Conservatives Should Stop Saying ‘It’s Not Important’
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Conservatives Should Stop Saying ‘It’s Not Important’

The hazards of staying out of the conversation

I hear it from half the callers on my talk radio shows. I read it in the comment sections of my favorite blogs. I see it from some of the most well-respected pundits on cable news.

Every time the discussion turns to anything outside the Washington Beltway or to any topic not related to the Democrat vs. Republican horserace narrative of “Who’s up and who’s down” political gamesmanship I hear “It’s not important. We need to get back to the real issues America cares about.”

With all due respect, I have to ask, “Are you high?”

It happened just this past week when all of America’s news outlets were focused on the bigoted rantings of the Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling.

“This is a distraction” I heard. “Don’t take your eye off Obama” they cautioned.

So, America doesn’t care about the Sterling/Clippers story? My fellow conservatives, I hate to shatter your utopian dream of a serious, high-minded American public that only cares about the latest legislative maneuver by Senate Democrats to push through an amnesty bill, but, America cares a hell of a lot more about basketball than they do about Washington politics.

Just look at the number of tickets sold every night to the regular season of the NBA. That’s 80+ games for each of the 30 teams in the association. Add to that the number of viewers every night on cable as well as the local broadcasts for each market’s team. Add to that the number of combined listeners to sports radio (local as well as national) over the course of the season.

Add now, add the playoff multiplier where casual fans start paying attention.

Dare I say it? More Americans care about what Charles Barkley has to say on any given night than what Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity does. Is that a good thing? Should it be different? Are we a worse nation because of it? Maybe. I don’t really care.

We can sit on the sidelines and bitch about how “low information voters” aren’t engaged in the topics that matter most to our future as a nation. And that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing. And all that is accomplished is that we are sitting on the sidelines. And if you’re on the sidelines, it means you aren’t in the game.

Let’s go back to the aforementioned Charles Barkley as a perfect example. You probably believe that the number of viewers he has is unimportant because all he talks about is basketball, right? You’re wrong.

In May of 2012, Sir Charles was covering in “unimportant” NBA playoff game in Boston when the camera showed Mitt Romney cheering his hometown Celtics. Here’s how the NY Daily News described what happened:

Basketball analyst Charles Barkley slammed Mitt Romney on Sunday, telling viewers that President Obama was going to beat the presumptive Republican pick “like a drum” in November.

Sir Charles trash-talked Romney during TNT’s broadcast of the Boston Celtics-Atlanta Hawks playoff game at Boston’s TD Garden.

“Mitt Romney, hey, listen man, we’re going to beat you like a drum in November,” Barkley boomed after the camera showed the former Massachusetts governor grinning and glad-handing with the crowd.

What? Barkley talked politics during a basketball game? Yeah. Welcome to pop culture, dear reader. Don’t be afraid… it’s happening all around you. It’s time to get in and play.

Barack Obama was mocked for going on Entertainment Tonight and FM Music morning shows during the presidential election instead of the “serious” Sunday morning news programs. You may have mocked it too. “Obama won’t face a serious interviewer because he doesn’t want to face tough questions!”  Not really.

Does anyone think George Stephanopolous or David Gregory were going to ask their guy any tough questions? Of course not. Obama didn’t talk to “The Gimp with a Limp” on Miami’s hip hop station because he wanted to avoid tough questions. He went there for the same reason Dillinger robbed banks. It’s where the voters are.

How’d that mocking work out for you? Obama laughed all the way to re-election.

When conservatives stay out of the conversations in America about film and television and music and sports, it means the country is having a one-sided conversation, and our voices will not just be ignored, they won’t be heard at all.  We need to get in that game and we need to be heard.

Go look at your favorite conservative website right now (and then come right back here) and look at the last post on a TV show or on a movie. Most sites have writers who focus on these issues so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a recent post. Go look and I guarantee you there will be a comment from a smart-ass reader that looks something like this:

“Who? What? I never heard of it. I haven’t watched television in years. It’s all crap. I haven’t seen a movie since John Wayne died. I have more important things to do. Next topic, please ”

And they think their clever. They’re BRAGGING about being out of touch. They pretend to believe that they are living on a higher moral plane than the rest of us because they disdain American pop-culture. They are fools.

Listen, I have problems with pop culture, too. I am horrified at the celebration of Miley Cyrus. I am nauseated by MTV’s “Teen Mom” or TLC’s “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” But if I want to improve these things, I need to be a legitimate part of the conversation. And so do you.

I hate to break it to you, but Republicans watch these shows. Republicans are obsessed with sports. Republicans have iPods and listen to popular music. Republicans listen to something other than talk radio. I know these things because I’ve done a little research and, it turns out, Republicans are, in fact, Americans.

So, we have a choice: Stay on the sidelines and bitch about what everyone else is talking about, or get in the game and lend our views to the conversation.

I know, it’s a tough choice, but I think we can do it. I believe in us.

Andrew Breitbart said many great things but one of the greatest (and one that will long be remembered) is the simple but basic truth: “Politics is downstream of culture.”

What did he mean? He meant that the issue of same-sex marriage wasn’t solved by a state measure in California (clearly) and not by a bunch of old dudes in black robes in Washington. It was resolved when “Will and Grace” was a top 10 TV show.

It’s time to stop treading water downstream of where the real action is. Let’s go play in the rapids. Let’s go upstream and make a difference.

Follow Larry O’Connor on Twitter.

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