2013 was a year of revelations, a year of possible turning points. For nearly two decades, since Ronald Reagan left office, America moved steadily in the direction of the left, both culturally and politically. When the Soviet Union fell, optimistic scholars believed the world had shifted inexorably in the direction of free markets and liberal democracy. Instead, the West gradually embraced bigger government and weaker social bonds, creating a fragmented society in which the only thing we all belong to, as President Barack Obama puts it, is the state.
All battles for the soul begin with culture. And while the battle against Obama’s unprecedented growth of government started with the tea party victories of 2010, the cultural battle against the left didn’t truly take until 2013. The seeds were planted for this cultural battle in earnest in 2012, when Obama and his Democratic Party allies put race, sexual orientation and abortion at the core of his reelection campaign. Americans were told by the media that Obama’s competence mattered less than the fact that half the country was mean, nasty, racist and homophobic. Todd Akin’s absurd comments on conception via rape were the issue, Americans were told, not the imminent takeover of the health care system; Obama’s sudden support for same-sex marriage was the issue, not his devastating regulatory state; George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin were the issue, not the destruction of entire swaths of the United States via leftist governance.
And it worked. Conservative Americans, bludgeoned into silence on cultural battles, decided to focus entirely on Obama’s economic buffoonery. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work; culture, as my friend Andrew Breitbart was fond of stating, is upstream of politics.
2013 marked a turning point. From Chick-fil-A to “Duck Dynasty,” conservative religious Americans found their footing: Whether you are for or against same-sex marriage, it is plainly un-American to override someone’s religious beliefs in the name of your politics. Conservative Americans seemed to realize, for the first time in a long time, that the battle over same-sex marriage came wrapped in a larger battle over religious freedom. And they fought back, and won.
Meanwhile, conservatives began to fight back against the left’s uncorroborated assertion of right-wing racism. While MSNBC focused laser-like on one Confederate flag at an anti-Obamacare rally, those same MSNBC hosts laughed at Mitt Romney’s adopted black grandchild (Melissa Harris-Perry), suggested that someone ought to “p***” and “s***” in Sarah Palin’s mouth (Martin Bashir), used anti-gay slurs (Alec Baldwin), shook down businesses over race (Al Sharpton) and labeled words like “black hole” and “Chicago” racist (Chris Matthews). Race, the right realized, was an obsession only for the left.
And in the aftermath of the left’s successful 2012 “war on women” meme, the right began to fight back, too. Beginning with the left’s attempted deification of amoral Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, who filibustered for 11 hours on behalf of the murder of 21-week-old fetuses, the right refused to be cowed. Abortion is a real moral issue with real lives at stake, and no amount of leftist badgering could back conservative Americans off their attempts to protect the unborn.
The cultural battles gradually made their way into the political arena, too. Freed from the burden of the beige and blundering Romney campaign, conservatives stood up against the growth of government on moral, not merely practical, grounds. Obama’s signature program began to collapse the moment Americans awakened to the deep immorality of government-controlled medical care. Sen. Ted Cruz’s government shutdown strategy, right or wrong, highlighted conservative opposition to the state as cradle-to-grave caretaker. American distrust of government, for the right reasons, soared.
This does not mean the battles are over for conservatives. They’re just beginning. The media have already geared up toward nominating Hillary Clinton in 2016 (The New York Times whitewash of Benghazi this week was only the beginning). The DC-run Republican Party has a disheartening way of crippling its own conservative base in order to cut deals. But 2013 could go down as the year that conservatives moved beyond standing athwart history shouting “stop,” and began shoving in the opposite direction, which could make 2014 historic.
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