Conservative Ain’t What it Used to Be
By Phil Perkins
October 8, 2012
One of our authors has faithfully expounded on the annual Battleground poll that includes a survey of each respondent’s ideological persuasion. And each year, the results of the survey are essentially the same—around 60 percent self-identify as conservatives, of either the somewhat or “severe” kind (a sarcastic nod toward candidate Romney). The obvious question is, if so many of us are “conservatives,” why do people like President Obama, Senator Reid, and so many other liberals get elected as routinely as most of us change our underwear?
There are, I’m sure, as many potential answers and opinions about that question as Carter’s has pills. But my take, for what little it may be worth, is this: our pop culture society has made all of us, at least those who pay any attention to it, less conservative than we think we are.
How is this the case? Well, an illustration or two always helps. When’s the last time you heard anyone say they don’t watch Dave Letterman anymore because he’s become a liberal drone? For that matter, when’s the last time you heard anyone say they didn’t like Oprah, Matt Lauer, Barbara Walters, Larry King, or any other popular “entertainment media” person with a clearly liberal tilt because of that celebrity’s political bias? Even if they don’t like one or more of these opinion-shapers, it’s not necessarily because of the “shaper’s” political views but rather that they just don’t care for the individual.
And here’s where it’s gets tricky and I may lose many of you. I think that the same mental hiccups or gymnastics going on with otherwise conservative people who “miss” Letterman’s and other entertainers’ none-too-subtle digs at anything and anyone conservative, also apply when they look at obviously liberal politicians. Was Ted Kennedy or Bill Clinton really that much of a womanizer? And even if so, what business was it of ours? Wasn’t the way they did their jobs and “cared” about the American people what mattered? All right, I’ll admit many conservatives had no use for either one. Still, they not only survived but thrived in their political careers. How could that be? To me, the explanation is that the culture at large is into many of the same things (cheating on spouses, alcohol, drugs, etc.) and therefore has had a difficult time holding these and other cheating politicians accountable.
For that matter, many “conservative” people might say that Pelosi’s monumental gaffe that “we need to pass the bill so we can find out what’s in it” was no worse than President Bush standing aboard a military vessel with a “Mission Accomplished” banner telling the world (supposedly) that the Iraq war was won. The culture has ground relentlessly into most of us a need to not only be tolerant of others’ beliefs, but to bend over backward to play the moral (or truthful) equivalency game. And to play that game not just with others’ beliefs but with the outrageous things that they may say about us. Therefore, it’s OK for President Obama to accuse Republicans of all manner of inhumanity, greed and corruption, and we’re supposed to just sigh and say, “that’s politics,” in the same way that we would about a Romney ad attacking Obama on far more factual, less emotion-based grounds.
Although I’ll be the first to argue that this year’s election polls are skewed heavily toward Obama in an obvious attempt to discourage our side and get their man re-elected, it still amazes me that even if they are adjusted for a more likely sampling of voter turnout, that Obama retains as much support as he does. Unless you factor in the clear and unfortunate signal it sends that because of our pop culture, a big and growing segment of the population likes having a supposedly cool, hip Celebrity-in-Chief.
Does this mean that America no longer wants a serious adult in the White House? Have we really hit the point of no return? I’ll be back after the election with some thoughts one way or the other.