Friday, September 17, 2021

How conservatives could become relevant

Carlos Roa writes that
local power, used wisely, can achieve remarkable ends. See no further than the strong push over the past few months in state-level legislatures to ban critical race theory in public schools. In a recent piece, Zaid Jilani notes that, “conservatives have the upper hand in this fight because they have chosen a favorable playing field. While cultural progressives dominate most institutions in America—media, the arts, the universities, and, increasingly, corporate America—Republicans retain a majority in state legislatures.”
Conservatives should not only ban critical race theory at state level, but go much further. They could: pass laws redirecting educational funds to parents rather than to the public system (which is but one option out of many); channel popular anger and opposition to public school coronavirus measures, critical race theory, and sitting school boards to new electoral measures to retaking the school boards; mandate a new round of teacher recertifications (to expel any radical instructor); demand that any attempt at university student loan forgiveness must be matched dollar-for-dollar with trade school loan forgiveness; commission studies into existing school textbooks for activist ideological bias, and then fund the development and writing of new, pro-conservative textbooks; set up specialized schools/credentialing organizations to instruct public school teachers on America’s founding principles (rather than the 1619 Project or Critical Race Theory).
Most people, according to progressive liberals, are fundamentally good. But a minority is out to impede progress. A minority of people are racist, or homo/transphobic, or support a murderous police, or oppose critical race theory, or oppose “equity,” or so on. By spinning these narratives, they have managed to frame public debate and change opinions. If one has any doubt about this, why is that Americans constantly overestimate the nation’s gay population by a multiple of four or five? Or why is that a majority of liberals (and an overwhelming number of African Americans) believe that between 1,000 and 10,000 unarmed Black men are killed each year by the police, when the actual number in 2020 was just 17?
Conservatives must come to grips with the necessity of setting the terms of debate. To quote Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg, “narratives are a source of power because they set constraints on what is imaginable and considered feasible.” Conservatives will have to develop and pitch a competing narrative for the future. One that sells economic empowerment for those left behind by globalization and job displacement, that encourages energy usage that is clean (but at the same time realistic), that offers real political participation in the American system, and most vital of all, that allows children to live and thrive.
Call it a “Compact for America,” or a “Better New Deal,” or “Make America Prosperous Again,” or “The Better Leap Forward,” or even—dare one say it—“A New Founding for America.” Just make sure that it’s catchy, it’s understandable, it summarizes the vision, and it’s something that people are willing to sacrifice for. That’s the only path left open that leads to victory.
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