Scientists say liberals and conservatives have different brain patterns. The difference could be a lot like the distinct wiring between men and women. The distinctions make dialogue and agreement difficult. There may be no common ground. One side is going to be victorious and the opposition relegated to a second-class status. Last week I read a newspaper editorial once again suggesting the culture wars are over and the American right lost.
I’m not so sure about the consensus. Electoral numbers across the country continually favor the politics of the right. Idaho is a case study. A writer examining the libertarian drift in state politics reflects the Gem State was not long ago slightly blue. Today 85 percent of elective offices are held by Republicans. Concerns about expatriates from California restoring some political balance are hogwash. The Golden State refugees I meet all tell me they’re happy they escaped the insane asylum. I’ll coin a new word and term. “Redward drift.”
Congress, the presidency, 31 of 50 governors and state legislatures are increasingly Republican. What’s going on here?
A great many people were silent as the culture wars raged. People expressing traditional values even faced loss of jobs. A fire chief in Atlanta, Ga., was dismissed because of his Christian views. The man had authored a book about marriage from an evangelical perspective. Mind you, he didn’t make it assigned reading for anyone in his department. Nobody had to buy a copy or take one as a gift as a requirement for employment. Instead when some members of the department asked for copies he gladly shared the book. It’s called testimony and Christians are called to share their faith. In the fire chief’s case he didn’t go out of his way to proselytize. He only shared belief by personal request. Then he was fired.
Browbeating the faithful and threatening them with loss of livelihood doesn’t mean you’ve converted them to the liberal cause. My developing theory is conservatives are responding at the ballot box. It’s private. You may guess how some of us vote but you don’t have certainty. The pendulum may well be swinging the other direction. A president who speaks his mind and doesn’t give a whit about what elites think is a powerful force. He’s telling people they can fight back. The growth of conservative media also allows a platform for lobbing return fire. I chuckle when the management of this paper labels me a shock jock. Then the editor is quoted by the New York Times Magazine taking the Lord’s name in vain. Let the good people of the Magic Valley decide which guy better represents their values.
In one of the few moments where I found agreement with the crowned heads of the Times-News was a discussion about local Republican politicians. The mostly men serving in elective office (politics is a lot like media, still a man’s world) in the region aren’t anywhere near as conservative as the constituency. Those of us in media see it in the cautious statements and aversion to controversy. Local politicians are more “Jeb” Bush than Donald Trump. There is an attempt to maintain courtliness in public and, yet. We appear to be living in a moment much like the one depicted in the Cherry Orchard. The old order is passing away.
Talk radio is a leading indicator of the rambunctious nature of what’s ahead. The Disruptor-in-Chief has laid down the new electoral blueprint but talk radio has been doing the excavating for three decades. The number of people who’ll actually call a radio show over the course of a lifetime is about the same as the percentage of the population who’ll seek public office. While small it doesn’t mean it isn’t representative of the same browbeaten public voting ever increasingly rightward. At a local GOP meeting last month I was asked why so much of the public is inflamed. I can speak from personal experience. When I was a kid my dad bought a new car every two years. He made a good living first as a plant millwright and then as a civil servant. He gave up the first line of work because it was fading away. Many of his friends never had civil service opportunities. As the factories closed they found they could never replace their previous wages.
Huge swaths of the country have been hollowed out. A low jobless rate doesn’t mean Americans are on easy street. Local legislators share with me there are jobs available but for many the pay will never allow a decent home. Tens of thousands of Magic Valley citizens are one paycheck away from disaster. People fear the future and what it means for their children.
None of this should be a shock. We’ve watched it unfold for decades. Meanwhile, the Democrats who once claimed to be looking out for your concerns got caught up in arguments about bestiality.
Local Republicans needn’t fear a political movement from the left. For the moment they can get away with prattling on about building relationships in Boise. The thing is, the virus unleashed by Trump will spread. From the top and down through the culture. We haven’t seen many people articulate it locally. The challengers within Republican ranks often appear one issue candidates. It’s not to say one issue won’t work. The upstarts just haven’t gravitated to the economic argument. Tie it to the tone deafness of the leftist culture warriors and you’ve got a winning strategy.
After Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joined his players in taking a knee before a “Monday Night Football” game on Sept. 25, Esquire magazine declared that “President Trump is losing the national anthem battle.”
“It was an almost startling image,” wrote associate editor Jack Holmes, “as Jones ... and the entire Cowboys team knelt in solidarity to affirm their rights to free speech and renew the call for equality begun by Colin Kaepernick a year ago.”
A BET headline read: “Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones changes tune on national anthem protests, kneels alongside team.”
CNN’s Christine Brennan told viewers that Jones’s demonstration amounted to an “absolute repudiation of the president of the United States,” even though Jones and the Cowboys had returned to their feet during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Two weeks later, Jones, who donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration committee, is being reclaimed by critics of NFL players’ protests, after he said that “if we are disrespecting the flag, then we won’t play. Period.”
Breitbart News made Jones’s hard-line stance its lead story on Monday morning.
On “Fox & Friends,” co-host Brian Kilmeade admired Jones’s forcefulness.
“They were the ones who came up with this idea that before the game, they would kneel; when the national anthem started, they would stand,” Kilmeade said, recalling the Cowboys’ previous display. “Many people thought that was the way forward, but that wasn’t good enough for Jerry Jones. He just made it clear: ‘I’m not going on the field again. And when it comes to standing for the national anthem, you’ll do it or you won’t play.’”
People on both sides of the debate over NFL players’ protests prize Jones’s support—or, at least, the appearance of his support—because he is arguably the most powerful club owner in American sports. Forbes estimates the Cowboys’ value at $4.8 billion, more than $1 billion more than the total worth of any other team in the United States.
Last month, ESPN reported that Jones’s objections are the reason NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has not yet signed a contract extension. Jones is not a member of the six-owner committee charged with negotiating a deal, yet his influence is so great that he is “a de facto seventh member,” according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
Jones’s opinion can make things happen, or not happen, in the NFL, so his view of the protests is important—so important that Trump called Jones after the Sept. 25 game to try to get on the same page.
“Spoke to Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys yesterday. Jerry is a winner who knows how to get things done. Players will stand for Country!
- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2017”
“He did call,” Jones told a Dallas radio station. “He was complimentary, which doesn’t mean that in any way we acquiesced to what he was implying. What we did was exclusive from that. What we wanted to do was basically make a statement and certainly not dishonor the flag.”
“There are many things we don’t agree on,” Jones added.
Jones is offering something for everyone. Depending on what you want to see, the Cowboys owner is a bulwark against disrespect for the national anthem and the American flag or a champion of players’ First Amendment rights.
The big winner in this situation is Jones, who is insulated against external criticism of his ambivalence by the desires of protest sympathizers and critics alike to cast him as an ally. And he is insulated against internal criticism by the power he wields over players’ paychecks (NFL contracts, unlike those in other major sports leagues, are not fully guaranteed) and playing time.