After a first term that has been historically abysmal, President Obama stands a good chance of being reelected. How can that be?
Here is the blunt explanation: We have lost a third of the country and, as if that weren’t bad enough, Republicans act as if it were two-thirds.
The lost third cannot be recovered overnight. For now, it is gone. You cannot cede the campus and the culture to the progressive, post-American Left for two generations and expect a different outcome. So even if Obama is the second coming of Jimmy Carter — and he has actually been much more effective, and therefore much worse — it is unreasonable to expect a Reagan-style landslide, and would be even if we had Reagan. The people coming of age in our country today have been reared very differently from those who were just beginning to take the wheel in the early 1980s. They have marinated in an unapologetically progressive system that prizes group discipline and narrative over free will and critical thought.
The narratives are not always easy to follow. In the progressive weltanschauung, good and evil are relative. Good is whatever it is said to be in the moment; don’t ask anyone to explain why “choice” is a value when it involves killing the unborn, though it is seen as an obvious nuisance when it involves the right to choose the double cheeseburger over the salad. Evil is contextualized and root-caused into vaporous abstraction. We no longer know whether it’s wrong — only that, whoever may have done it, it’s our fault.
Yet, even with good and evil enveloped in fog, progressive narratives remain sharply Manichaean: You can always tell the heroes from the villains. Obama is a hero because he cares. Conservatives are villains because they don’t. And Republicans are villains because they are conservative.
None of these statements is true, of course. Obama cares about Obama, which is hardly heroic. Conservatives are repulsed by government intrusions into the private sphere because we believe private citizens are better than government’s social engineers at promoting prosperity for everyone. And today’s Republican party is not very conservative: At a time when the welfare state is — inevitably — collapsing of its own weight, Romney and Ryan run as its guardians. They’ve come to praise Caesar, not to bury him.
Still, the truth is increasingly irrelevant. Contemporary American politics is about emotion and perception. And this is a game Republicans will never win — and not, as they would have you believe, because the deck is stacked against them.
Certainly, the media, the academy, and most of our society’s major institutions are heavily influenced by progressives, if not outright controlled by them. It is therefore a given that elite opinion will portray Republicans as villains. Yet, that longstanding challenge for Republicans has never before been an insuperable one. In America, at least until now, the avant-garde has never been able to tame the public. It has always been possible to run against elite opinion and win — if you make a compelling counter-case.