Liberty Expose: The Politics of Culture
Politics is coming closer to completely metamorphosing into a branch of entertainment. Culture has come to be the dominating factor in contemporary national debates, and the modern defining issues of American politics is viewed through the sphere of culture rather than policy. Issues such as national anthem protests, historic statue removal, and patriotism in general has come to be the dominating political preoccupation of many, if not most voters.
The election of Donald Trump is the ultimate culmination of the theory Andrew Breitbart presented that politics is downstream from culture. Donald Trump, who has never held a political post in his life, won the most power political position in history on the platform of “I say it how it is and I win bigly.” American has quickly learned that that problem with electing a social warrior as president is that he is going to want to fight social wars.
Despite the predictions of many pro-Trump commentators, the president continues to wage a digital war on those he views unfavorably on Twitter. When not on Twitter, the president finds other outlets that intervene in with no reason.
The president habitually places himself and those around him in debates where the executive office does not belong. The most blaring and recent example of this is when Mike Pence appeared at a Colts-49ers game in which he left out of protest when the players kneeled during the national anthem. There is no way that the Vice President of the United States did not know that the 49ers, the team that has spearheaded the kneeling controversy, would not kneel during the national anthem. There is no doubt this was staged by Pence.
The presidency as an outgrowth of culture is not practically unique to Trump; during the 2016 election, many supporters of Hillary Clinton exploited the Democratic candidate’s gender in order to garner votes (the climax from years of “Republican war on women” rhetoric coming from the Left), during the 2008 and to an extent the 2012 elections, racial identity was heavily pushed by supporters of the Obama candidacy.
There are smaller examples; to use some anecdotal evidence, during to 2008 election I once saw a bumper sticker that read “Irish-Americans for McCain” – as if John McCain being generations removed from the Emerald Isle qualified him the lead the nation. Not all of this can be blamed on Donald Trump, or any other culturally-aware politician for that matter – they are just reacting to the world they inhabit. Politicians are the ultimate products for a nation of consumers.
Politics on social media is dominated by videos of public figures making statements that comply with the user’s worldviews, and much of journalism in the age of social media has fallen victim to a rap battle mentality. Headlines of (X) crushing (Y) is more common than not. The days of William Buckley’s Firing Line have come and gone. Cultural inertia is now the defining factor of civil discourse and social media – political products such as, say, legislation, doesn’t make it to the screens of the modern citizen.
Conveniently, the framers of the constitution were cynical to the nature of mankind and established a government predicated on the notion that people are subservient to groupthink – which is why they established a federalist system at the dawn of the republic.
Federalism allows the American people the luxury of never having to agree over most issues. The cultural differences that divide red and blue states are not dissimilar from the divisions experienced by the original thirteen states that adopted the constitution. Many of the smaller policy issues can be resolved within one’s cultural habitat, which removes unnecessary partisanship at the federal level. However, now federalism is in retreat and the conflicts foresaw are coming into fruition.
At the beginning of the 20th century, pushbacks against the federalist system led to more power once reserved for the states being given to the federal government. Now many of the issues that could be more easily decided by state legislatures are being held hostage on the federal level because the issues have too much cultural currency to find bi-partisan agreement. Now America is a state of partisan divided that gives little hope to those hoping to see improvements on failed or outdated policies.
In theory there’s a solution to this; a reversal of the federal conquest of the states’ abilities to decide smaller issues would lead to successful policy outcomes in couple notable ways. For one, most states are relatively culturally homogenous, so a policy that is too conservative or progressive on the federal level will have a higher chance of being implemented, and thus serving as an example for the other states. Secondly, the more localized nature of state governments allows for more citizen involvement, and thus more accountability.
To do this however requires a political effort of stopping a speeding locomotive. Compelling the federal government to relinquish its power and return it to the states is a near possibility – even many in the GOP, the party that theatrically stands for federalism, are not willing to reform the federal power structure.
There has been a lot of noise made regarding the convention of the states – which is a path Article V of the constitution provides. Through the process, the state governments would choose representatives to meet at a convention to do the job of the federal government when it fails to act, which it is. However, to enact a convention of the states, ¾ of the state governments must participate. Even with the Republican landslide, there is still not enough states that would be willing to go to convention.
As for now, with North Korea becoming more unstable, our national debit becoming out of control, and our healthcare system in peril, we will focus on the issues that really matter – cultural debates that often have no policy value.