That is a question all conservatives seem to be asking. With the most socialist-sounding Democratic Party in history controlling the presidency and both houses of Congress, and with a national media consistently portraying conservatives in the most heinous and prejudiced of ways, conservatives rightly question their place and role in the fabric of America.
The incoming presidential administration has thrown off platitudes about national unity, but after four years of nonstop assaults on a duly elected president and his supporters, any platitudes about unity carry no credibility. Indeed, with the angry vengeance of the political left and an emboldened liberal media, conservatives may rightly feel that both politics and culture are stacked against them.
All throughout the summer of 2020, riots occurred in cities across America. The media never covered the violence and arson and looting of these “mostly peaceful” protests. Democratic politicians rarely condemned the violence; indeed, it took Joe Biden months to ever criticize the violence associated with the protests.
And yet, with the riot that took place at the Capitol on January 6, the media covered nothing but the small group of individuals who perpetuated that reprehensible and unjustified violence on the seat of our nation’s democratic government. There was no mention of the thousands of peaceful demonstrators outside who did not participate in the riot. There was no coverage of the universal and immediate condemnation of the violence by conservative leaders. Instead, there was just the predicted smear of conservatism, equating conservatives with the unhinged rioters who broke into the Capitol. And in the days following that detestable riot, the media continually suggested that conservatives across the country were just waiting to perpetuate more violence out of anger at the election loss of President Trump.
It was nothing new, this media treatment of conservatives. But it did signal that there will be no unity. There will be no acceptance or recognition of conservatism as a legitimate political ideology. Indeed, as evident over the past four years, the American left has increasingly branded conservatives as racists, sexists, environmental terrorists and national traitors. Indeed, the definition of racism has become quite simple – it’s conservatism.
Within the national media and political culture, what are conservatives to do? What are individuals and families and communities that live by the founding principles of America to do?
After a Georgia Senate race that cost nearly a billion dollars, the answer may not reside in national politics. As has become increasingly evident, the wealthy elite in America are coalescing with the political left. Not surprisingly, the left never discusses campaign finance reform anymore. So the average middle-class and working-class conservative may well feel powerless to influence national politics.
But conservatism has never seen government or politics as defining America. Whereas the left equates America with its bloated and activist central government, conservatives believe that America’s true identity and vitality resides in the much larger foundation of culture and society that underlie the supposedly much smaller public sector of government – at least, that was the ideological bedrock of America’s founding.
In the conservative outlook, society and culture are where freedom and individual creativity and happiness flourish. Democratic society and culture give rise to government and control government; it is not the other way around. Therefore, what conservatives can do now is to do what they have always done: focus on those vital cultural institutions of family, religion, neighborhood and community. This is where America is defined, not by the media pronouncements of self-appointed national elites.
What must be remembered is that conservatism is not defined by the hateful bigotry of the left. Conservatism is defined in the dynamic and nurturing environment of family, religion, community and individual initiative. This is where conservatives must focus. But there is one simple action that all conservatives could take that would immediately and drastically change one very important cultural influence in America – one of the most deceitful and morally corrupting influences.
An action that would cost not one penny. An action that could make the materialistic media elite suddenly take notice of conservatives. An action that could have more impact than all the hundreds of millions of dollars the super-rich left shells out for political campaigns.
If every conservative in America simply refused to patronize or subsidize any liberal media entity or venue, simply terminated their Twitter account, simply turned their focus from professional sports teams that spew out their contempt for conservatives to local athletic teams that reflect the values of their communities—if every conservative did this, American culture would change immediately and drastically. Because the liberal media may detest the conservative values, but it craves the conservative dollars.
A message to conservatives in 2021: stop subsidizing a culture that loathes and despises you and your beliefs. It won’t be easy, because no conservative cause has ever been easy. But it is feasible and effective. This is definitely a battle that every single American, no matter their financial net worth, can win. And maybe in the process, it will only strengthen the power of conservative beliefs and ideals.
Patrick M. Garry is a professor of law, at the University of South Dakota.