We heard a lot about the #WalkAway movement, which involved lots of people making videos about how they intended to walk away from the Democratic Party. The videos clocked millions of views and then the Democrats swept the House in the midterm elections.
The Republicans held the Senate. This happened not due to any GOP genius. It took place simply because the Democrats were so bad that in statewide races people had to choose between an annoying Republican and a Democrat that they knew would make a huge mess.
Meanwhile, in local and state races, Democrats used their well-developed ground game to build strong connections between people in the grassroots and specific candidates. So now, the Democrats have the House.
I support Trump and stand by my vote for him in 2016.
But I keep having experiences that demonstrate to me why the conservative movement is failing. When I went to Politicon in Los Angeles last October, I saw the major problem with the conservative movement, and that experience helped me to understand the subsequent loss of the House of Representatives. The conservatives had solid representation in the main performance hall where big speakers like Tomi Lahren, Ann Coulter, and Tucker Carlson spoke. But where my group was (Urban Game Changers), in Democracy Village, really the liberals dominated.
I can’t stand the Democratic party or liberal politics, so I would only say anything complimentary about them if I absolutely must. Here’s the thing. In Democracy Village, the liberals worked the floor. Many came to the table where I was and tried very hard to convince me of their point of view. They wanted to know who I was. They had a fire inside them. They had ideas that they believed so heartily, they didn’t want me or anyone else to walk away from a conversation without having been moved toward their viewpoint. I heard about empathy tents, sustainability, black urban empowerment, and a bunch of other liberal causes. Because this took up most of my time talking on the floor, I actually had to shake myself out of my hypnosis and remind myself — wait, I am not on their side!
In Democracy Village, conservatives did not have the same fire in them. They stayed among their cliques. When they did come over and introduce themselves to me, they seemed standoffish, bothered, uninterested in a conversation. They wanted their brand — Prager U, Turning Point, whatever it was — to speak for itself. So they did not have to do much talking. I met some young conservatives who really sparked meaningful conversation, but these folks came without an affiliation. The “movement” felt, once again, like a huge letdown.
We lost the House of Representatives because Democracy Village was a microcosm of the American grassroots. In statewide races such as races for a Senate seat, the Democrats’ dysfunctional policies and lack of a realistic agenda hamper them. On that scale voters lean to a safe Republican pick even though they do not feel any warmth for Republicans.
In smaller districts such as the races for a House Seat, Democrats benefit from their ground game. A candidate’s team can get from door to door, meet people, listen to what constituents say, build a rapport, build loyalty, turn people out to vote.
Having the better ideas is great. But having no sales pitch means the ideas will never see reality. Many conservative talking points, especially libertarian ones, seem to hover in the abstract. They never get implemented because the people purveying such schemes can never persuade an ordinary person to sign on to them. Thus even when “conservative” leaders get elected, they cannot close the deal with constituents and they cannot put the ideas of the “movement” into action.
Which brings me to Prager U. The Prager U brand has obvious value and reach. This recent video by Prager U, for instance, has well over one million views after only one day:
Dennis Prager has been on the radio for years. People know him. But the video above demonstrates what is wrong with Prager U, and wrong with our whole movement. I have had some contact with Prager U in the past, because I was involved in a harrowing academic-freedom conflict at California State University-Northridge. We do not have time to rehash it all here. Read Wackos Thugs & Perverts if you want more information about it. In a nutshell, I stood up for conservative and Christian principles, and as a result, a lesbian feminist dean made my life a nightmare. After years of threats, obscene phone messages, vandalism on my door, frivolous accusations, harassment from colleagues like Rudy Acosta, and constant sabotage from faculty, students, and administrators, I left.
I heard that Prager U was going to film something with Adam Carolla at California State University-Northridge, about five months after I had resigned my tenured position and moved to Texas. I contacted their lawyer and also another person in the organization to let them know I had a huge trove of information about liberal bias and anti-conservative repression at the campus. They showed no interest. My case along with Mark Armitage’s case were the two most conspicuous cases of liberal persecution on the campus at the time, with our stories covered in major media outlets. But Prager U was not interested. I accepted that.
About a year later, Prager U crossed my transom once more. An evangelical leader contacted me and about forty other Christian writers to discuss a Prager U video featuring Guy Benson. The video spotlighted Benson’s identity as a gay conservative and as a gay Christian. Evangelicals were outraged at Dennis Prager because it seemed that he was now abandoning sexual integrity like all the other pseudo-conservatives in our discourse community.
Many evangelical folks had seen their hopeful allies make Fox News fortunes through clickbait and hype, but then shrink from really defending conservative values. Guy Benson posed a serious problem because as an editor at Townhall he seemed to have influenced the editorial policies. Several people I knew found they could not get published on Townhall if they were associated with “antigay” causes. I do not know how much Benson had to do with that but it definitely seemed related to the changes at Townhall, which is owned by Salem.
My evangelical ally set up a conference call with Dennis Prager, along with over thirty other Christian leaders, to talk about why we found the Benson video so troubling. Dennis Prager disappointed me. The moderator gave me some time to speak and I mentioned specifically that I had been ousted from California State University Northridge because of my defense of Christian ideas, and the idea that people can get out of homosexuality. Prager showed interest mostly in placating us so we would not cause troubles for his brand. He said he wanted to place a disclaimer somewhere explaining that he was not trying to say that homosexuality was compatible with Christianity. This wasn’t what most of us wanted. We wanted him to use his platform and exposure in order to give attention to the other side that Guy Benson could not represent. We wanted him to expose, as he did on many other issues, the intellectual dishonesty and censorship that had allowed the left to erase people who did not fit their pro-gay dogma.
Dennis Prager said he wanted to have some of us on his show. He hung up and never followed through on any of that. The mutual friend who set up the conference call claimed Prager had shown some interest but then that all dissipated. One of our names came up as a potential person of interest to appear on Prager’s show–a woman with very churchy objections to homosexuality. To my knowledge she never went on the show. Those of us who got out of homosexuality, found redemption and marriage with the help of Christ, and paid the severe price due to the backlash from gays on left and right… dropped from the conversation. We were erased once again.
Fastforward to yesterday.
Yesterday the video above was published by Prager U. It drives home for me why I can’t really identify with the conservative “movement” even if I hold traditional values. Prager U, with its massive reach and platform, used its brand to send two kids to California State University Northridge for a childish stunt involving Thanksgiving costumes. A black youth dressed as a pilgrim and a white guy dressed in an Indian headdress go to CSUN’s campus with a pie, baiting the students to harass them on video. They record some Native American students shouting at them and then they leave.
When I left California State University Northridge, I was eighteen years into my career as a professor. I had a PhD and had earned tenure at that school. I had dedicated years of my life to trying to integrate political and religious diversity into the curriculum en par with racial and ethnic diversity. I wanted more conservative curriculum. If I had had the help of Prager U in 2016, maybe I could have stayed. Maybe I could have made a difference.
But I did not stay. The conservative movement did not provide that kind of help. I left. The campus sank more into its poisonous biases and its dysfunction. An African American colleague contacted me a few weeks ago to tell me she was driven out and had suffered severe emotional aftereffects from the abusive and stifling environment.
And CSUN’s abusive and harsh environment has proved deadly in recent weeks. Ian Long, the military veteran who slaughtered thirteen people in Thousand Oaks, attended the college from 2013 until 2016, years when I was there as well. The little online record of his thoughts that has surfaced showed that he had been bullied as a teen and had suffered frustration at CSUN, withdrawing only weeks before he was due to graduate.
Having done service in the Army Reserves while teaching at CSUN, I am familiar with the campus and the culture Ian Long must have been dealing with. It was likely hostile. The offices to which he would have turned to help, I know, tended to be largely corrupt and unhelpful. As a white male veteran, he had no occasion to get help from offices like Equity and Diversity.
The political imbalance, bias, and abusive nature of CSUN is not a flippant joke. The leftists who have turned that campus into a tortuous workplace are not snowflakes who lack a sense of humor about an Indian Thanksgiving costume. The culprits are well-positioned adults, vicious political players who use their power and connections to advance their friends at the expense of people they view as enemies.
But Prager U is just too lazy to deal with any of that. The brand is wasted on juvenile pranks like this footage of two kids wearing insulting costumes to campus and carrying a pie. This illustrates everything that is wrong with the conservative movement. All the sound and fury signifying nothing… The constant mockery of liberal “snowflakes” while the people on our own side are nepotistic, unserious, lazy, and superficial.
We need a #WalkAwayfromBigConservative movement. Machines like Prager U have become part of the problem. Regarding education, the country faces a point of no return. If we want to save our country, we have to dismantle the educational machine as we know it. To do that, we will need funding and the means to get bold and revolutionary people elected to office. So a big struggle awaits us. But walking away from this stuff is the first step.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.