Joanna Schroeder agrees that culture influences politics more than we have understood in the past, and wonders how we can help create the culture and society we desire.
We know the Conservatives lost the election, but have they also lost the culture war?
An article in The Week by Matt K. Lewis insists that it’s true. And as he sees it, losing the culture war is what’s caused Conservatives to lose in politics, too.
In recent months, it has been especially depressing to be a conservative. In the past, one could more easily endure the ranting of liberal commentators by taking solace that — outside of New York City and Washington, D.C. — most of the country was center-right. Thus, whenever an elite liberal commentator said something fringy, one could always console himself by saying (or at least thinking): “I hope you push that idea, because you’ll keep losing elections in real America.”
Today, conservatives have made a shocking discovery: They are the ones in danger of appearing out of touch with middle America.
Yes, the culture of America is changing. When I stop and think about it, progress in LGBT issues alone has been stunning. Of course, we have a long way to go to create a nation where everyone is considered equal regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or gender expression, but considering where we were 25 years ago, or even 10 years ago, the progress is remarkable.
When I was a kid in the late 80s, a teacher in my hometown lost his job because he was gay. Not because of inappropriate behavior or being bad at his job. In fact, he was a skilled and beloved educator. It was purely out of hate and fear.
Now the President and VP both endorse same-sex marriage. And what was one of the reasons Vice President Joe Biden gave for learning to accept the validity of same-sex partnerships? The television show Will & Grace! Yes, a primetime TV show about dysfunctional but lovable goofballs—two of whom were gay—changed our Vice President’s understanding of what it means to be gay.
The idea of same-sex marriage was simply ridiculous 25 years ago, and now it’s truly mainstream. That’s a huge cultural shift, and hopefully even more acceptance will help protect our LGBT youth from the bullying that still happens in schools.
But it obviously isn’t same-sex marriage that Lewis outlines directly as the cause of this shift he so maligns. It is the overall degrading of the family unit. Citing the fact that 40 percent of children are born “out of wedlock” Lewis writes:
Democracy, of course, requires individuals who are moral and responsible. Strong families are the cure for much of what ails us. You pick the problem, and stronger families would probably render the solution moot. Consider a recent debate: We can put warning labels on violent games and movies, but that won’t replace mom and dad being involved in their children’s lives and being aware of what they are watching.
Conservatives have largely lost the culture, and it can’t be won back by passing some landmark piece of legislation. Instead, it’s going to be a long, hard slog.
Yes, the statement above is abhorrent for a number of reasons, mainly that single parent families (or unmarried parent families, like the one my own children were born into) are not as capable of raising moral children. Anyone else want to raise a hand and explain how disgustingly off-base Lewis is in this attack upon the non-traditional family for being irresponsible or amoral?
Lots of us would. Including President Obama, I assume. And any other legislator, Liberal or Conservative who was raised in a non-traditional family.
But that’s sort of beside the point. Lewis is correct about one thing, culture has more influence than politics—for better or for worse.
Because of that, it is crucial that there are many of us in this world who are actively working to create a culture that represents what we want—more tolerance, more compassion, more acceptance, more protection from violence, more diversity, more health and wellness for everybody, and more opportunities for our kids to grow and learn.
This reminds me of last year, when Huggies featured advertising about lazy doofus dads who bumbled about with their kids, obviously inferior to the moms in the family. A group of dad-bloggers, including a few here at GMP, were outraged and raised their voices for all the millions of dads in this country who are incredibly capable, loving, engaged fathers…and who know how to use a diaper for heaven’s sake!
Huggies listened, sending representatives to the Dads 2.0 conference where they actually listened to the dads about their concerns and created a new ad campaign in response, featuring dads just like the competent ones you and I know.
It started with the dads and sites like The Good Men Project and it moved into the culture, aided by Huggies. Soon enough, politics will hopefully also shift to recognize the importance of dads in raising kids—in both traditional and non-traditional families.
Lisa Hickey believes The Good Men Project is, and will continue to be, central in this cultural shift:
We’re trying to divine the cultural changes at the moment they happen—through stories, through comments, through our own middle-of-the-night emails with each other. Add to that reflections of the bigger cultural stories happening at the moment, add to that our comments in GMP’s brand voice on news stories, as well as our sites partnerships with other bloggers and mainstream media. And THEN pushing what we see outward, so actions can be taken by politicians, social organizations, even brand advertisers like Huggies, who influence the way people see parenting.
It reminds us how crucial all of our voices are in this shift. How will we help turn the experiences of men in society into a way to make the world better for everybody? How can we best help grow empathy, compassion, acceptance and support for a diverse population?
Do you hold firm to the idea that politics can and does influence culture, or do you think that Lewis is correct?
How do you think we can best help our culture to create a society with more tolerance, health and safety?
What role do you think The Good Men Project should play in this cultural shift?
AP Photo/ J. Scott Applewhite