Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

It’s Uphill All the Way for Social Conservatives

Although the seemingly unstoppable march of cultural liberalism took pause during the years of Ronald Reagan and even into the 1990s, it is back on track. Liberals will applaud it and conservatives will dread it, but it is silly to deny its strength.

Television and movies reflect our current values and concerns, but they also help mold public opinion. For decades, that message has been one encouraging more equality, diversity and multiculturalism — and less tradition and religion. This isn’t all that surprising considering the ideological bent of most entertainers, producers, directors and writers.

Starting with TV shows like “All in the Family,” “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Maude,” progressing to the very funny “Will & Grace” and going right up to today’s most obvious example, “Glee,” television has pushed socially progressive themes. Socially progressive characters are enlightened and admirable, while traditionalists are unappealing, to say the least.

Of course, popular culture has not limited its “teaching” to cultural themes. The business community usually gets more than its share of contempt. One of my favorite recent TV series, “Damages,” which starred Glenn Close, based every season’s story on vile, corrupt, deceitful, money-grubbing, power-seeking businessmen who had little or no respect for human life.

But business has gotten off easy, compared with cultural conservatives who don’t have financial networks and savvy corporate CEOs to present an alternate perspective.

The public and TV networks’ reactions to two recent Supreme Court decisions, one invalidating Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the other invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act, were noteworthy.

Both decisions were 5-4, but only about the Voting Rights Act decision did I hear the high court widely described as “bitterly divided.”

In the days after the Voting Rights Act decision, you might have thought that the high court had taken away the right to vote from African-Americans. Journalists gave plenty of attention to voices opposing the decision and arguing that the ruling would overturn all the progress of civil rights since the 1960s.

The media’s coverage of the DOMA decision, on the other hand, was almost euphoric, geared overwhelmingly toward those celebrating the decision.

Admittedly, opponents of the decision were noticeably quiet after the court’s ruling. Of course, opposing gay marriage has increasingly been equated with intolerance, meanness, bigotry, religious fundamentalism and lack of intelligence, so many displeased by the ruling may have figured that silence was the safest course.

The type of coverage of the two decisions undoubtedly also reflects the fundamental values of most journalists, who are generally more liberal than the country as a whole. There appeared to be plenty of cheerleading after the two rulings on same-sex marriage, and not merely from the obvious voices on MSNBC.

But it wasn’t only surrounding the Supreme Court’s opinions on marriage that some of the recent media coverage seemed tilted.

On his final show hosting CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, media critic Howard Kurtz commented on the media’s very sympathetic treatment of Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, whose 11-hour filibuster at the end of a special session prevented the enactment of a bill limiting abortions and requiring facilities performing abortions to meet certain standards.

“If Wendy Davis had been conducting a lonely filibuster against abortion rights,” Kurtz asked, “would the media have celebrated her in quite the same way?” Kurtz didn’t offer an answer — because he didn’t have to. The answer certainly would have been “no.”

For social conservatives, the greatest problem may be the undermining of traditional religious authority and belief.

While Gallup showed only a slight annual increase last year in the percentage of people saying that they had no religious identification (up to 17.8 percent in 2012), the trend is clear.

“The rise in the religious ‘nones’ over time is one of the most significant trends in religious measurement in the United States. … The percentage who did not report [a religious] identity began to rise in the 1970s and has continued to increase in the years since,” wrote Gallup in a January 2013 report.

In the 2012 exit poll, President Barack Obama won 62 percent of voters who never attend religious services but only 39 percent of those who attended weekly. He carried 70 percent of those voters who said they had no religion, compared with only 42 percent of Protestants and 50 percent of Catholics.

(Next month, I have tickets to see the Broadway hit “The Book of Mormon,” which lampoons not only Mormonism but all organized religion and literal belief. Is there a Broadway blockbuster that mocks an iconic liberal value?)

Social conservatives probably see Obama, liberals on the Supreme Court and Democrats in Congress as their main adversaries. But they are wrong. The most important leaders of cultural liberalism may well be the members of the media and entertainment communities, and social conservatives simply have no strategy to deal with that.

  • ajr86

    The media and Hollywood are the #1 culprit in destroying the fabric of our society. Their hatred of god and morality have poisoned the young and sadly many adults as well.They are forces of evil that must be stopped.

    • jimsepa

      The argument that the media and Hollywood are destroying the fabric of our society has been around since, well, the start of the media and Hollywood. It’s a cop-out. Just look at ajr86’s comment – completely judgmental, hateful, might even be considered unbalanced. Should we blame the media for this type of self-righteousness? I mean really. “Evil”? Since when was believing in something different considered “evil”? In any case, guess what? The sun will come up tomorrow. And some will still blame the media for all the ills in the world.

      • Mitchell F.

        No, liberals have the market cornered on self-righteousness and intolerance. I do not think you actually read the article. All of the world’s “evils” are not being blamed on Hollywood and the media. The article was pointing out the lack of avenues for conservative values to be communicated.The media and Hollywood are overwhelmingly liberal so therefore the liberal values (if there is such a thing) and the liberal agenda are presented as the values of the majority when in fact it is the furthest from the majority’s values. Moral values are frowned upon by most liberals. (Do what feels good and there is no right or wrong is the liberal way) The example of the Broadway show that lampoons Mormonism and religion in general is a perfect example. Actually I think another reason liberal’s values get the most attention is because liberals whine, cry, complain, call names and act like children until they are heard. Do not disagree with .liberals on any issue. You will be called bigot, racist and every other name in the book. Whether it is true or not does not matter. Liberals never let the truth stand in the way of their preconceived notions. If everyone would just agree with them the world would be a perfect place…in their opinion.

        • jimsepa

          Actually Mitchel, I was responding to akr’s comment. Ajr DID blame the evils on the Media and Hollywood. Haha, I stand corrected. “They are the forces of evil”. Blame the media. Too easy.

        • piniella

          [No, liberals have the market cornered on self-righteousness and intolerance.]


  • Art Bagnall

    Well, which one is it – the media or Hollywood? They can’t BOTH be number one in destroying the fabric of society. Make up your mind. I haven’t got all day.

    • americanlatina11

      The media is nothing but infotainment–having taken its cues from Hollywood.

      It is both.

  • kenroyall

    Imagine the level of mind that is intellectually influenced by “Glee”. The fact that can even happen is the real problem. We have become a world of idiots.

  • ninjaandy1975

    Of course we have a strategy: support like-minded media and entertainment.

    Which we’ve been doing. It’s starting slow, but it’s starting. And it will continue to move forward and grow in strength as more and more people get sick of being talked down to by Nanny-State “journalists” and elitist “Big Lights, Big City” entertainers.

  • bossmanham

    Conservatives were busy working hard while liberals took over all of the avenues of information in this nation. The media, entertainment, academia. Conservatives have been playing catch up for years. The disadvantage is the liberal message is so focused on emotion and demagogue that it’s relatively easy to spread, while conservatism takes thought. Not much of that happening in America these days.

    • Beeker

      I’m going to have disagree with your assessment that the liberal message is focus on emotion and demagogue while leaving the conservatives having no emotion and thoughts. The conservatives have tendency to use emotion as a battering ram to get legislation they championed pass and use that to attack people who disagree with their point of view as evidenced by them throwing out David Frum and a few well known others.
      By the same token the liberal do the same thing as well just to champion their cause.
      It has been going on for as long as the human race has been around and the reason it is easy to use demagogue because people use that as a easy way to get their points across without having the think things through and doing analysis.

      • bossmanham

        That’s because so many republicans (not necessarily conservatives) are abysmally ineffective and voicing conservative arguments for conservative philosophy. It is eminently more reasonable than liberalism could ever hope to be.

        • piniella

          [conservative arguments for conservative philosophy.]


          This is an excerpt from his paper “Why I am not a Conservative” in The Constitution of Liberty (1961):

          Personally, I find that the most
          objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is its propensity to
          reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of
          the consequences which seem to follow from it—or, to put it
          bluntly, its obscurantism. I will not deny that scientists as much as
          others are given to fads and fashions and that we have much reason to
          be cautious in accepting the conclusions that they draw from their
          latest theories. But the reasons for our reluctance must themselves be
          rational and must be kept separate from our regret that the new
          theories upset our cherished beliefs. I can have little patience
          with those who oppose, for instance, the theory of evolution or what
          are called “mechanistic” explanations of the phenomena of life simply
          because of certain moral consequences which at first seem to follow
          from these theories, and still less with those who regard it as
          irreverent or impious to ask certain questions at all. By refusing to
          face the facts, the conservative only weakens his own position. Hayek had other objections, one of which I posted here.

          Posted by
          Steve J.

          1:11 AM

    • piniella

      [Conservatives have been playing catch up for years.] No, centuries. Conservatives have been losing since the beginning of the Renaissance.

      • bossmanham

        Uh…no sir. That’s equivocation. The conservatives of today are the Lockean liberals of yesterday, who did a crapload of winning for a long time. The liberals of today are the statist communists of yesterday.

  • Digory_Kirke

    People often tie the gay marriage and abortion debates together, but politically they are on different tracks. Gay marriage has steadily become more and more of a losing issue for social conservatives while time has really not weakened the pro-life movement. This, I think, is largely due to the inability to make a convincing secular case against gay marriage. With abortion, however, it is much easier to make the case that it involves the taking of innocent life without needing to resort to religious language. There is no 3D ultrasound to show why gay marriage is something to oppose. I expect social conservativitism, at least inasmuch as it takes a stern and old-fashioned form, to continue to decline, but the pro-life movement will continue to go strong given just how rightfully squeamish people are about abortion.

  • Digory_Kirke

    I also think that the more libertarian direction the GOP has taken has a lot to do with this. It’s hard to worry too much about gay marriage when your country is going broke and your govt has gotten way too big.

  • CCBanks

    There isn’t a single G.D. solution in this piece of used toilet paper disguising itself as an “Article”.

  • Eve Fisher

    Another aspect is social conservative self-betrayal. The change in attitudes wasn’t done solely by liberal bias – a large number of entertainment dollars were spent both by liberals AND conservatives in pursuit of “harmless entertainment,” much of which contained sexual content (actual sex between unmarried or adulterous couples; good gay friends – think “My Best Friend’s Wedding” with Julia Roberts) and, of course, lots of violence which somehow doesn’t count in social conservative circles. I remember when the youth minister next door had all
    the boys over to watch a series of graphically violent movies that
    treated women as sexual objects – but since there was no nudity or actual
    penetration shown, what on earth could be a problem with that? The boys
    loved it. I’m sure they did. I’m sure it impacted their attitudes.

  • piniella

    Maybe Mr. Rothenberg missed this:

    Citigroup Will Pay $968M To Fannie Mae Over Mortgage Loans

    Associated Press July 1, 2013, 1:14 PM

    NEW YORK (AP) — Citigroup has agreed to pay $968 million to Fannie Mae to resolve potential future repurchase claims on residential mortgage loans originated between 2000 and 2012.

    Fannie and Freddie have since said that the banks misled them by not telling them the true condition of the mortgages they were buying. For several years, they have been demanding that the banks repurchase the mortgages.

  • piniella

    [ cultural conservatives who don’t have financial networks and savvy corporate CEOs to present an alternate perspective.] Yeah, Larry Kudlow has a lot of credibility.

  • Beaugard Stevens

    I got news for you, you’re not getting over that hill.

  • DeeAnnRowley

    I watched the Wendy David filibuster on live stream and not one single major news outlet covered it (MSNBC mentioned it), so Howard Kurtz could have only been talking about how the media treated it afterwards.
    If the media treated it “sympathetically” it was because Wendy Davis did a phenomenal job during the filibuster and there were thousands who were there to support her and hundreds who sent in their personal stories for her to read to the Senate.

    Kurtz says: “If Wendy Davis had been conducting a lonely filibuster against abortion rights would the media have celebrated her the same way”.
    I hate to point out the obvious, but it was not a “LONELY FILIBUSTER” so his argument is flawed. If a senator had accomplished a professional, informed, logical 11 hour pro-life message (that would also justify the closing of 37 out of 42 Texas clinics), then yes, the media would cover that sympathetically. However, it is doubtful that anyone could accomplish that without resorting to the tired, extreme platitudes that the pro-life group usually has to offer.

  • americanlatina11

    TV is the propaganda that creates it–it does not give a mirror image.

    You are advocating for more propaganda. That is truly frightening.

  • TaurusKW

    While I appreciate Mr. Rothenberg’s argument that we should all be mindful and critical of ideological biases in the media, I disagree with his implication that the media is dominated by liberal voices. He makes a notable omission in that there is no mention of Fox News or its affiliates in this article, and they are high-profile voices for conservative ideology. I’ve heard plenty of criticism of the SCOTUS DOMA ruling and Wendy Davis’ filibuster from right-wing sources, so it is inaccurate to state that only left-wing criticisms get airtime.

    • frumpus

      only the most pathetic bigoted assholes alive criticized the DOMA ruling.

  • frumpus

    Social conservatives are worthless scumbags. Good riddance to those racist homophobic sexist Taliban-like assholes.

  • Greg Easton

    This entire article is just you whining over your shrinking demographic. If it was profitable to market to old, white, misogynistic, bigoted, racist homophobes than there would be THREE Fox News-like networks out there. But there aren’t. Because you assholes are dying off. Literally.

  • Ronik

    Same old, same old whining about the “liberal” media without any acknowledgement of the “conservative” media; i.e. Fox, Limbaugh, Coulter, etc.

  • sodablue

    With the exception of the race of the two boys, exactly what do you find so appalling about Diff’rent Strokes?

    I viewed it as a show about a man keeping his word to a dying woman, and raising two boys as his own. The episodes seemed to focus on life lessons and teaching of ethics and morality, doing the right thing and so forth. Same with “All in the Family”, “Maude” and so on. Each touched on societal context of the time but were really no different from Leave it to Beaver or My Three Sons.

    Or do you include “My Three Sons” as liberal because it promoted single parenting?

    I don’t even want to get into Gilligan’s Island and the sociall progressive evil themes it taught. Oh noes!

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...