"The progression of a painter’s work, as it travels in time from point to point, will be toward clarity: toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea and between the idea and the observer... To achieve this clarity is, inevitably, to be understood" Mark Rothko
Faster than one would have thought possible, serious conservative thought after the presidential election loss has centered around reengagement in the realm of American culture. Andrew Breitbart famously said that politics was downstream of culture. While this is undoubtedly true, Breitbart had not laid out his vision of how to be engaged in that battle before his untimely death this year at age 43. The loss was bitter but Breitbart identified a key component in the war of ideas, one where conservatives had been largely absent, or invisible, which is the same thing in that realm.
No less than Rush Limbaugh echoed Breitbart last week when he said that conservatives needed to realize the current battle is cultural rather than strictly ideological. He said on his radio show:
"I really think that we've gotta adopt a very, very long game if we're going to recapture the country, and we have to do what the left did. And I don't know how yet. But we are going to have to recapture the public education of this country, because that, folks, is where decent, honorable, really good, normal people like Mitt Romney end up being thought of as despicable human beings. It is through 30 or more years of public education run totally by liberals and the way they have characterized their opponents. I see it every day."
He's right to focus on education where "tenured radicals" have held sway for some time. After the disgusting 1960's generation lost in the street, they went into the classroom. One underestimates their influence in that world at their peril. But to catch up with them is indeed "the long march." Better not to delay, I imagine, but to think of this as a quick fix is fanciful. Limbaugh, to his credit, does not.
He's also a bit adrift in fashioning solutions or recommendations. To be fair, his realization of what needs to be done was an exercise in thinking out loud. Why should he be requisitioned to come up with our solutions? It's up to us. Remember us, the people who can't quite fathom the worst, most incompetent President in the Republic's history being reelected? Can't fathom a return to one party rule in Minnesota and a media that pretends, badly, to neutrality?
Media are a symptom, not a cause. Unless conservatives fight in the cultural realm of ideas, this nation will continue to decline. Yet this is easier said than accomplished: so much of our culture is debased, vulgar and ignorant. And parasitic: behold the democratic base. Education is the key because it permeates the rest of our society, for good or ill, mostly the latter. The collapse of the family is hardly new and I'm not exactly the first to note it. All people are equal: all cultures are not. The same obtains for "families" no matter how un-PC that may be perceived. Women cannot socialize men: ask Robert Bly. Are we past the point of no return?
Conservatives in Minnesota are in a particular fix: we have a culture that rewards eunuchs and there's no end to them in our party. There have been numerous opportunities for self-professed leaders to lead. So far, nothing. Apparently I'm not supposed to notice this, at least not in public.
The republican party itself should be euthanized but the impending take over by the Ron Paul destroyers may effectively be the same thing. Its endorsement is worthless and Minnesotans should get used to a primary system going forward. Here's hoping House Minority Leader Rep. Kurt Daudt can work with his peers across the aisle and in the Minnesota senate to implement a primary system as quickly as feasible.
Will that yield any better candidates? Only time will tell. What ideas do we have to offer voters? If we offer DFL-lite the voters will select the real thing time after time. Why wouldn't they?
Do we know what we're about? I don't trust us: the people who thought an unnecessary, poisonous marriage amendment that cost us seats in the legislature are still around, still not taking responsibility for the debacle. It's appalling, frankly, and I worry about a party base that sees any attempt to hold them to account as somehow being an obstacle to renewed political success. Isn't it the other way around and don't we have empirical evidence of it?
I quoted Mark Rothko not because I used one of his most famous works as an image for this post but because he makes an essential, critical point: clarity is a prerequisite for understanding. A party that doesn't know what it's about, a party that allows interlopers to take over and dismantle its own infrastructure, a party that can't pay its bills and is expecting another huge fine from the FEC, a party that loses an historic majority in both chambers of the legislature in record time, a party that congenitally fails to hold leaders to account, is a party that possesses no clarity about itself whatsoever. Until we regain clarity of purpose in a systematic manner we will not be understood by Minnesota voters. They are not stupid; who votes for that which they don't understand?
"Know thyself" was said to be engraved over the entrance to the oracle at the temple of Delphi. Until it does, the republican party of Minnesota is destined for permanent minority status. It doesn't have to be this way but pretending we're not lost is a good way to guarantee we never find the road back. If we're our own worst enemy, there is nothing but a lack of honesty, courage and will keeping us from being our own saviors.
Above: Mark Rothko's No. 1 Royal Red & Blue (1954)