For before there was Saul Alinsky and Cloward-Piven, there was Antonio Gramsci.
Perhaps the most dangerous, and cunning Marxist of them all, Gramsci was the man who provided Marxism the ethos it had always lacked prior to him. Evolving Marxism beyond a simple peasant uprising against the 1% to a fully integrated worldview. Complete with its own hermeneutic and methodology to put hands and feet on its ideology. If Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto was the Origin of Species for the progressive Left, Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks was its Descent of Man.
Gramsci’s biggest asset was he was a true believer willing to see history objectively, albeit through his Marxist filter. Therefore, he understood that for his ideology to win the day, it had to see the world as it really was. Not as it preferred the world to be. Thus, Gramsci was a critical thinker, who realized temporary revolts against the capitalist bourgeoisie would merely be fleeting moments of cultural angst.
But for real upheaval to occur – or the “fundamental transformation” Leftists like President Obama seek – would require what Gramsci called “the long march through the institutions.” In other words, the very infrastructure a free and capitalistic society creates to insulate itself from such insurrection would need to be captured, co-opted, and then corrupted to the point of now being used against the very culture they were created to protect and defend.
See, Gramsci understood one of the most important lessons of history—politics always flows downstream from culture.
Thus, the Left plotted a course for winning a generation, while we remain focused on winning “the most important election of our lifetimes” every cycle. One team played to win, the other not to lose. One team went for broke, the other into a prevent defense.
And now here we are, almost 80 years since Gramsci’s death, and the shoe is on the other foot.
Much of conservative media is dominated by talk of jobs reports, economic theory, trade policy, and the like. The same with conservative activism. Even an issue of deep cultural importance like immigration is primarily debated from a racial/ethnic/economic/national security perspective. Almost never from a cultural one.
Pro-lifers are told to vote for pro-killing Republicans because “the economy will suffer if you don’t and nobody likes a single issue voter.” The Left is so far down its checklist on the long march through the institutions they’ve made it all the way to the women’s bathroom. They laugh at us as we fret over a single judicial appointment. Meanwhile, they control the board of regents/trustees for every public university chain in the country. Not to mention every school board of significance, as well as every editorial page/major broadcast network.
You can have all the Republicans with 100% Liberty scores in Washington, D.C. all you want. As long as the Left remains in control of the culture the best they’d do is stop the new bad stuff the Left wants to do. Forget even rolling back the decades of damage they’ve already done.
We’re so blinded to the brutal truth of what surrounds us we’re still mocking celebrities for believing people care what they think about politics. At the same time the Republican Party nominated a reality TV star for president. Talk about your cognitive dissonance.
Of those with the top 100 Twitter followings, the only figure primarily known for politics to qualify is President Obama. Ricky Martin, who hasn’t been relevant on the Billboard charts since we were still afraid of Y2K, has millions more followers than Trump. The BBC is on the list but not Fox. The Economist is on the list, but not the Drudge Report. There’s a great, big world out there that doesn’t care what we think let alone even know.
We are making the same mistake the pre-Gramsci Marxists made. So focused on filling our bellies and portfolios we’ve lost the country to the larger cultural narrative framed by the Left. As a result, now even the churches – our last line of cultural defense – are under siege as never before. All people want to believe in something bigger than themselves. The Left is offering that grander cultural vision while we offer economic growth charts.
We need to completely change our approach to activism, by putting a priority on the culture over partisan elections. Notice I didn’t say abandon partisan elections, but re-prioritize. Learn from our opponents, because right now the Left controls so many sectors of the culture they are largely insulated from any electoral success we have.
Obama’s ruthless pursuit of their agenda has cost the Democrats over 900 elected offices across the country, but there isn’t a progressive Leftist in America who isn’t proud of him for what he’s done. Including those who lost their elections.
Suppose instead of spending 40 years and millions upon millions of dollars to elect Republicans to appoint justices that kept Roe v. Wade in place all this time, we set about using those resources for changing hearts and minds of young mothers in distress like groups such as Save the Storks and Informed Choices do? Would we be any worse off, or closer to ending infanticide?
Furthermore, in a culture steeped in post-modernism as ours unfortunately is, storytelling is a must in getting your point across. In previous eras, the debate began with an objective truth claim followed by a story/testimonial to reinforce it. The exact opposite is true in this era. First you have to tell a story or share a testimony that makes the emotional connection, then you get to present the truth that made it possible. That means we should be looking at devices such as film and fiction to make that emotional connection which helps us get our point across.
Politics always flows downstream from culture. The previous generation forgot this truth, and focused on partisan elections at the expense of the culture—which means they lost both. I pray your generation doesn’t make the same mistake.
Steve Deace is syndicated each weeknight from 9PM - Midnight eastern on the Salem Radio Network, and is a contributor to Conservative Review. His most recent book A Nefarious Plot was inspired by the C.S. Lewis classic, The Screwtape Letters. You can learn more about his show by visiting SteveDeace.com and following him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow. something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.