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.