Stop and think about the following question: During the upcoming apocalyptic war over the empty U.S. Supreme Court seat, which group of public intellectuals (and I use that term very loosely) will play the larger role shaping public opinion among ordinary Americans?
(a) Scribes who write New York Times editorials.
(b) Law professors at America's Top 10 law schools.
(c) The writers and hosts of late-night comedy/news talks shows.
(d) The latest blasts from America's Tweeter In Chief, who is a former reality TV show star.
Now, if you've been around for a half century or so, you know that politicians have always paid close attention to the satirical offerings of Saturday Night Live and the late Johnny Carson always had way more political influence than he let on. Who was more skilled when visiting a late-night television show during pre-campaign work, former B-movie actor Ronald Reagan or whoever tried to knock him out of the headlines?
The power of pop culture in politics is nothing new -- but it's on the rise.
With that in mind, let's look at a special 4th of July think piece written by DC Beltway think-tank scribe Mark Rodgers, a former high-ranking GOP staffer in the U.S. Senate. He is probably one of the few people I know with U2's Bono in his smartphone favorites list.
Has (Pop)Culture Trumped Politics?
You need a thesis statement? Here it is the overture:
It’s been a long time coming.
Almost 20 years ago, while working on the Hill and hosting a conversation with UVA sociologist James Davison Hunter over lunch, I recall waking up to the growing impact of the popular culture, and its inevitable trajectory to surpass education, family, faith and journalism as the dominant worldview shaping force in 21st century America, and possibly the world.
We now have a billionaire reality show President who might be challenged in 2020 by a talk show billionaire. The British monarchy has been invaded by an American actress. Rap music is the voice of protest on the Arab street. Blockbuster films like Black Panther and Get Out, and music videos like I’m Not Racist and This is America are our conduits for conversations about race. As is Roseanne. One former president is writing fiction and another is advising Netflix, along with his wife.
How do ordinary Americans prefer to spend their time and money? Which is growing in power, these days, especially among people under age 50 -- binging edgy dramas, often with heavy cultural baggage, or spending quality time in a comfy chair reading a newspaper or a book that has some substance?
Thus, noted an op-ed writer of note:
“Cultural liberalism wins battles when its omnipresence just seems like the natural air we breathe,” Ross Douthat observed recently while commenting on Samantha Bee. “Direct political hectoring plays against that strength; instead of the subtle nudge of a sitcom’s implicit values …”
There's more to this essay, including some theological and cultural wisdom from a face-to-face chat with Fred "Mister" Rogers.
But let's end with this:
We can change for better, but we have changed for worse. A series of studies on cultural rudeness have concluded that rudeness is like the common cold: it’s contagious.
Read it all. And have a safe and thoughtful 4th of July.
FIRST IMAGE: From CBS Twitter account.