[JM Smith beat me to the punch, but my punch is different.]
At American Greatness, Josiah Lippincott opines that conservatives need to back off from culture war and focus on saving the country via immigration control, tariffs, no foreign wars, and law and order. These are all needed, but they’re not enough.
At a first reading, Lippincott’s thesis seems to be that conservatives must stop fighting the culture war because doing so will cause them to lose elections and therefore be unable to save the nation. A closer reading reveals that he counsels backing away from culture war at the national level, but acknowledges that cultural victories are still possible at the state and local levels.
Problem is, this nuance will be lost on many readers. The impression one gets from the article is that all conservative politicians and the voters who support them need to back off from culture war because they’ll only get crushed. That’s not right.
Also, Lippincott’s main thrust – – judging by how many words he devotes to it – – is that Christianity is too weak to win political fights over cultural issues. If that’s correct, his distinction between what’s possible at the national versus the state and local levels becomes irrelevant. If Christendom is too weak to win then it’s too weak to win at all levels of government, in which case Lippincott should be counseling us to avoid cultural combat at all levels. And if it’s strong enough sometimes to win then his counsel needs to be more nuanced.
I have copied Lippincott’s text in full below the asterisk, with my comments in italics, preceded by AR.
Immigration, trade, war, and crime. Being right on these four issues propelled [the previous occupant of the White House] to the presidency in 2016 against all odds. The intervening seven years have changed nothing. The only way a candidate from the Right can possibly win the presidency in 2024 is by campaigning on limiting immigration (build the wall), increasing tariffs, getting out of Ukraine, and restoring law and order (especially in regards to elections and the opioid crisis).
These are the core issues for the center-Right coalition needed to win national elections. No supposedly conservative politician with aspiration for higher office should ever make any public statement without hammering at least one of these points. Journalist asks about Social Security? Talk about why we need to stop giving money to Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Democratic opponent brings up climate change? Talk about why we need to build the wall and make Mexico pay for it.
The issues of national survival are of primary importance. There is no point in fighting a culture war if we don’t have a country in which this war can take place. Conservatives do not have a viable path to political power any other way.
AR: There is also no point in having a country if its culture is toxic and dedicated to the destruction of your people.
The Paul Ryan strategy of calling for lower taxes and deregulation is yesterday’s failure. Voters don’t have enough skin in that game to care. Calling for entitlement reform, i.e, cuts to social security and medicare, is political suicide. And as the 2022 midterms showed, campaigning on social issues like abortion is also a losing gambit.
AR: This is the closest Lippincott comes to defining the social fights he wants conservatives to avoid. Presumably the list also includes opposing the legitimization of Alphabetism and the promotion of Christianity in public life, inter alia. These are all necessary to the survival of our nation so if Lippincott wants us to stop promoting these things he’d better make a very strong case. Let’s see if he does.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the culture war is over and conservatives lost . . . at least for now. Trying to rehash these old battles in the present political moment, when institutional Christianity no longer has any meaningful political or cultural clout, is a waste of time—at least at the national level.
AR: Talk of cultural defeat is tempting but premature. True defeat is always followed by a peace treaty, which has not happened. The culture wars are, if anything, intensifying. A more accurate metaphor is “cultural invasion.” The invaders have captured vast swathes of our territory but like the Germans in Russia or the Japanese in China ultimate victory evades them so far.
COVID-19 made the weakness of American Christianity painfully clear. Protestant and Catholic churches alike overwhelmingly declared themselves nonessential during the spring of 2020. That was, sadly, merely an acknowledgement of a longstanding reality.
AR: Many churches are spiritually weak. Many are not, and these generally have small congregations and fly under the radar. There are a lot of them, but they don’t have much visibility.
Virtually no one today cares what the pope or any megachurch pastor, for that matter, has to say about political and cultural life. Their endorsements do not move the needle and their influence has had little to no bearing, even on their own flocks, when it comes to preserving the older standards of Christian morality and decency.
AR: That’s partly true, but Lippincott ignores the vast influence exerted behind the scenes by the faithful remnant of Christian teachers who actually teach Christianity. Also, as we see by reading further, by “influence,” the author primarily means “direct political influence.” Faithful pastors exert a large but indirect influence on politics by way of their Christian teaching.
Lippincott also fails to acknowledge that political and cultural influence is not the primary mission of Christianity. Saving people from God’s punishment that their sins merit and training them in righteousness are of greater importance. Christian righteousness leads to the need for certain social and political arrangements, and a good preacher will not shy away from speaking on these topics, but this is not the church’s first duty.
Western nations are facing a comprehensive social breakdown. Churches could be building up society by directing their parishioner’s political involvement, counseling individuals and families, helping believers form effective social and economic networks, providing Christian-based schooling, and so on. We need more churches to do these things, and churches are starting to gear up for the effort. Christendom is not yet up to the task, but it’s moving in the right direction.
Since 1933, the American Right has posted loss after loss in the culture war. From blasphemy laws to pornography, school prayer to abortion, gay marriage to biological men using women’s bathrooms, conservatives and Christians have suffered a nearly unmitigated series of losses.
America’s pastors and priests couldn’t stop this decline. And, for the most part, they didn’t really try or seem to want to. Aside from a few metaphysical niceties and theological quibbles, I can detect no real difference in the innumerable sermons and homilies I’ve heard in my lifetime. The modern pastor wants little more than to issue platitudes and collect the tithe.
AR: America’s clergy couldn’t stop what did in fact happen, but this does not mean that they did no good. The situation is dire, but it’s wrong to promote defeatism by exaggerating the failure.
The vague admonitions to “have faith” and “follow Christ” that pepper the Sunday morning pastoral exhortations from America’s pulpits generally lack any practical core. America’s pastors, with few exceptions, shy away from fighting for the faith they supposedly love. They lack the sternness and fidelity of their forebears. Compare a St. Augustine to a Pope Francis or a Martin Luther to a David French. Our Christian forebears had iron in their souls. The modern pastor is generally soft.
AR: Pastors with big congregations are generally spiritually soft because appealing to modern platitudes is the key to popularity. But is this a good reason not to fight politically for social conservatism, i.e., a sane society?
We live in a country where the president says it is antisemitic to ban trans surgery for minors. And yet you will strain yourself trying to hear any priest or pastor say a word in response. Millions of Americans are hurting, desperately confused about their very identity and sexual impulses, and the leaders of the churches have almost nothing to say. Nonessential workers indeed.
AR: Many church leaders have a lot to say about currently-popular sins, but their teaching is not trumpeted because the media gatekeepers don’t want their conservative teachings to spread. But they are still posting videos and podcasts and those who know how to find them are benefitting from these voices of sanity.
America is awash in men’s groups, Bible studies, discipleship training, women’s seminars, and worship conferences. Yet divorce is through the roof, abortion is common, and homosexuality lauded from the very centers of American financial and political power. Whatever utility all this frenetic religious activity has had for the private faith lives of ordinary Americans, it is abundantly clear it has not had any real benefit for the moral and spiritual health of the nation as a whole.
AR: Christianity is benefitting many people, but not yet enough to produce a non-toxic public order. The poisoners of society have more money and influence. But we’re still waiting for a good argument in support of Lippincott’s thesis that politicians shouldn’t fight for social conservatism.
One wonders what purpose, at this point, the differentiation between denominations even serves. Pope Francis, just like John MacArthur, agrees with the leftist view of racism. And Tim Keller, just like Pope Francis, lauds mass immigration. On the most prominent liberal issues of our day there is total agreement among the leaders of the West’s supposedly different Christian denominations.
AR: On the question of Pope Francis vs Pastor MacArthur, their condemnations of “racism” proceed from two very different sets of assumptions. The Pope, being a liberal, probably defines “racism” as the moderns do: whites saying or doing something – – even innocuous – – that nonwhites or liberals think is wrong. MacArthur defines “racism” the old-school way: unjust hatred of other races for no other reason than their racial otherness. In the linked article, he says “Civil rights legislation now guards the legal principle of equal rights for all Americans, but no law can change the heart of someone who is filled with prejudice or bitterness.” Racism in this sense appears really to be a sin, albeit not as serious as modern man thinks. The linked article gives no indication that MacArthur agrees with the modern, perverted, partisan definition of the word “racism.”
One could argue that MacArthur is unwittingly supporting the status quo by failing to make clear that he is not using “racism” in its contemporary sense. But he’s not supporting the leftist view of racism.
America has a moral majority, all right. It’s just liberal. The Left controls every institutional power center in America. Wall Street, the media, the universities, Hollywood, the military—you name it—everywhere the liberal consensus reigns supreme. There is not a single Fortune 500 company in America, not one, that would denounce transgender surgery for minors.
Those institutions shape the public consciousness in a way social conservatives simply cannot. Manufactured consent is real and all around us. A large portion of Americans simply accept whatever their televisions and cellphones tell them to believe no matter how perverted, wrong, or harmful. Even many of those who do not agree with it, at least bow to the moral consensus. Think of all those many millions who got vaccinated, not because they wanted to, but because their “job required it” or because they couldn’t “travel without it.”
AR: “A large portion of Americans simply accept whatever their televisions and cellphones tell them to believe no matter how perverted, wrong, or harmful.” That sounds like a good reason to fight for social conservatism.
The idea that large numbers of Americans are going to “wake up” and “push back” is simply a cope. That’s not how popular opinion works. The idea that Americans are going to see transgenderism as a bridge too far is, I think, much overhyped. I remember the gay marriage “debates,” such as they were. I remember Prop 8 passing in 2008 in California. I also remember how none of these setbacks for the Left ultimately had any bearing in the end. By 2015, gay marriage was the law of the land. Today it is untouchable liberal orthodoxy supported by a majority of Americans, including large numbers of “conservatives.”
AR: Lippincott fails to notice the essential difference between old-school liberalism’s1990’s-era demands that we allow Alphabet people to do their own thing in private and 2020’s-era Alphabet demands that we allow them aggressively to recruit millions of schoolchildren, not to mention their violent opposition to those who want limits on their proselytization.
The earlier demand – – though wrongheaded – – at least made a certain amount of pragmatic sense. But millions of normal people have begun to realize that the new Alphabet demands directly threaten our children, i.e., our future. The left won on the earlier issue because of a widespread live-and-let-live attitude. But the current Alphabet demands are as in-your-face as an ax murderer. The era of laissez faire is ending.
This is just one instance of the difference between old-school, classical liberalism and modern woke liberalism. Classical liberalism presented itself as nothing but fairness and allowing people to do what they want in private as long as they don’t disturb society or try to make everyone agree with them. That sounded good to millions of normal people, and classical liberalism won the day. But wokeness has the opposite message: Visibly support us or be punished. The woke may still win, but they’re making a lot more enemies than classical liberalism ever did. We should not give them a free ride by withdrawing from the fight.
Deploying more 10,000-word essays on teleology and the new natural law isn’t going to solve the social issue problem either. Millions of Americans didn’t start shoving dildos in orifices, guzzling sex change hormones, and consuming billions of hours of pornography a year because they read an article or heard an argument. These sexual and social perversions spring from a much deeper source, one that isn’t going to be solved by policy wrangling in D.C. think tanks.
The spiritual crisis that afflicts the West runs far deeper than most social conservatives want to admit. They don’t understand how bad things really are, which is why they stand around, mouths agape, as they try to figure out what a “furry” is or why U.S. military officers dress up in leather “pup play” fetish gear while they sodomize each other in uniform and then post photos to social media.
In light of our ongoing moral and spiritual crisis, I fully expect that the Bud Light/Dylan Mulvaney controversy is merely a blip that will soon pass. In the 1990s Ikea ran the world’s first commercial featuring a gay couple. In 2022, Ikea was valued at $17 billion. Go woke, go broke?
AR: See my previous comment.
The Matt Walsh’s of the world won’t want to hear this, but trying to fight the Left on gender with desiccated Socratic arguments (“What is a woman?”) is a losing battle. Owning liberals with facts and logic is mostly a waste of time. Political power doesn’t flow from scoring debate points in the “free marketplace of ideas.” It comes from the willingness to impose one’s beliefs on others and possessing the resources to do so.
All morality requires enforcement.
AR: Walsh indeed rose to fame on his documentary What is a Woman? but that was just his Anti-Alphabet debut. His current project is encouraging legislators and private citizens to use legal force to stop the legitimization of the latest Alphabet craze. He’s encouraging us to impose our beliefs on them, exactly as Lippincott says we should. And conservatives are starting to do this.
The Left implicitly understands that point. They are more than happy to crush their opponents. Just ask Donald Trump, John Eastman, Douglas Mackey, or any of the January 6 defendants. Strip away civilization and politics boils down to the distinction between friend and enemies. That’s why the White House hosted a trans day of visibility just two days after a transgender terrorist murdered six Christians in Tennessee.
At some point, every political regime must put its foot down. Some people think cannibalism is wrong, others think that it is right. If the former are to prevail politically they must be willing to use force against the latter. In the end, this is what morality requires. This is what morality is.
Conservatives and Christians today simply lack the force of will to impose their social morality on the Left. AR: Finally, an actual argument: Because of our social weakness, calling for social jihad will only arouse our enemies to crush us. That is why they lose cultural battles and the Left wins. Conservatives aren’t even willing to mock their enemies. If you want to make “respectable” social conservatives and Christians uncomfortable, call a prostitute a “whore” in their presence. Mock OnlyFans as a den of “sluts.” Express deep revulsion at sodomy. Watch them writhe in psychic pain.
Such firm moral condemnation, I am frequently told, is “judge-y” and “un-Christian.” “We” need to “watch our tone” as “we” seek to “draw others to the faith.” As their flock comes under attack from wolves, the shepherds condemn those who would fight back. There are many such cases.
AR: Apparently Lippincott hasn’t noticed the change of attitude among many conservatives, even Christian conservatives. Maybe he spends all his time among wussy liberal pseudo-Christians and has not noticed the decided increase in virile rhetoric and forceful acts coming from the former sheep. It’s not nearly enough, but it’s a major move in the right direction. We should be encouraged by noticing that, for example, politicians actually fight for social conservatism occasionally. Instead of apparently demanding that we stop, Lippincott should demand more.
The deep-rooted weakness of the American Christian Right is a serious problem. I wish it wasn’t this way. I wish my fellow Christians had more spirit. I wish our leaders would lead. That isn’t the reality we have, though, as much as I may wish otherwise.
Right now, conservatives in deep red areas can still fight cultural battles at the local and state levels. Even some purple states, at the local level, still provide a way to maneuver against the Left’s cultural hegemony. Everywhere else, and at the national level especially, conservatives must sideline the cultural battles in favor of the issues of national survival.
AR: Lippincott now admits that at the state and local level “cultural war” is still winnable. Maybe he should tell Ann Coulter. But he hides this concession near the end of an essay whose overall theme is that we should stop fighting. And I do not grant his premise that in national politics conservatives should never resort to culture war. Every time a politician speaks an important truth, people take heart. Maybe not enough to propel him to victory, but enough to make it worthwhile.
Trump showed that even in our degraded moral culture, a huge percentage of Americans still want the nation to survive. They don’t hate themselves despite all the propaganda to which they’ve been subjected. The old pre-World War II conservative consensus in favor of protectionism, non-intervention, and immigration restrictions is still enormously popular.
If we win on those fronts and secure a future for our country then, and only then, will we have a chance to fight once again for the family, for our faith, and for a return of moral decency.
That day, however, is still a long way off. We have work to do.
Update After completing my article, I discovered at Revolver a presentation of Lippincott’s message as he should have formulated it. Key sentence: “We need to fight culture war issues at a moral and spiritual level, and at a local political level, until we gain the strength necessary to take these issues national.” I don’t agree with their apparent position that culture war is currently completely futile at the national level (it’s mostly futile, but not completely), but Revolver supplies the nuance missing from Lippincott’s work.
Good analysis. One can read Lippincott as advocating a political bait and switch in which conservatives wear the sheep’s clothing of moderates until they seize power and reveal themselves as wolves. I think Christians and conservatives need to be more canny, but real skulduggery leaves a mark on one’s soul. I think conservative politicians should actually emphasize culture war issues right now because lots of people are still shocked by the latest phase of the sexual revolution. This will be the new normal in five or ten years, but lots of apolitical people will right now go to the polls over men in the girls’ locker room.
I don’t think Woke liberalism is qualitatively different than the old mind-your-own-business liberalism. Minority groups value tolerance when they are weak, but gain a strange new respect for obedience if they come to power. Woke liberalism is just triumphalist liberalism that is no longer scared of shocking the rubes.
I wish Lippincott had added the imperative of a root-and-branch purge of Republican Party leadership. It has become the party of lower middle class whites and needs leaders who are not appalled by that fact. I’m not wild about some of the vulgarians who personify the new Republican Party, but it would be insane to appeal to the sliver of the electorate that shares my tastes and politics. The beauty of the vulgarians is that they do not get tangled up in efforts to be tasteful.
On the distinction between the woke and the mind-your-own-business liberalisms: The latter appeals to millions of people who are basically loyal to the existing order and who think liberalism is just fixing a few minor flaws. Some of them allow common sense and common decency eventually to awaken them to the threat of liberalism, and others follow wokeism into the abyss. At one time the liberalism that was apparently loyal was fairly common. Not any more.
It can’t be said often enough: the only non-corrupting way to abandon the culture war is to wash one’s hands of the wider society altogether. To refrain from talking about abortion and sodomy while continuing to advocate in the public sphere on other issues–as if one shared a common sense of the good with one’s interlocutors–is implicitly to endorse the consensus. If the culture war is indeed lost–and I’d say it’s only definitively lost when we stop talking about it and Leftism establishes itself not only as law and policy but as uncontroversial common sense–then we have nothing to say to this irredeemably wicked world and should have as little as possible to do with it.
Also, whether it is “futile” to fight the culture war depends on what end one is trying to accomplish by the fight. If one’s goal is to restrict abortion and withdraw recognition from sex-changes and sodomitical unions, then, yes, it’s futile. However, if the goal is to maintain, say, 30% of the population that opposes these things, it is not obvious that that is an impossible goal. If we stop talking about these things, though, then we certainly won’t maintain this 30%, because the enemy certainly won’t stop talking and pressuring. Maintaining 30% of the population in this basic defiance against the sexual revolution is surely more precious than having any number of Republicans in office. What do we care if they control the entire satanic apparatus if the price is our staying silent while our children apostasize?
This is a good point, especially for those of us who are naturally opinionated loudmouths. Expressing unpopular opinions may not change liberal minds, but it may prevent conservative minds from changing. The social pressure to conform weighs very heavily on timid people, especially when they feel they are the last person in the world to think as they do. Speaking out may not cause conversions, but it may prevent apostasies.
Precisely. This is what I was going to say, but Bonald beat me to the punch.
So Lippincott’s strategy is that we shut up about social issues at the national level until we secure power, at which point we can start talking about them again? And in the meantime, conservatives will have continued secretly to care deeply about these social issues when all our national leaders have agreed to stop making them issues? How is that supposed to work exactly?
If you stop making something an issue, it sends the message that it is not important. And guess what: people will start believing that.
Robert Kennedy Jr. for President! I’m leary of him but he might be able to reduce the temperature of the current political climate.
“but he might be able to reduce the temperature of the current political climate.”
First, I’m not sure it would accomplish more than kicking the can down the road until the totalitarians can regroup and assassinate or marginalize him like they did with Trump. Second, I’m confident that Kennedy is an open borders, anti-white enthusiast. Sorry Christian universalists, but nobody else is playing by your rulebook. Conservative Catholic Croats and conservative Orthodox Serbs were enthusiastically shooting at each other when Yugoslavia disappeared. I don’t expect Meso-American, Santa Muerte synergists to have a lot in common with Anglo-American Orthodox or SSPX converts. Black Christian churches are Democratic vote banks.
Are there any historical examples to the contrary? Israeli Ashkenazim, Sephards and Mizrahim are all I can think of. Otherwise, as soon as we point out that Global South immigration of any kind will wreck us we’re on the other team.
Yeah, but how does one get the power and resources to impose one’s beliefs? You have to get the ruling class elites on your side, and this involves some degree of intellectual persuasion, whether directly or indirectly.
This is drifting back towards endorsing the National Review approach, though. Preaching to the choir is one thing. Thinking you are gong to convert Satanists by writing just the right words on the internet is another.
I find Amish preaching (which I have literally never in my life heard or read) very attractive, for example. It’s also clearly very effective.
How do you take power though? You either have to get a significant fraction of the elites to endorse your principles (whether sincerely or cynically) or by force. The right doesn’t even have the military anymore, so the latter ain’t happening.
Marxism, liberalism, fascism all made inroads among intellectual elites before gaining power. You’ve got to get some portion of the cultural masters actually to believe the ideology you want to become the established religion. Once the elites believe it, then it starts to filter down to the masses.
Lippincott seems to be the sort that thinks liberalism is just a mask for power, that liberals are just cynically using liberalism as a tool to secure power for themselves. The truth is closer to the opposite.
Yes, and I’m saying that writing essays and voting are not productive for that purpose. With no elite buy-in (which is pretty much where we are), it’s necessary to demonstrate that it would be useful to the elite to come to us (whether cynically or not is not important). The reference to the Amish was to point to what I think it may be possible to do, which is have intentional communities demonstrating the utility of our ideas.
The bad guys are going to run out of productive, civilized people, and then they are going to have to look around for some. We should be they, and we should strive to make ourselves such that it is easier to go along with our crazy than to simply crush and enslave us.
I don’t think “taking power” is within our grasp at the moment or in the near future. Some old commenter here whose name I now forget once pointed out how tiny the online traditionalist movement is (even generously calling cranks on the internet a movement and calling all the secular fascist types traditionalists). A few thousand people.
Saying “but they could just kill us” isn’t much of an objection. They could do that now, and there’s no prospect of them losing that ability soon. People gripe about losing the rule of law, freedom, and such, but they don’t really seem to think through what that means. The US has political prisoners, casually executes sufficiently inconvenient people, and appears sanguine about continuing to do so.
I mentioned to a friend how odd it was that people kept trying to conduct coups against President Trump without him ever putting anyone against the wall in response. He seemed to think that it would have been wrong for Trump to do so, even though he agreed that there really were coup attempts. Further, he though that this wrongness had something to do with why it hadn’t happened. People really don’t live in the world they live in,. They live in the world as it was (or as they thought it was) when they were about 15. And they just can’t think through the implications of what they believe and see.
Another, different, possibility is that a foreign elite takes over or takes over bits and pieces of the US. This would be a good outcome since they would surely be looking around for disaffected allies against the remnants of our evil elite. Even here, though, I don’t see why the Amish strategy is a bad one. That would make us a visible and functional potential ally.
Ok, yes, I agree with you, taking power is not really in the offing, so the ‘strategy’, such as it is, has to be primarily directed toward something else other than securing political power.
In our situation, essays and such serve a purpose, but more for us to be able to articulate our principles to ourselves better and perhaps secondarily to convert an individual here and there.
My criticism of Lippincott was not so much about whether securing political power is a realistic goal (presumably, his intended audience is aimed at the much broader contingent of mainstream conservatives than it is at the tiny traditionalist movement), but more that he seems to think that things are just power plays and battles of wills, with ideology acting as just an accidental feature.
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Clausewitz, the great scholar of war, said that the objective of war is to make the enemy unwilling to keep on fighting. This is why you can’t conquer Afghanistan. Even if you control 100% of the territory , Afghan people don’t consider that the war is over and they are training their children and grandchildren to continue the fight for centuries. Meanwhile, American people were fed up with the war after only 20 years.
Culture war has to be fought a) because it is our duty to defend the truth and the good, even if we are not going to win. I don’t know about you, but I am not willing to be accomplice of the mutilation and castration of kids.
And b) because no fight is over until one of the sides decides to surrender. Not even feminism has achieved complete victory because there are groups of people willing to continue the fight, like the Aghans do.Let’s learn from the Afghans.
That’s right. It’s not over until we give up.
No, I think people are missing the deeper theme at play here. Namely that Christianity cannot assert itself in the modern world. I think there is a deeper rot at play here–namely the buddhisation of Christianity. Nietzsche, for all his faults, saw that Christianity was morphing into something it wasn’t at the outset.
Political strategy is useless unless that Christianity which emasculates is reformed.