It’s a pretty similar speech to the one he gave at the Western Conservative Summit earlier this summer; namely, that perhaps the biggest problem facing conservatives is that the Left has built a narrative in the pop culture casting conservatives and traditional America as the villain, and villains will struggle mightily to win elections.
In the speech, Whittle diagnoses the three main pieces of the narrative and then suggests a conservative answer he believes will be easy to sell…
If you don’t have the 20 minutes to watch the speech, it’s fairly simple stuff. The Left is selling three basic concepts in the pop culture. First, that wealth is unearned – the villain in the movies is pretty much always an American businessman out to make a buck – from the cattle baron screwing over homesteaders so he’ll have more space to graze his livestock, to the oil man who wants to pollute the land, to the casino owner who doubles as a mob boss.
And if wealth is unearned, then redistributing it is justice and not theft.
The second piece of the Left’s pop culture narrative is that everybody is special. Of course, saying everyone is special is the same as saying nobody is, but that’s not sellable. To say everybody is special is a lot more touchy-feely – everybody gets a trophy, and everybody gets to feel like a snowflake. This manifests itself in the ubiquitous movie presence of the loser underdog or the misfit kid who saves the world when the authority figures or big shots fail miserably.
But if everybody’s special, there is no particular reason to bust your rear end for 20 years to learn how to be a neurosurgeon rather than wasting away on a porch with cheap beer and Mary Jane.
The third piece is “Let us help you.” Namely, that all these great things the Left wants to do for everybody – what’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with free food, free phones, free or ridiculously cheap housing, free health care, free abortions, free college education? Who could be against those things? Conservatives, that’s who – why would anybody vote for them when instead you can vote to get all this great free stuff by putting us in charge?
And this is, of course, slavery. The Left is demanding that the public sells its freedom and its property for the promise of sustenance from the overlords. That they’re selling it well doesn’t absolve them of the moral horror of what they’re doing.
To beat this, Whittle offers three parts.
First, sell freedom. But rather than say freedom, ask “Do you want to be left alone?” Or “Raise your hand if you want to be told what to do.” Of course people want to be left alone. They might want to tell others what to do, though they’ll never admit it. There are lots of ways to sell this; but it largely sells itself – and when lefties are out trying to stop you from setting your thermostat where you want it, or what to eat or drink, or how to do business, or what you can buy, it merely takes a little effort to point out that they’re not as into freedom as the public is.
Second, private property. Whittle illustrates this by telling a quick story about giving a speech at hard-left Oberlin College, where 70 percent of the audience claimed to be socialists. In answer, he demanded they bring their smart phones down to the stage where he was going to collect them, bring them to Cleveland and sell them to raise money to give $20 bills to homeless people. That nobody was willing to part with their phones indicates that regardless of what political rhetoric they might claim to subscribe to they’re not socialist – even the most ardent lefty in America is at heart a fan of private property (“Hey, that’s my stuff!”) and it needs to be presented to them that taking other people’s things is every bit as unjust as taking your things.
And third, virtue. Which is easily explainable as “Don’t be a jerk.” The Left has done a nice job trying to demonize the promotion of virtue by calling that intolerance, but at its heart what’s in play here is that if you’re willing to act in civil fashion and not antagonize your neighbors then it’s much easier for the rest of us to leave you alone. It’s when you cause a ruckus with them that everybody else has to get involved.
This is something the Founding Fathers were quite keen on, though they couched it in terms of religion. They felt religion was necessary as a means of instruction to create and preserve public morality. The Left has been doing everything possible to separate us from that, and this is why you see “controversy” about the display of, say, the Ten Commandments at a courthouse – when the Ten Commandments are the basis for all of American law. At the end of the day, though, the upshot is “Don’t be a jerk” and we can have few laws and a small, unintrusive government.
Whittle’s probably going to keep giving this speech, which is a good thing. It needs to be given. It’s a very good way to explain, in 21st century terms, the difference between the Left and the Right. What audiences do with that speech is going to color its effectiveness.