July 4, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Lessons from Ronald Reagan’s Farewell Address


Since the election of President Obama many conservatives have asked themselves how did this happen?  There is no shortage of answers.  Many blame the education system for failing to produce students who have critical thinking skills.

Others blame a biased press or the Republican party for fielding poor candidates.  But rarely do they blame themselves.  Seriously, considering the state of popular culture what did we expect to happen?

Certainly conservatives created plenty of problems for themselves during the ‘08 and ‘06 elections.  Republicans were sick with corruption, bad leadership, bad policies, etc.  But the flip side to this period is the pervasiveness of the arguments against conservative ideas and policies.  Here again is the old saw about a biased press, academia, and Hollywood that basically says conservative ideas get little or no attention in the popular culture due to these professions’ biased personal.

But what do we as conservatives expect?  As a general rule for each of these professions:  education, journalism, and acting conservatives are found in insufficient numbers.

The problem for conservatives is much bigger than cleaning up corruption and “getting back to our political roots.” Think for a moment about the professions I just mentioned.  They all have one thing in common, they each directly impact popular culture.  And in America our culture is almost entirely popular culture.  It drives nearly everything from the foods we buy, clothes we wear, movies we watch, knowledge we possess and horrible, horrible television we talk about at work…admit it you watch Dancing with the Stars and Jersey Shore.

And across wide swaths of American pop culture conservatives play practically no role, which means they play nearly no role in impacting the future.  So why should we be surprised when an empty suit like Obama wins election?  Conservatives can’t help properly inform voters because they are not plugged into the mediums of popular culture:  television, movies and schools.

We have only ourselves to blame for this predicament.  As a group conservatives, have a certain amount of contempt for each of these professions:  Actors are flakes and Hollywood, is full of a bunch of nuts, journalism is a formerly great profession that is overrun with liberals, and many of us are fond of the awful saying, “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”  A bald faced insult to every good teacher you ever had.

Bottom line: As a group we conservatives actively discourage each other and our kids from these fields and we’ve been doing so for years.  It was only a matter of time before we started to see the results at the ballot box.

Finally, Ronald Reagan warned us about this in his farewell address, saying:

“Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn’t get these things from your family, you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea or the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed, you could get a sense of patriotism from popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special. TV was like that, too, through the mid-’60s.…for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven’t re-institutionalized it.”

So be a part of re-institutionalizing America, encourage a conservative you know to be a teacher, to be a journalist, to be an actor or a musician.  You could go so far as to encourage them to be a lawyer.  Conservative actors will after all need someone to be their agents.