What’s a conservative who wants to stop culture, and thus politics, from being dragged to the far Left do? Answer: He or she has to hope that some part of mainstream culture co-opts the Right. Pray, in other words, that some Prometheus comes along who’s willing to steal fire from his fellow cultural elites to give to the Right’s forgotten constituencies, even if it annoys their more refined leaders.
Perhaps, say, some titanic elite figure who knows leftist pop culture’s weaknesses from the inside, and is willing to lose his cozy insider status to go at it like a wrecking ball? You know, the sort of person with enough cultural cachet to turn an episode of “Saturday Night Life” into an hour-long infomercial for his political vision, rather than a source of endless sneering gags about Republicans? The kind of person who can get away with barking orders at MSNBC hosts? That kind of person?
Oh look, it’s Donald Trump. Trump, alone among the 2016 Republican candidates, has been willing to seize the banner of the Right in the current culture war, and plant it straight in the backs of his fallen leftist antagonists. Trump did this the way countercultural warriors are supposed to win fights: he beat the dominant culture at its own game by rejecting their assumptions about what was allowed.
Compared to Trump at his most mocking and satirical, Gawker is tame. Compared to Trump at his most daring and impetuous, even the most ruthless of Hollywood’s antiheroes look peevish. Compared to Trump’s seemingly oblivious moments of benevolence, Upworthy looks mawkish and saccharine. Trump has made destroying the young fogies on the Right and Left the greatest thing on TV.