Archive for 2012 Election

Hollywood, Entertainment and Politics

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , on November 17, 2012 by Legatus Libertatis

Where does conservatism fit in with celebrity pop culture?

Flipping through the channels today, I came upon the 1995 movie “Clueless” featuring the young actress Stacey Dash who made an appearance in the 2012 presidential election news cycle.  If you do not remember, Stacey Dash retweeted a Mitt Romney endorsement in early October, before the election, and incurred a backlash of criticisms from the African-American community and the liberal establishment in Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

The Stacey Dash “controversy” was much ado about little, and she was defended by a diverse cross-section of the media and political spokespeople.  Her situation was unique in that it challenged two assumptions about the constituent demographics of the Democrat Party: blacks and Hollywood.  It’s the latter which I want to talk about today.

The leftist leanings of Hollywood have become something of a cliché, but not an inaccurate one.  The celebrity endorsements for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 often came in whole cavalcades, with music videos, commercials and comedy sketches bursting at the seams with attractive familiar faces from TV and film.  Mitt Romney’s highest-profile celebrity endorsement came courtesy of the angrily doddering Clint Eastwood.  The whole question of the effectiveness of endorsements in swaying voters will be forever unanswered, and the question of celebrity endorsements is even more difficult to measure.  Even if a celebrity endorsement does not move a person to the polls, the cumulative effect on informing the overall culture cannot be ignored, particularly now in an age when media and technology blend information and entertainment so thoroughly.  It will factor into decisions and opinions f the public is constantly inundated with left-leaning news when seeking information, and endorsements of Democrats and their policies from the stars of their music, film and television when seeking entertainment.  People look to pop-culture to gauge what is mainstream, and it will be a problem for the right so long as conservatives are seen as squares and puritans while liberals are savvy and compassionate.

Examples of actors and celebrities on the left side of the ideological spectrum are as innumerable as the stars in the sky.  From the stereotypical standbys like Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, to the extreme whackos like Rosie O’Donnell and the thoughtful moderates like Sam Waterston,  liberals reign supreme in Hollywood and the entertainment industry.  I don’t personally participate in boycotts against entertainers because of their political beliefs; I still love Steven Weber’s TV and movie appearances regardless of what he writes for the Huffington Post. And while liberal ideology is more prevalent in these circles, it is not a complete monopoly.  There are celebrity voices on the right, if one strains to hear them.

In the 2008 Republican Primaries, Chuck Norris emerged onto the political stage with an endorsement of Mike Huckabee.  In 2012, Vince Vaughn publically supported the candidacy of Dr. Ron Paul (a little more hip and relevant than Ron Silver and Dean Cameron).  Republicans include Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood, John Voigt, Robert Duvall, Janine Turner, Victoria Jackson – the list of GOP celebrities does seem to be smaller, more dated and more obscure (though this list is by no means exhaustive).  In the wake of controversial movies like “Redacted” (Mark Cuban’s docudrama about the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl by U.S. soldiers), I recall hearing that Bruce Willis was seeking a film studio to produce his own war movie with a pro-America rightwing slant, but cold find no backers.  I do not for one moment suggest there should be some sort of affirmative action law to force studio executives to be “fair and balanced”; they are free to invest their money in what they believe in or what they think will bring in the most revenue, though there are people on the left who would like to use The Fairness Doctrine and Net Neutrality to correct the imbalance they claim exists in favor of conservatives on the radio and interwebs.

Years ago, before The Colbert Report, Comedy Central had a reasonably well-balanced political hour:  the left-leaning The Daily Show with Jon Stewart followed by the right-leaning Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn.  We often think that there are simply no comparable funny voices on the right who can connect with the public as well as the likes of Jon Stewart.  I’ve often heard lamenting that no similar voice exists on the right, and talk of finding one reminds me of talk before a safari aimed at finding an albino gorilla.  After embarrassing-to-watch failures like Fox News’ The 1/2 Hour News Hour, I can see why the prospect of finding a “Daily Show for the Right” seems hopeless to many people.  The truth is that there are conservative entertainers and comedians like Dennis Miller and the aforementioned Colin Quinn who would be capable of sustaining a right-leaning television comedy/news show, but they would first have to be given the opportunity by network executives who seem to have made the advancement or nurturing of liberal ideology a part of their agenda.

The current best hope for a conservative voice in pop-culture, someone to serve as a counterweight to Jon Stewart, would seem to be Greg Gutfeld of Fox News.  Where else but Fox News would such a new voice have even the chance to become established?  Gutfeld has been the longtime host of Fox News’ late night show Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld.  More recently, he has become a stable in the ensemble show The Five which fills the daytime slot on Fox News which used to belong to Glenn Beck.  Even more recently, Gutfeld and Imus producer Bernard McGuirk have been appearing in a new regular segment on The O’Reilly Factor, and last night (16 Nov.) I saw Greg Gutfeld filling in for the first time as a guest host on O’Reilly.  These are all steps in the right direction, moving Gutfeld farther into the mainstream and out of late night obscurity.

I have to say it took me a while to warm up to Red Eye; for the first year or two it was on the air, it was something I bypassed while channel surfacing, dismissed as noise and smarmy talking-heads, but once I began watching and paying attention it grew on me.  Now, whenever I can stay awake late enough, I watch Red Eye every night before bed, to get a final take on the day’s news with an irreverent edge and no politically correct filter.    The show’s titular ombudsman, Andy Levy, provides a regular libertarian voice, but even more heartening is the show’s service as a forum for other libertarians (like guests Gary Johnson and Penn Gillett) and sane conservatives (like regular guest Congressman Thaddeus McCotter).

The ideological battle waged in the pop-culture theater is perhaps the most difficult for conservatives.  Editorial control and decisions about content and programming give the left a decided home-court advantage.  Fox News seems to be the only viable market for conservative alternatives, but the network already has a stigma that prevents many key demographics (like young people and minorities) from ever tuning in.  The Fox broadcast network airs many programs which take jabs at conservatives and it seems reluctant to try entertainment programming which deviates from the liberal narratives commonplace in the industry.  New Media and the internet is the next frontier, and perhaps the best forum in the future to keep liberty and founding principles relevant in pop culture.  Maybe a Legatus Libertatis Youtube channel should be my next endeavor.

-Legatus Libertatis

Obama’s victory is better for the Liberty Movement than a Romney victory would have been

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , on November 7, 2012 by Legatus Libertatis

There is a silver lining to the 2012 election for libertarian-minded Americans.

On this day chock-full of post-election analysis and “Monday morning quarterbacking” I am sure I am not the only one making the argument that the libertarian movement is better off with a Romney loss than we would have been had he won.  I’ll attempt to explain the reasons behind this conclusion.  And no, this is not simply a case of someone trying to make lemonade out of lemons; I had decided before the election that an Obama victory would be slightly more preferable than a Romney victory (of course a Gary Johnson victory would have been ideal).

It was an odd experience for me watching the election results come in on the evening of 6 November.  If you read my last blog post, you know that while I have always subscribed to the libertarian philosophy, this was the first presidential election in which I did not vote for the Republican candidate.  Watching the election results was odd because I had to fight against my natural instinct to root for Mitt Romney, particularly in the battle-ground states.  On the one hand, a part of me still wanted to see Romney win, because that would have been evidence that more of the American public was rejecting the left’s Big Government agenda.  However, on the other hand I knew that a Romney administration would also have advanced a Big Government agenda, and – most damningly – would have done so in the name of conservatism.

With Romney’s defeat, the Libertarian movement can continue the fight to reform the Republican party from within.  It is true that Romney was slightly better than Obama on issues of economic and commercial freedoms, but he remained atrocious on issues of personal liberty and military interventionism.   Slightly better was not good enough for Libertarians in this election, but that is precisely the message that the Republican establishment would have taken away from a Romney victory.  The Republican establishment would have received the signal that, at most, they need only pay lip-service to issues important to the libertarian wing; they would have concluded that the libertarian vote was something they could afford to take for granted or dismiss entirely.  If a Republican candidate had won the presidency this year against the opposition of the libertarian right, the Ron Paul types in the party would have been further marginalized and ostracized; instead, they now have a chance and voice in reshaping the party moving forward.

During the primary season, the idea was floated that a Rick Santorum nomination (and subsequent loss in the general election) would have been the best outcome for the libertarian movement.  If the GOP had fully embraced social conservatism, the religious right, and supported a candidate who was blatantly opposed to liberty and in favor of using the power of the federal government to enforce morality, the impact of Obama’s re-election would have carved even greater inroads for the libertarian movement in the Republican party.  It would have served as proof that the antiquated intolerance and rigidity of social conservatism was not a recipe for electoral success.  The message sent by the defeat of a more moderate flip-flopper like Mitt Romney is not quite as potent, but it does still provide a silver lining.

Our case would be even stronger if the margin by which Mitt Romney lost the election was the same as the number of votes received by Gary Johnson.  I could drill down to a wonky degree into the numbers in individual states and precincts to try to make the argument that Johnson did indeed sway the election, but I’ve never been a fan of manipulating statistics like that (it’s like some of the stats in major league baseball which seem designed to give make any player a leader in one category or another.  Coming to the plate next is Eugene Crenshaw, who leads the national league in earning walks from left handed pitchers when runners are in scoring position during late innings in games which are the second part of a double-header).  The fact is that Gary Johnson garnered about 1% of the vote.  Libertarians in Congressional, state and local elections performed better.

A Romney victory in the 2012 election would have left the Libertarians fighting an ideological war from the outside against both the Republican and Democrat parties.  A President Romney would have continued to usurp power from Congress by use of executive orders and the powers of Commander-in-Chief to circumvent the legislative process and conduct unauthorized military action overseas.  Under his administration, the national deficits and debt would continue to increase (albeit at a negligibly slower pace).  The Democrats and the mainstream media would have made token gestures of protest, but the obvious hypocrisy of their arguments in the face of Obama’s record would have hamstrung the opposition.  By contrast, we can now use the rabid partisan atmosphere to our advantage.  It will be much easier to rally a wider coalition of Republicans against the statist agenda that is sure to define Barack Obama’s second term.  Republicans love to criticize and oppose Democrats.

Today the Republican Party and Democrat Party are far more alike than they are different.  The public is not being given a true choice between Big Government and freedom.

If we are shackled to a two-party system in this country then we should have only one party which champions increased federal spending, tax policy and regulations which are prohibitive to business, an ever-expanding bureaucracy that encroaches on the rights of states and individuals, unconstitutional military action abroad and police action at home, and another party which opposes it.

Whether the strangle-hold by the two parties is broken by a third, or one party is drastically reformed, our challenge is provide this alternative vision.

The history of American politics shows us that such sea changes are not impossible.  The Progressive Party of the early 20th century was eventually absorbed into the Democrat party, which to this day remains true to the progressive movement .  Perhaps the Libertarian Party and movement will accomplish a similar reform of the Republican Party, or perhaps the GOP will simply have to go the way of the Whigs and be replaced.

The mainstream media continues to propagate the myth that the two choices we had in yesterday’s election were the only two and were fundamentally different; clearly, we cannot count on the media to fight this battle for us.  Luckily there are voices inside the Republican party and out which now have a chance to be heard.  We must work to strengthen the Libertarian Party as well as support those freedom fighters in Congress and the Senate attempting to reform Republican Party from the inside.

If you haven’t seen the interview from ReasonTV with Jim Demint on why the Republicans need to embrace the libertarian movement, I highly recommend it (http://youtu.be/89kx4hBrBrE/).

I do not regret my vote for Gary Johnson, even though a Johnson presidency was something of a pipe dream this year.  I voted my conscience, and I voted for dialogue.  Many Americans have good instincts and are opposed to the use of drones to police our skies at home and assassinate Americans around the world, understand the basic principle of not spending more than you take in, see the Constitution as a limit on federal power to be respected, believe that free people should be able to make their own decisions about their lives, and that a bloated, corrupt and inefficient central government doesn’t know how to spend your money better than you do.  (Here is another great video of man-on-the-street interviews showing that Obama supporters oppose his policies when they think they were proposed by the right –http://youtu.be/Skw-0jv9kts).  The problem is that many Americans do not realize that their government is conducting itself in this manner, and others do not realize that they have a choice in the matter.  We have four years to gain inroads, build momentum, spread the message and educate the public before the next presidential election.

Check back regularly for new posts, and subscribe to my Facebook feed for updates and links.

-Legatus Libertatis

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