategy to win over uncommitted voters. The Romney campaign (and Republicans in general) bet heavily on economic conservatism, and they lost. The Obama campaign (and Democrats in general) bet heavily on social liberalism, and they won. That pretty much tells you all you need to know.

The fact is that over the last half-century the center of gravity of American culture has been driven in a socially liberal direction under the combined influence of Hollywood, the mainstream media, public education, social media with its celebrity worship, and world opinion. America can no longer be honestly described as a conservative nation. The culture took a nose-dive well before the economy did.

This suggests that, broadly speaking, there are only two scenarios under which Republicans could expect to regain power. The first is for them to follow the lead of the European center-right parties (e.g., the UK’s Conservative Party) and to embrace social liberalism. The other is for a major spiritual revival to take place in the United States that would, among other things, fundamentally realign its cultural priorities. Needless to say, I favor the latter; but clearly it’s a scenario that no human organization — certainly not the GOP — could possibly engineer. The only way to hasten spiritual revival is through heartfelt repentance and fervent Spirit-dependent prayer. Indeed, if Christians in America haven’t already been praying fervently for revival in this land, regardless of political events, we deserve what happened yesterday — and more besides.

Some of my Christian readers may find this analysis naive and simplistic (and I can only imagine what non-Christian readers will make of it!). But I just call ‘em as I see ‘em.

Addendum: I see that my colleague Mike Kruger has posted his own thoughts on the election, which, I’m pleased to note, reflect the same basic perspective on events.

6 Responses to It’s the Culture, Stupid

  1. “This suggests that, broadly speaking, there are only two scenarios under which Republicans could expect to regain power. The first is for them to follow the lead of the European center-right parties (e.g., the UK’s Conservative Party) and to embrace social liberalism. The other is for a major spiritual revival to take place in the United States that would, among other things, fundamentally realign its cultural priorities.”

    Another scenario is this: The economy will continue to do poorly, or worse. Division will still be stark. People will tire of Obama’s talk. The “empirical facts” will be in. There’ll be nothing to do but either own it (in which case your policies will be blamed) or blame Bush (and the electorate won’t buy that next time around). People will do *anything* for a change, so they’ll vote the Republican guy in. If our lives economically “suck” in four years, “war on women” rhetoric will ring hallow. It’ll be just like what happened in ’08. The electorate will throw out the incumbent *party*. Unless things really turn around for the good, I foresee a Republican victory in 2016.

    • Thanks for the comment, Paul. I hope you’re right that this is a realistic scenario. I don’t discount it. However, we’ve already had four years of “empirical facts” and I’m not confident that another four years of them will change people’s minds. Remember, liberals have a standard story to explain away such facts: “It’s not that our policies don’t work, it’s that they haven’t been fully implemented yet because the conservatives are holding us back!” Sadly, too many people are gullible enough to accept that narrative; they’ve done so in the past and they will continue to do so, especially if those telling the story hang a big enough carrot in front of them.

      One other point. Even if the Republicans have a good shot in 2016, based on the state of the economy, what are the chances that their presidential candidate will be socially conservative (or be willing to represent social conservatism)? If I’m right about the cultural shift, it won’t be very likely. So this would be the first scenario I described.

  2. Bush was still too fresh. It was easier to explain away the facts. It won’t be after *8* years of Obama. And, Conservatives also have convenient stories too, e.g., “Things were fine until 2006, after which there was Democratic majority in congress (and the senate). ” Or, “Bush was not *really* conservative.” That didn’t work in ’08. The sitting president and his party is blamed. That’s one (of many) negative byproducts the cult of the presidency has. If the economy is horrible, here’s how a majority of Americans will “think”: “Get that guy and his party out of there. Now!” This is why Obama won. He didn’t run on any major leftist social issues. He had *zero* accomplishments. He ran on “change.” He ran on “Not-Bush.” He said he was against gay marriage. It was purely an economic vote for Barack.

    As for the Republican nom in ’16, that depends. Mitt didn’t really run on social issues. He ran on the economy—problem is, it backfired. He was lumped in with Bush, fair or not. But suppose Rubio/Ryan/Rand Paul, or someone like that gets the nominee, they’ll run on social conservatism. The economy will still be the biggest issue, of course, but they’ll let it be known where they stand on social issues.

    But maybe we should get Nate Silver to settle this? ;)

  3. Hello Dr. Anderson,

    Great piece by the way. I threw back the shots of Diet Coke pretty hard Tuesday night and so I also have little hope that we will see a shift back toward the Republicans in 2014 or 2016. I do think though that while the American electorate seems to be shifting more toward a social liberalism and almost amoral worldview, the better way to describe the American people (possibly more so the “undecided” voters out there) is that they are simply inconsistent. All over the news, people are talking about whether or not this is a clear mandate from the American people that they believe (by majority) that the president deserves to implement fully his policies without the partisan gridlock from Republicans but a radio host who was just on Fox News put it perfectly by saying that there was indeed a mandate but a mandate for gridlock! They voted to keep a Democratic president in office (and democratic senate) and a Republican House. How can that make sense? I simply believe so much of the population doesn’t realize how they’re voting. For example, how can people say this was a mandate in favor of the president’s healthcare when polls have shown that a big majority of Americans opposed it. Do the people even know what they believe? Everybody is saying that we should respect the voice of the people and give them what they asked for and I agree. Give them the partisan gridlock they voted for but will later go on to complain about! On another note, you’re right about the typical response by Democrats in Washington that simply cries out that they haven’t fully implemented their ideas or that they’ve been held back. I fear that the only way the people will wake up and listen is if Republicans literally stand down and let them have a free reign (at least economically) to show them the true results, leaving them without excuse. The only problem there is that there are always undecided voters who walk around like blind sheep and who tune in a month before election day, receiving their news from one line headlines.

    Regards,

    The two cents of one of your loyal blog readers

  4. The train of “no religious preference” has left the station and is gaining incredible speed. It will do in the West what Islam did in the East.

  5. “This suggests that, broadly speaking, there are only two scenarios under which Republicans could expect to regain power. The first is for them to follow the lead of the European center-right parties (e.g., the UK’s Conservative Party) and to embrace social liberalism.”

    Actually, I’m not quite sure even if this occurs whether it’s likely the Republicans will regain power. Of course, I would hope Republicans would regain power whether or not they embrace social liberalism (and I would certainly hope Republicans would not embrace social liberalism!). But I could see a scenario where even if Republicans embrace social liberalism, if the economy does somehow manage to improve significantly enough under Obama and the Democrats, that the Democrats could take all the credit, and thus put themselves in a still strong position in 2016. In short, a possibly bad scenario for Republicans would be something like Germany. A nation which has embraced social liberalism to a degree greater than we currently have, to say naught else, but perhaps in large measure because of (if the stereotypes hold true) a German disciplined work ethic, frugality, and so forth nevertheless continue to have a more or less robust economy (at least to my knowledge, which could be mistaken). So I could see our similar work ethic, frugality, enterprise, and the like overcome the Democrats’ exceedingly foolish fiscal and other policies and pull us out of the economic slump against all odds.

    Of course, if this were to happen, I think Republicans could still challenge the Democrats and hope to regain power. Maybe begin by underlining for the American people that it’s due to them and in spite of the gov’t that we’ve recovered. But it might be more of an uphill battle, or so I would think.

    All this said, I likewise am very probably totally naive in my understanding of politics and economics and all that! :-)