But does power really lie in all that many places in America? And more to the point, is it actually the case, as conservatives are trying to convince themselves now, that efforts to restrict the franchise and the inequities of the Supreme Court, Senate, and Electoral College are meaningfully counterbalanced or outweighed by the post moderators at Facebook and Twitter? Is the functional veto the right will hold over national public policy absent Democratic action really negated by drag queens hosting events at public libraries? Can cultural power be cashed in for health insurance? Is there a way we might put it into the accounts of the eight million people pushed into poverty in this country since May? Will it stop the bullets of an AR-15? Is it a source of renewable energy?
In a sense, actually, it is. The idea of conservative helplessness in the face of liberal culture has powered the right for generations: William F. Buckley Jr. began his long career as a crusader against liberals on college campuses; the Moral Majority fought against the depraved totalitarians it saw in Hollywood and the media. Until recently, culture war material sat alongside a fairly full economic policy agenda—dismantling the American welfare state, dramatically limiting the federal government’s capacity to rebuild it, weakening regulations, and destroying the labor movement. That’s an agenda that the right mostly succeeded in implementing—with the Democratic Party’s eventual assistance. But now perhaps most of the public believes the conservative economic project has been a disaster. And until the movement reaches a new settlement (or revives the last one) on where to go next, cultural resentments and anxieties will be the whole game—the thin tissue from which something passing for a policy agenda will have to be built.
They might be able to pull it off. Last week, Republicans on the Hill were up in arms over Facebook and Twitter blocking shares of The New York Post’s dubious expose about Hunter Biden. The leader of the pack was, unsurprisingly, anti-tech crusader Josh Hawley—perhaps the most prominent of the right’s so-called populists in Washington next to Trump. In an interview with Sean Hannity on Thursday, Hawley argued that users with blocked posts should be able to sue Facebook and Twitter and painted the stakes of the issue for the right. “If Republicans don’t stand up and do something about this these companies are going to run this country,” he said. “That’s their desire, these woke capitalists, they want to run America. Big government, big tech –they want to run America. We have got to stop them, we have got to do something.”