It’s been a year since we lost Andrew Breitbart. In sorrow, we’ll reflect upon what was, what wasn’t, and what is: specifically, the fate of Andrew’s “Pop-Cultural Conservatism.”
In a Republic where the consent of the governed and their delegation of power to their public servants is the constitutional rule, it is natural that the vast majority of Americans are apolitical. That is not synonymous with apathetic; contrarily, it simply means voters elect “those bums” to deal with the daily grind of governance while they, the sovereign citizens, engage in the daily pursuit of happiness.
If you doubt, note that CBS has higher ratings than C-SPAN.
As a result, the vast majority of the electorate tunes out the shrill white noise of politics with its stultifying lexicon of acronyms, numbers and insider-speak about what some House dullard said to some Senate diva after both men wore the same dress to SOTU.
This societal and electoral truism is the foundation for Andrew’s dictum, “Politics is downstream from culture.” To garner support for one’s cause, one’s appeal must transcend the narrow stricture of politics and, thereby, touch and nurture a sustainable cultural connection with the electorate that establishes a presumption of understanding of and empathy with people’s difficulties and dreams.
Conversely, if a political movement can’t communicate its message in manner recognizable and amenable to mainstream voters, the movement is doomed.
Echoing Marshall McLuhan’s observation that “Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn't know the first thing about either,"Andrew’s iconoclastic theatrics provided the singular ray of hope that Pop-Cultural Conservatism could build an indispensible bridge between our political movement and the mainstream public.
Regrettably, this is a bridge too far for the GOP establishment.
In the devastating wake of his passing, it’s often forgotten how Andrew’s “merry prankster” messaging was routinely dismissed and/or derided by a GOP establishment that, as often as not, treated him as a pariah. Ultimately, Andrew’s rebel cry and the “rutting class’” stodgy talking points proved as irreconcilable as “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and William Shatner’s vocal cords.
We were. What Punk did for Rock-n-Roll, Andrew’s reinvigorating creativity did for conservatism’s forsaken generation of “Rock-n-Roll Republicans” who came of age during the Reagan years. Rejecting disco’s soulless, strobe-streaked smoke and mirrors, Punk had rekindled the smoldering embers of Rock-n-Roll’s rebellious fire in the belly (and lower). Per usual, the genre’s achievement was only fully appreciated after its demise, when Punk Rock was superseded by, yes, the lame ass, techno-’80’s hair bands Andrew loved.
Unlike Punk Rock, however, the question remains whether Andrew’s life’s work of Pop-Cultural Conservatism is the future or a flash in the pan.
The early returns aren’t encouraging. Because GOP establishment messengers possess all the rhetorical aplomb of Charlie Brown’s teacher, voters--especially young voters who will be deciding elections for decades --have a formed a succinct view of conservatism: it sucks. This lamentable state of affairs is redolent with a pathos reminiscent of Andy Anuzis’ tale about our friend Phil’s struggle to sell a used car:
He’d put ads in the papers trying to sell this ’67 ’Cuda, but there were no takers. So, one night, he parked the lemon by the curb and left it unlocked with the key in the ignition and a ‘Free’ sign on the windshield. The next morning the damn car was still there. On the driver’s side door someone used the key to scratch, "Don’t nobody want this shit."
Lacking a pop-cultural connection with voters, today’s conservative movement is a rusting 1967 Plymouth Barracuda: “Don’t nobody want this shit”; and we’ve lost our top salesman.
Rest in peace, Andrew.
Guitarist, Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter is a recovering Congressbum and of Counsel at the Detroit law firm of Ottenwess, Allman & Taweel, PLC