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Tusinski: How to lose the culture war

 
(Graphic Illustration by Dylan Tusinski. Source photo courtesy of Ryan Schmidt | The Collegian)

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Culture is always shifting. Especially in a nation as inherently diverse as the United States, it’s hard to pin down one dominant, definitive culture that we can call wholeheartedly American. As a result, you find a conglomeration of smaller cultures, each working to maintain their own relevance, visibility and presence.

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To most people, this is just the nature of things. The great American melting pot isn’t an arena where our cultures duke it out to see who comes out on top but is instead a marketplace where we can exchange bits and pieces of our identities in order to create deeper understandings with the people and the world around us. To many conservatives, however, it’s the exact opposite.

When it comes to multiculturalism, the modern conservative mindset is best summed up by two of the most prominent figures in the modern American right: Charlie Kirk and Donald Trump Jr. They believe they’re deeply intrenched in a so-called “culture war.” They feel that the traditional American way of life is under attack from a leftist conspiracy, in part propagated by college professors who are supposedly instilling young minds with “leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

If the right is so concerned with the ongoing culture war, why do they keep losing? It’s simple: They never wanted to win in the first place.”

Even though Kirk and Trump Jr. couldn’t possibly be more wrong, I understand where they’re coming from. The long-standing culture in America that many conservatives have become accustomed to is beginning to fall. The U.S., which initially restricted its right to vote almost exclusively to land-owning white men, is becoming more racially and culturally diverse than ever before and is taking its political culture with it. Millennials, for example, are generally embracing socialism rather than capitalism — another shift in America’s cultural paradigms.

Even though American culture is shifting further away from conservatism, the right has recently staked itself on a number of cultural hills, ranging from COVID-19 mask mandates, the purposefully vague notion of “big government” and the moving target of “wokeness.” Most of these issues are vague and misguided in their own way, and that’s intentional. It’s easier to claim victory if your target is big, broad and undefined.

What the right knows — and what their actions in the culture war show — is that it’s much easier to get wrapped up in perceived cultural issues than real political ones.”

But the right just isn’t good at winning battles in their long-standing culture war. Ronald Reagan galvanizing support from evangelical Christians in the 1980s marked a crystallization of the right’s dedication to fighting this war. Prayer in schools, banning the burning of the U.S. flag and opposing desegregating schools are all examples of cultural battles that the political right fought tooth and nail for.

In case you haven’t brushed up on your history, they didn’t win any of those battles. Prayer in schools was found unconstitutional, burning the flag is entirely legal and, of course, schools aren’t racially segregated anymore. It begs the question that if the right is so concerned with the ongoing culture war, why do they keep losing?

It’s simple: They never wanted to win in the first place.

For modern conservatives, the culture war is much more about building a political coalition than it is about actually fighting some kind of battle for American culture. Even the event I discussed earlier, billed as culture war itself, was more of a pep rally for Donald Trump than it was about any kind of cultural practice.

What the right knows — and what their actions in the culture war show — is that it’s much easier to get wrapped up in perceived cultural issues than real political ones. Is it more engaging to yell and argue over whether or not the vague notion of “big government” is good or bad than it is to actually discuss the intricacies and policies that may or may not constitute such a big government?

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From a political standpoint, it’s much more effective to galvanize people’s support over intangible issues that don’t really matter than it is to discuss the boring ins and outs of political policy that actually influence government.

The fact of the matter is this: The right is losing their culture war. Even though they purposefully set up easy targets they thought they could knock down, they are losing each and every battle they choose. Our country is becoming more diverse, we’re moving to the left economically and right-leaning politicians are losing their grip on their own party. It’s becoming more and more clear that whether in the courts, at the polls or in the streets, the left is winning this so-called culture war.

Dylan Tusinski can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @unwashedtiedye.

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