The Changing Cultural Mainstream: Set-Up

Colin Powell | Biography & Facts | Britannica

The United States is a large nation of 333 million people with a welter of regional, ethnic, racial, immigrant, urban, suburban, and rural subcultures. At the same time, there is a national culture that is dividing into “mainstream” and “white conservative” wings. Indeed, cultural division is becoming as much a feature of American life as it is in a country like Lebanon. With Trumpism, much of the media and academic attention has been focused on the rapid changes in cultural conservatism, especially the rise of the conspiracy world and its overlapping with the religious right and gun culture. But outside conservative critics, there has not been as much focus on the mainstream part of the cultural divide.

A word on the term “mainstream.” So much of American culture is tied up with the country’s destabilizing politics. Democrats like to stigmatize conservatives as ignorant, uncivilized, and bigoted if not dumb, and pay special attention to statements like Donald Trump falsely claiming below that Thomas Jefferson was an author of the Constitution.

From Twitter

But in thus treating conservatism as “the other,” Democrats do little reflection on their own symbolism, practices, and loyalties and how those have changing. For their part, conservatives have terms like the “left,” “woke,” and “intolerant” by which they criticize political opponents and also American culture more generally as opposed to conservatism. Tim Carney of the conservative outlet The Washington Examiner complains that the “Left’s domination” of the media, academia, and corporate life make all these institutions uncomfortable and unfriendly places for conservatives like Kevin Williamson (fired by The Atlantic), Bari Weiss (resigned from New York Times), and Meghan McCain (quit The View).

However, opposition to “woke” workplaces does not say much about the nature of the cultural commitments of the media, academia, or corporations. Likewise, Tim Carney’s critique of the media, academia, and corporate America more generally, any “major non-conservative institution” is an indication that he’s not speaking about a kind of disposition or mood of these organizations. They’re not “just” hostile to conservatives. Likewise, it’s not a regional phenomena, a tech thing, or some sort of conspiracy stemming from “George Soros and his allies.” The “dominance of the left” is also much bigger than the political left in the sense that it would apply to corporations that support the Republican Party and it’s policies of lower taxes on the wealthy and restricting the electorate. It’s also bigger than the Democratic Party. What Tim Carney is chastising is mainstream American culture and its values, practices, and symbols rather than just the “left.”

More to Come!

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