Woman with black futuristic glasses

Some of the most significant words written by a political conservative in the United States in the last quarter century are here, uttered not by a United States citizen, but by Canadian conservative Mark Steyn. He (finally?) understands that in a constitutional democracy, all of the political victories in the world cannot overturn a single significant cultural victory. You must fight culture with culture, not politics.

On his website, Steyn summarizes his view as “culture trumps politics.” This is the same language and idea that the Center for Cultural Leadership has been using for several years, but I’m less interested in taking credit for a genealogy that in communicating a truth, which Steyn artfully expresses:

If the culture’s liberal, if the schools are liberal, if the churches are liberal, if the hip, groovy business elite is liberal, if the guys who make the movies and the pop songs are liberal, then electing a guy with an “R” after his name isn’t going to make a lot of difference.

I’m far from implying that we should abandon politics — far from it. The Christian conservative stake in politics is, ironically, to downsize and deescalate politics: to expand and preserve liberty for zones of cultural “privacy” — the family, the church, business, and other aspects of what has been called civil (= non-political) society. But we must never be lured into the illusion that political victories will secure the society — the culture — we envision.

If you want to overturn cultural depravity, you can’t do it by winning elections. You must win the culture.