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Have Conservatives Become The Weird Kid In Class?

By on Apr 17, 2013 | 23 comments

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For some time much has been said regarding conservatives’ approach to culture. So much so that it’s almost become a cliché and frankly tiresome to hear. Those making this charge are effectively saying that people with right-wing political leanings have become too insular — that they exist on an island consuming only conservative cable news, conservative talk radio, outrageously outraged conservative blogs, and that they live in an “echo chamber” — another ubiquitous phrase that’s become tiresome too. However, evidence for this theory was present in the visceral reaction most conservatives had when Obama won reelection.

People living on Conservative Island were convinced that all the polls showing Romney trailing Obama were dead wrong because the aforementioned conservative media demonstratively declared it so. With certitude, conservative outlets cited inside baseball lopsided poll sampling. Naturally, a plurality of folks were shocked to learn that in another world just a few dials down from where the right now exists, there was  a myriad of other polling data that accurately predicted the outcome of the election. But conservatives were told to ignore them.

Most Americans only paid attention to the presidential election approximately two months prior to November 6th. They then resumed to their regular downtime consumption of reality television, sports, music, and movies. Most people don’t follow politics closely and likely couldn’t explain what a sequester is or what the fiscal cliff was. Many on Conservative Island enjoy poking fun at these people, labeling them “uninformed idiots.”

I don’t think they realize the joke may very well be on the provincial crowd of conservatives who have become “the weird kid in class.”

Here is what I mean by “the weird kid:”

I went to a private school from kindergarten to 12th grade in the southern United States. Almost all private schools in the South are Bible-based Christian/Catholic institutions where kids go to chapel and the Bible is taught as a part of the curriculum. Most parents (like mine) sent their kids to private school in an attempt to offer them the best education possible — but a few of the kids were there because his or her parents were strict religious purists.

These kids were sheltered from pop culture and not allowed to listen to or own the music most of my classmates enjoyed. Forget about the sheltered kids ever going to a chaperoned concert. They didn’t get to watch the movies of the 1980′s and 90′s that all my friends and I got to see in theaters, like Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Terminator, Die Hard, and even Stand By Me. The kids of purist parents were insulated, sheltered, and restricted. Unfortunately, this made them different from everyone else. There were little to no common interests. While the parents of these kids stood firm on principles and likely thought themselves to be superior & more informed than parents like mine, they inadvertently ostracized their children. They weren’t invited to birthday parties and they didn’t participate in general fun.

Their children became the weird kids in class. And so it is with a large faction of the conservative movement.

I watch Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon nightly, if for no other reason than to hear the opening monologue and have something funny or light on my mind before I go to sleep. Sometimes I will tweet a joke that resonated with me for its comedic value or perhaps it was controversial. But invariably when I send the tweet, my mentions become inundated with “you really watch those morons” or “who watches the late night comedians anymore” — or my favorite: “why do you support the enemy?”

In all caps, of course.

I know these people believe they are staying true to principles by boycotting late night comedians, but in so doing, they have isolated themselves from what 10-12 million Americans watch every night (at least according to Nielsen). Fallon and Leno have been hilarious lately, making fun of NBC executives during the changing of the The Tonight Show hosting gig. Most people are talking about it everywhere, including at work around the water cooler. But the “principled crowd” are oblivious. They must seem weird to their coworkers.

The same is true of Saturday Night Live, awards shows like the Oscars or the Golden Globes, and any number of other television events that originate from Hollywood or New York. If watching this type programming isn’t your thing, that is your choice and it should be respected.

But why lash out against those who do view network programming for entertainment as if they are traitors?

Conservatism is about freedom and liberty, not restrictions placed upon people due to ideology. But as of late, my friends on the right are trying to impose rules and standards that are counter to our charge. The conservative movement is miles away from approaching the culture because many won’t allow for a wide range of interests and simple pleasures amongst their own.

Like any family that has problems, we should start with settling our disputes and being more understanding of the many personalities involved. We should find common ground. Then maybe we can venture out into the culture where the majority of America dwells in hopes of shedding the unfortunate stereotype of “the weird kid in class.”

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Rick has been involved in GOP politics since he was a child coming from a political family who frequently helped conservative candidates' campaigns in local, state and national races. After graduating college he interned with Young Republicans for George W. Bush for President in 2000. Rick is a small business owner, BBQ aficionado and connoisseur of single malt adult beverages.

23 Comments

  1. DrkLrdBill

    April 17, 2013

    Post a Reply

    Your view of the super religious parents thinking they were better than yours is a great example. Those “principled” parents is how I view the majority of conservative pundits who call left-leaning citizens idiots or uninformed voters.. You aren’t going to win over hearts and minds that way.

    • Rick

      April 17, 2013

      Post a Reply

      Thanks for your feedback! I must admit I’ve never heard conservative pundits call left leaning citizens “idiots” but I believe there is a strong case that can be made in the presidential election that cult of personality reelected Obama in light of the most dismal economy in half a century. But with regard to inside the conservative tent dynamic my larger point is we must learn to accept the many personalities and belief systems of the individuals that make up the whole of the movement. Thanks again for your comment.

  2. Jane

    April 17, 2013

    Post a Reply

    There is also a Progressive Island full of the weird kids from the other side of the aisle. The difference is that the Progressive purists (the lefty equivalent of the “base”) are not running the party. There’s room for both right and left ideologues, but they shouldn’t dominate the majority.

    • DRH

      April 17, 2013

      Post a Reply

      ” The difference is that the Progressive purists (the lefty equivalent of the “base”) are not running the party. ”

      Wait… sez who?

  3. Lawful Plunder

    April 17, 2013

    Post a Reply

    As our society has become increasingly multicultural, our voting patterns have become increasingly tribal. But the differences between R’s and D’s extend far beyond just political ideology, It’s now been shown that R’s and D’s have different kinds of brains…. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/02/brain-difference-democrats-republicans

    Given this, it’s only natural that R’s and D’s tend to separate from themselves in real life. Just look at the map from yesterday’s post; the blue areas and red ares are not interspersed. And by and large, the implications of this are….not good. But from an election standpoint, it’s why candidates are increasingly focusing their attention on turning out their base, as opposed to making arguments to the other side.

  4. Tom H.

    April 17, 2013

    Post a Reply

    I agree with the assessment on the Political side of things – that Conservatives need to find balance between: consuming only Conservative Brand culture/news, doing nothing but complaining about mainstream culture/news, and being sucked into and completely unskeptical/undiscerning regarding mainstream culture/news.

    However, for me personally, I don’t think the ‘shetered religious kids’ analogy adds much to the argument.

    For me, the key statement from your post was: “If watching this type programming isn’t your thing, that is your choice and it should be respected.”

    That’s a better starting place…. from there I can follow you to your next statement: “But why lash out against those who do view network programming for entertainment as if they are traitors?”

    Applying those to the larger message, we get something I would conseider more persuasive than the subtle criticism against religious folks who choose not to consume the popular culture of the World.

    NOW… that being said…

    There is certainly a point where honest conviction can become religiosity and the people who shun pop culture begin to develop a sense of superiority towards the World. That is likely the sub-set you were referring to… and in that case I will let the analogy stand without complaint.

    My only desire was to suggest that (the necessities of broad-brush stroking in a blog post, aside) I don’t think that choosing to not consume pop culture for religious purposes is not inherently bad and does not inevitably lead to ‘weirdness’ in kids. ;-)

    Enough blather from me though…
    Like I said, I agree completely on the political aspects of engaging in the popular culture.

    • Tom H.

      April 17, 2013

      Post a Reply

      Messed up a few things… apologies here and corrections below:

      * “However, for me personally, I don’t think the ‘sheltered religious kids’ analogy adds much to the argument”

      * “My only desire was to suggest that (the necessities of broad-brush stroking in a blog post, aside) I don’t think that choosing to not consume pop culture for religious purposes is inherently bad. Neither do I think it will inevitably lead to ‘weirdness’ in kids.

  5. Larry Bernard

    April 17, 2013

    Post a Reply

    I disagree in part: Because we don’t appreciate the nature of the culture war. As a Jew (and a convert) I am much more sensitive to the challenges you face when in an alien culture to keep your beliefs and pass them on to a child. The Jews made a major effort to do that

  6. Andrew Young

    April 17, 2013

    Post a Reply

    Anybody who doesn’t try to get a full story and relies only on 1 source of information is truly not doing something right. At one time when the internet didn’t exist and yes even before cable TV. We had to rely on the big 3 media giants. So most info for politics was from family, the local barbershop, your church, and brochures that were handed out by the candidates people. Investigating your candidates, verifying information on bills, laws, or causes was difficult to near impossible. Yet, with the advent of cable TV and the internet, making yourself informed and getting the complete picture is very easy. Anyone who limits themselves to one source for all their info is the low information voter. I have voted for both sides of the fence, because I felt the candidate I voted for was the right one for the job. Now, I didn’t agree with everything, just less items than the other candidate.
    The biggest problem with the last election wasn’t so much “low information” voters but the fact we couldn’t make them informed or chose not to inform them. If you are trying to reach somebody and fail, is it really their fault? Instead of talking down at them or preaching to them about how bad Obama is, maybe talking to them like people we want to associate with and get to know might have worked better.

    Eh, what do I know. I am just an old fat guy.

  7. Jambu Shambu

    April 17, 2013

    Post a Reply

    I sorta kinda agree with your overall point. I think you’re wrong on the cause though. To me anyone who watches American Idol IS an uninformed idiot, or a 14 year old. I eschew those shows not because of politics but because my IQ is above 80 and I’m an adult. Obama captured 80% of the high school dropout vote. This is the American Idol viewer. Sorry if I don’t want to hang out with these people.

    The latenight stuff….if 10-12 million people watch, how does that translate into “everyone’s talking about it at the water cooler”? There are about 140 million people who work. 10-12 million isn’t even 10% of that.

    • Jambu Shambu

      April 17, 2013

      Post a Reply

      Replying to myself…I know, I know

      This reminds of the brou-haha over the Princeton article talking about getting married early. In the NY Times universe it was the talk of the town for a week. However I would bet that if you asked 1000 people at random outside ot NYC, 800 would have no clue what you were talking about. Yet somehow this was perfectly acceptable on the left. They have their own bubble, rightly or wrongly. And by they I don’t mean liberals exclusively. I mean the NY-DC corridor, NY Times reading elite of which there are plenty of “conservatives” as well. See National Review for example.

    • Rick

      April 17, 2013

      Post a Reply

      I appreciate your feedback! Notice I never mentioned reality television relative to your American Idol reference, I mentioned late night talk show, SNL and award shows all of which I’ve been attacked by fellow conservatives for tweeting content pertaining to those forms of entertainment. I’m not Mensa Society by any stretch but I’m confident my IQ hasn’t been stunted by viewing programming that is entertaining, informative of cultural current events and simply makes me laugh. Notice I also said “most people” talking about the changing of the Tonight Show host not “everybody” as you stated. Even my 64 year old mother asked me what I think about Jimmy Fallon taking Jay Leno’s post. I think you get the larger point that many conservatives have become so insular that they are oblivious to any type of pop-culture which makes them appear different or “weird” to the majority of Americans. I’m of the opinion if conservatives continue down this path of isolation and castigating their own who do venture out of the bubble we will never find anything in common with the majority of Americans who decide national elections.

      • Jambu Shambu

        April 17, 2013

        Post a Reply

        My point was that people who watch a show – any show – assume everyone else watches it as well. Take any top 10 show and less than 10% of the adult population is watching it. In the world of 500 channels, twitter, blogs, facebook, etc it makes sense that people gravitate to niche forms of entertainment.

        As for the election loss, I hoped Romney would win but I suspected Obama would win. I wasn’t naive. The spin post-election was that conservatives didn’t believe “the polls”. But that’s not really accurate. National polls showed a consistent Romney lead in October. State polls showed a slight Obama lead in the Electoral College. Only after Sandy did that lead evaporate in national polls as well. Gallup had Romney up 7% nationally around October 15th. It wasn’t that unreasonable to think a guy leading by 7% with 3 weeks to go would win.

        • Rick

          April 17, 2013

          The main reason for the shock of the Romney loss by so many conservatives was they were told from conservative media only Gallup and Rasmussen were credible polls. Meanwhile Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight NYT correctly predicted the winner of all fifty states and the District of Columbia, a guy that conservative television, blogs and talk radio had out to be a crazed hack. Count me as a person who had discounted Nate Silver’s model. Also NBC/Marrist, Quinnipiac and any number of polls outside of the approved conservative sources (Rasmussen & Gallup) always had Obama winning but conservatives were told their sampling was skewed based on 2008 models not taking in consideration 2010 midterms. So that conservatives “did not believe the polls” not being “accurate” is not accurate. It’s common knowledge the aforementioned conservative polling that favored Romney is what had conservatives so perplexed post election, and thus my point about relying solely on isolated information.

          To your point that all people assume everyone else watches the same television programming, I hardly think many of my conservative friends on Twitter are watching the shows I do by virtue of the “who the hell watches _________ anymore” in my mentions when I tweet a Leno joke. The base of the conservative movement has become an insular tribe gravitating to echo chambers. I guess we can always stay in the echo chamber and continue not understanding other American’s views and interests or more importantly why we lose.

    • Coleridge

      April 18, 2013

      Post a Reply

      American Idol, really? So I’m an idiot for watching an entertainment show for a few seasons that was family friendly? If your IQ is above 80 than perhaps you might consider what you don’t know before making such a ridiculous statement.

    • S. R. Mann

      April 18, 2013

      Post a Reply

      I watch a decent amount of reality TV, probably more than any other genre aside from documentary-like programs. I don’t think that someone’s choice of entertainment necessarily entails certain characteristics, such as being unintelligent or immature. It’s pretty easy to recognize absurdity and artificiality while being entertained at the same time. I think of it as being comparable to “suspending disbelief” when watching a movie. :)

  8. Dave

    April 17, 2013

    Post a Reply

    If Conservatives are the weird kids, what are the Libertarians? ;-)

    Right-leaning folks do need to stop running away from pop culture. If we want to reach the masses, and get some (admittedly small) percentage of folks to stop and think about various policies and such, we can’t stay bunched up amongst ourselves all the time. It’s comforting in the same way that many people would take comfort from more gun legislation. It’s all about feeling good, but doesn’t truly help anything.

    Gotta get in the game, no matter how weird we are.

  9. Tobias Took

    April 17, 2013

    Post a Reply

    “People living on Conservative Island were convinced that all the polls showing Romney trailing Obama were dead wrong because the aforementioned conservative media demonstratively declared it so.”

    I believed them wrong because I told myself that if the truth was that a majority of the voters wanted four more years of this horror of an economy, then that truth would just have to smack me upside the head. I refused to believe that people would willing vote to reelect an administration that was a failure by any conceivable metric.

    I was suitably smacked.

  10. Tom H.

    April 17, 2013

    Post a Reply

    On a side note – I do find it strange that so many Conservatives apparently denounce Leno. If memory serves, he self-identified as a Democrat years ago. But, he has been one of the few late night comics willing to take a crack at Obama.

    Maybe not as much good natured ridicule as we think the President deserves… but still, it’s something.

    • Rick

      April 17, 2013

      Post a Reply

      I agree. Leno is a democrat but has been consistently dishing on Obama on the economy where Grumpy old Man Letterman still can’t get off Bush/Romney bashing.

  11. Travis

    April 17, 2013

    Post a Reply

    If your Nielsen estimate is accurate, and the US census is, than close to four percent of the population is watching the late night shows. Culture may be too splintered for any of us to be the weirdos anymore.

  12. Tom Servo

    April 17, 2013

    Post a Reply

    I was always the weird kid in class growing up (all I wanted to do was read sci-fi) and I’m used to it by now. It’s not for political reasons, but I wouldn’t watch network TV if you paid me. But it’s not all bad – since I was already used to not being very popular, I decided to become a lawyer. And I enjoy it a great deal! As the saying goes, if you want a friend in this business, get a dog.

  13. DrkLrdBill

    April 18, 2013

    Post a Reply

    Yeah, am I an idiot for watching America’s Got Talent because I’m a huge Stern fan?

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