Froma Harrop: The next culture war is off to a slow start
Summary: Our cultural warmongers could freshen the conversation by finding less trampled resentments to flog. Fox News can't help itself, but anyone else who cares to skip "the war on Christmas" this year has my vote. Happy holidays, everyone.
Like horses at the starting gate, the better conservative pundits are galloping off to the next thing, which is really an old thing: the culture wars. But what a nice change from having to negotiate between traditional conservative doctrine and Donald Trumpian mobs threatening them for frowning in the president's direction.
The culture war is a perennial topic and one about which conservatives make some sound arguments. But it's also a cheap political date, a way to win applause without spending much. Thus, quality counts.
If we're off to the next culture, let's make it a good culture war. That means not dictating what private parties may say or portraying stray opinions as emblematic of the Democratic Party.
Rich Lowry's National Review column "The Only Middle Finger Available" shot at some tired fish in the woke barrel. A Trump win, Lowry wrote in late October, would be something "to brandish against the people who've assumed they have the whip hand in American culture." He cited the media, corporate America, Hollywood and professional sports as wielders of the lash.
Conservatives should know that privately-owned companies have the right to set their own messaging. One may like or dislike what Lowry calls "woke virtue-signaling from professional sports leagues," but really, it's their business.
And no one has to patronize them. Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue openly campaigned for Trump, announcing, "We're all truly blessed ... to have a leader like President Trump." He had every right to say it, and I have every right to never buy another Goya bean.
Over at Commentary Magazine, Noah Rothman opened an essay as follows: "'For white people,' the activist Joan Olsson wrote, 'learning to be anti-racist is a re-education process.'" "Re-education" is a loaded term associated with communist internment camps.
But I wanted to know, who in Hades is Joan Olsson? Never heard of her. It turns out Joan (aka Jona) Olsson worked as a diversity trainer and was chief of a small volunteer fire department in New Mexico. (In 2012, she won the International Association of Fire Chiefs Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year award.)
The Olsson paper was published 23 years ago. It's not very incendiary, which leads one to suspect that the author didn't totally understand the historical baggage attached to "re-education."
Rothman was really after Proposition 16, an item on the California ballot that would have lifted a ban on using race, ethnicity or gender in public hiring and university admissions. As it happened, California's famously liberal electorate rejected it.
And so, this isn't an argument with California Democrats. A few activists on the left get these things on the ballot. That doesn't make them generals of massive Democratic armies — as Prop 16's demise demonstrated.
Nonetheless, The Wall Street Journal opined that Democrats in California were "shell-shocked" by the vote. Which makes you wonder, who did the editorial writers think did the voting?
Californians also turned down a business property tax hike, expansion of rent control and a referendum that would have forced companies to boost pay and benefits for gig workers.
Right-wing caricatures aside, Democrats tend to be pragmatic people. Some proposals sponsored by the left are bad ideas, and if California Democrats showed anything, it was an ability to pick and choose. Similarly, in red Florida, voters favored both Trump and a $6.44 increase in the minimum wage, to $15.00 an hour, a liberal goal.
Our cultural warmongers could freshen the conversation by finding less trampled resentments to flog. Fox News can't help itself, but anyone else who cares to skip "the war on Christmas" this year has my vote. Happy holidays, everyone.
Froma Harrop can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @FromaHarrop.