The Southwest (Airlines) Way Back


National Review put together a symposium on “lessons learned” following the 2012 election.  Here was my contribution:

It’s virtually impossible to construct a conservative political majority out of a liberal culture.  Thus – paraphrasing Daenerys Targaryen from George RR Martin’s outstanding Game of Thrones books – to go forward, we must go back.  We must go back to the hard work of rebuilding our culture.  Can conservatives truly hope to prevail if we can’t arrest the growth of illegitimacy and the decline of marriage?  Or if we leave the education of our children to those who reject and scorn conservative values?  Or if the entire pop culture outside the conservative cocoon reinforces that scorn?

Even a singular political talent like Ronald Reagan would have difficulty winning in our current cultural environment.  Yet conforming is not an option.  Conservatives should reject any political movement that responds to negative cultural changes simply by making peace with that change and becoming merely a slightly-less malign cultural force.

In essence, we must become a missionary force in our own culture.  We can’t outsource cultural transformation to even the most charismatic politician. Our liberal friends don’t read our websites, watch our television, or listen to our radio, but perhaps they’ll listen to the neighbor who brought them a hot meal when their mother was sick, or to the co-worker who stayed late to help them meet an urgent deadline.

At the risk of lurching from geekery (the Game of Thrones reference, above), to the trite, I’m reminded of the somewhat silly, yet also profound, “Southwest [Airlines] Way” – where employees are asked to demonstrate a warrior spirit, servant’s heart, and fun-loving attitude.  In true conservative spirit, we can learn a lot from the culture of one of America’s most successful businesses.  After all, as Ronald Reagan understands better than anyone, there’s no warrior quite as effective as the happy warrior.

  • Craig

    “I think this was an evangelical disaster,” says Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky

    To be an effective missionary, one must first become a student of the target culture. On this front, conservative evangelicals have a lot of catch-up work to do. Start by turning off Fox and A.M. talk radio. Change all of your internet reading habits. Delete all your bookmarks and subscriptions to conservative blogs and seek out the most intelligent progressive blogs and news sources. Don’t let all of your social activities revolve around church and church friends. Think about enrolling in a university course or two. Ask lots of questions, but, most importantly, listen and think.

    You’ll be terrified, amazed, and transformed.

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  • David Oatney

    I think it first must be realized that this election seems to mark not a political shift, but a cultural one.I am deeply concerned that this election has marked a turning point in our body politick that will begin a process of the Europeanization of our entire political spectrum. I have already heard grumbling in some quarters that the pro-life plank and conservative social policies ought to be done away with in our party platform. If that happens, I will no longer take an active role in a party that I have voted for, supported, and been active in to some degree for my entire adult life. It makes no sense for me to oppose the actively pro-death and anti-family, and increasingly anti-Church party with a party that (were it to abandon the Life plank) would be passively pro-death. What’s more, the only thing that would break my heart more than feeling the need to withdraw from participation might be if I had some family or church catastrophe-the Republican Party is all I have ever known as a political home. I am afraid the entire axis of our national politics may shift in a direction that I do not care to go.

    I think the culture is in decline, in not too different a way that Britain declined or Spain declined or the Romans declined. In saying that, I’m not attempting to be a pessimist, I am trying to be a realist. We can’t change the situation in our culture until we come to see that all of our political activism will do nothing to change a culture descending into rank secularism and moral relativism until the moral climate itself begins to change. We have aborticide on demand and public contraception and the disintegration of matrimony not because of political failure, but because of moral failure. People who represent some form of believing and practicing Christendom are now a minority in the country that we and our forebears in faith built. We can’t win elections without numbers to win them…

    Far more importantly, however, is the reality that people certainly can’t be expected to VOTE right if they do not first BEHAVE right, BELIEVE IN what is right, and LIVE right. Without those first three, the whole country could vote for all the right people, but we would still decline and the culture would reflect that. People voted for the candidate that reflects the modern culture they have-by and large-embraced.

  • Valjean

    I had breakfast with a friend this Friday after the election to commiserate. We shared similar conclusions. The People got what they wanted. They want more government, more taxes on the rich, more license to live sexually unrestricted lives. I think David has observed elsewhere, it is that last item that is going to run head-on into our liberties to practice our faith anywhere but in private. I was intrigued and somewhat discouraged by this article: David, since you are a lawyer and Rod Dreher is admittedly not, I would be interested in your take on it. To both David and Nancy: thanks for your ‘Happy Warrior’ spirit throughout the campaign, for helping me to realize that Mitt Romney is a good, capable man of noble intentions and integrity. I suffered ‘Mormon suspicionism’ as I suppose many other Evangelicals did. But your insights cured me and the post on “Every Evanglical-Mormon Argument” helped me to bridge with other family members. It is SO true.
    Other points of connection that have made your blog a favorite of mine: foreign adoption (we adopted from China); video games (my ex-Marine son-in-law, not me); the occasional deep dives into theology; living a ‘real’ family life of faith. Many thanks and looking forward to continued encouragement and insight from you both.

  • Elaine E

    I’m liberal. As liberal as it gets and I read here regularly. Much I disagree with but not everything. I especially appreciate the importance you put on adoption and being adoption friendly to prevent abortion (I agree). I definitely disagreed with your right to defend your family with a semi-automatic weapon even though I believe in the right to bear arms. I also think if you want children to have a religious experience at school, send them to a private school. Ultimately, I think if the Republican party had focused on facts instead of fear, they would have gone much farther. I think it’s telling that the most educated states were blue and the least educated states were red.

    Either way, with Veteran’s Day tomorrow, thank you for serving.

    • Steve in St Pete

      Elaine E. I don’t totally disagree with you, but you should get around more! NYC, Detroit, Chicago, LA, SFO, Oakland, St Pete, FL, Philly, Jersey City, Miami, and include all of the dense blue population centers, and then you say the blue states are more educated? Those places should be under a Thunderdome, of the Mad Max type.

      Facts instead of fears? 40.9% single mother birthrate. Yeah, I fear. I fear that that percentage will increase to 42%, then to 49%, then to 53%, etcetera. Yeah I fear that very soon, there will be more in the wagon and those who must pull the wagon. (Meaning more takers than there are makers.)

      But I do agree that make the immovable pro-life position, and have no consideration for the argument in any way shape or form from the other side, then show me those who will step up, en masse, and take all of the unwanted and crack babies and provide them loving homes. But don’t get me wrong…. I believe in life. But there is more depth in that one issue than to just poo-poo those who think differently…. and they are many.

      The birth rate of good people is ever decreasing, while the birth rate of those who disregard the family, and our way of life in general, is ever increasing. We seem to be in a pickle…. I’d say. And it will only get worse when it is in the hands of the Left, because every… single… thing that is good and of good report is diametrically opposite to the progressive left platform. Name it…. indiscriminate abortion, sex without restraint, the dissolution of the family unit, no need for self reliance, things like governments should rule instead of represent, squeeze the successful and support those who don’t try, disarm the sovereign citizen while gutting the military, pushing technology that may not work in the end (as opposed to letting it develop and prove itself), decreasing our energy supply and availability while the rest of the world does the opposite. Yep… we’re in a pickle, alright.

      • Rick

        You can’t win elections if you completely misrepresent the other side. Statements like “governments should rule” and “disarm the sovereign citizen” are utter nonsense, unless there is currently a “Disarm the Sovereign Citizen” bill working it’s way through Congress that I’m not aware of. I’m a Democrat voter who is not anti-family (I’m 25 years married), I’m not sex without restraint (we were virgins when we married), and I’m not anything else you paint me as. If you continue to explain Tuesday’s results by concluding that 50+% of the population is morally bankrupt, I’m not sure people are going to warm up to you next go-round. People vote based on issues like war, peace, Social Security, deficits, taxes; they are asked which party they trust on these issues, and this time, the majority of them voted Blue. Perhaps they heard Paul Ryan’s Ayn Randish statements on Medicare and got nervous about how that plays out; if you want to call such people lunatics, anti-American, or anti-God, go ahead, but that only means you are unable to learn and move forward.

        • Agkcrbs

          Rick, I think it’s clear that Democrats have a history of inserting government into a growing number of industries, coaxing some, strangling others, bailing out losers, taking ownership, playing favourites with waivers, rewarding unions, funding and enforcing ideologies against principle. They bristle and foam at entitlement reform as “threatening seniors”, refusing to talk about what will happen to future seniors without reform, as if the problem will go away if ignored and minimised long enough. They dismiss notions of shrinking budgets except by tax hikes. They weaken the dollar to cheapen over-high debt rather than decreasing debt. They shield a perforated progressive tax code so nobody feels its burden until they start making a decent living. They proliferate regulatory agencies wherever they sense the slightest theoretical benefit from it, and then can’t imagine life without them once established, and jeer at those who suggest their removal. They make a colossal footprint in the market, justifying any and all money-funnelling as driving up demand, as if the government were the market. The things they admittedly want to shrink are those most intrinsic to government in the first place: defense, border control.

          Yet, when confronted about their big-statism, the DP responds with denial and accusations of wanting to hurt the needy and “take the country backward”. Suggestion of reform that don’t grow government are derided as ludicrous, deceptive, failed-before-they-begin. Productive debate becomes very difficult against such entrenched self-assuredness.

          That the Democrat Party favours moral promiscuity is not a serious point of contention. Democrats call for free, pre-funded abortions for convenience, not just here, but around the globe. They utterly ridicule the idea that school children can possibly be abstinent. They refrain from upholding obscenity laws. Most obviously of all, that they demand to sever the last threads tying marriage to procreation on the argument that lust, being inborn, must have no social boundaries. The moral fruits of such liberalism are right here in front of us, in Jatheist’s comment.

          Anti-God? We know Republicans have the churchgoing vote, while the DP has the atheist vote by a huge margin, and was inches away from striking ‘God’ from its platform this year. Beside promoting by fiat what most Americans once considered sins, Democrats have belittled believers, called them dangerous, and threatened them with hate-speech charges and abortion and homosexual marriage fines and lawsuits. They have opposed school choice, and railed against any who object to a public school curriculum that offers no safe place for faith, but that banishes it entirely as an offense to sciene, while claiming to protect the faithless few by re-educating the many in agreement with those few. If not anti-God, they’re at least anti-Christian.

          What’s more, as much as they criticise Republicans for being manipulated, they themselves, through long, uncritical assimilation of their crass, divisive, race-baiting liberal media and entertainment, are trapped in an endless feedback loop of confirmation bias. If not ‘moral bankruptcy’, it’s certainly a state of civil bankruptcy, considering that they just re-elected a man who ran almost entirely on caricaturing his highly competent opponent.

          …But if all this is misrepresentation, and super-intelligent Democrats really advocate small government and morality, then we’re on the same side anyway and have no debate nor gridlock at all. Maybe you’re not in the wrong party after all, Rick. Whew, that was easy.

      • jatheist

        I can’t get over the fact that you call “sex without restraint” a bad thing! What a sad thing to believe…

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