Many years ago, bestselling author and Daily Wire podcast host Andrew Klavan returned from life in England to find that American culture had been destroyed from within. Amid the left’s growing institutional monopoly, he began speaking to conservative groups across the country about the importance of taking back the culture. His message did not resonate.
“They looked at me like I had come from outer space,” Klavan told me. “Now, people are calling me and saying, ‘What were you saying about the culture again?'”
“The first speech I ever made was for YAF [Young America’s Foundation]. And I was explaining cultural ideas to them. And I bombed. It was a horrible, horrible, failure of a speech. And when I went backstage and about five of maybe 200 students came back. Maybe 10, I don’t know. And they were thrilled. And I said, ‘Well, why are you guys thrilled and everyone else hated it?’ And they said ‘Well, they’re all econ majors and poli-sci majors…we’re the English majors.’ And when I got home, I called Andrew Breitbart, and I said, ‘Oh, my G-d, I just had this horrible experience trying to explain culture to conservatives.’ And he just warmed with laughter and said, you know, ‘Welcome to my world,'” Klavan said.
As we proceed into four years of the Biden presidency, Klavan believes conservatives are better equipped to play what he identifies as the long game. Not just in terms of keeping sanity, but in order to really make a substantial footprint on politics and culture—which Breitbart notably argued were inextricably intertwined.
Instead of being led like sheep in the slog of short-term political warfare, pessimistically caught up in each and every negative outcome, Klavan expressed his support for the right to get on the offensive. The Daily Wire has tried to emulate this, announcing their foray into film and entertainment, with their first feature film “Run Hide Fight” released on January 14.
But Klavan recognizes that we have a long way to go. A couple of films here and there will not solve our problems. And he is perfectly right.
In the days that followed the post-election Capitol breach, Big Tech colluded to censor conservatives in an unprecedented fashion. Parler, the free-speech competitor to the left-leaning platform Twitter, was staggeringly removed from the internet by Amazon. Thousands of conservatives were individually de-platformed and still are today, for arbitrary and ridiculous explanations.
Needless to say, Hollywood, Big Tech, and legacy media institutions are trying to remove anything that deviates from leftist orthodoxy from the internet, and from civil society as a whole. A purge of ideology, frighteningly similar to that of prior failed Communist and socialist regimes, is the name of the game in American life today.
The conservative mindset may be to despair right now. It’s reasonable given the position we find ourselves in. But Klavan does not see it this way. He never has. He believes involvement in the arts is the way to start winning again.
“This is the moment when I think that we should be playing the long game, instead of worrying about every single thing as if it were the political apocalypse, which is just a personality trait that conservatives have. We should be willing to change the conservation to fight back against their assault on free speech, to fight back against the demonization of conservative ideas…That has to be done culturally,” Klavan said.
‘It’s going to take 20 years to do what has to be done. But if we don’t start now, it will never get done.’
Klavan is no longer alone in having this sentiment. Nowadays, it seems like the trendy thing to say in conservative circles is that “We need to take back the culture.”
The Daily Wire, The Federalist, and others have tried to embrace this narrative, communicating it to their audiences who are less hard-wired than leftists to engage with the arts as routinely. It speaks to an aphorism Klavan expressed: conservatives are arguably not built to favor cultural achievements over what needs to be done immediately in the political realm.
It’s why Republicans tend to be more laser-focused on policy outcomes, and “facts over feelings,” as Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro famously says, while the left has become the party of pathos. It’s also why Democrat socialists like “The Squad” are treated like superhero celebrities by the left, while most all Republican congressmen are mostly appreciated by the base for their policy positions.
It very well might be time for the right to fully embrace engaging with art, if they want to meaningfully transform our twisted mainstream American culture that bears no resemblance to the values we wish to promote. Klavan thinks we have to strike a balance between the totality of our ideological thinking and art. He believes in a separation of the two, an inroad between the left’s propagandizing and the right’s inclination to make art that is swept clean of real life, devoid of authenticity.
“Conservatives think that conservative art should look like conservative life. They think it should be G-rated. They think it should be religious, they think it should be preachy, they think everything should end happily–because Jesus is Lord. That’s not the way the arts work. The great works of art our Founders saw were Greek tragedies, people killing and eating their children. Or Shakespeare, people having their eyes poked out on stage. The great works [the Founders read] had sex and violence and all the things that make life life. And that’s the kind of art we’re going to have to learn to create,” Klavan said. “…It’s going to take 20 years to do what has to be done. But if we don’t start now, it will never get done,” he added.
The writer also talked about the future of the Republican Party—a subject that has been labored over since President Biden assumed office.
While commentators and party elites try to separate themselves from the Trump movement, he sees this as an ill-advised choice. After all, Trump brought more people to the Republican party than Mitt Romney and John McCain combined, by cutting through the politically correct nonsense that dominates Washington.
‘Trumpism is an important part of the Republican Party, and people are going to have to swallow that.’
“Is there going to be a struggle in the Republican Party? Yes, there is. But there is no necessity for that to turn into a Civil War. Trump is Trump—and Trumpism is an important part of the Republican Party, and people are going to have to swallow that,” said Klavan.
The Daily Wire podcast host recognizes that “Trumpism” is not the end-all-be-all to the conservative vision for the future, pushing back on a dedication to Trump over party and principles. He deems Trump was a necessary figure in American politics, who we can build upon. A sort of Barry Goldwater figure, perhaps. Voters “don’t have to swallow” the entirety of Trump, “and the Trumpists are going to have to understand that if they want to win they need to have a broad camp,” he said.
At the end of our conversation, I tried to get a read from Andrew as to how conservatives can legitimately affect the culture. It sounds nice and well to say the right needs to get involved in the arts—but what are the material solutions? In other words, how do we stop theorizing and start building infrastructure?
“Well first of all this is going to take some technological genius that I don’t have, because I think the internet can become more independent than it is. And we’ve got to stop them from silencing people…Conservatives, you know, who are sitting around going ‘Well, you know, Google’s a private company, and if they want to cut the First Amendment, they can,’ that’s nonsense. You know, that’s, not even American logic. I mean, our rights come from God.”
Secondly, he described his view that conservatives cannot be afraid to be canceled, or censored. Instead, we must “build a means to fight back,” innovating and experimenting with technology and infrastructure that can lift us out of this mess. Perpetually complaining and offering no tangible solutions will not result in the right taking back institutions. Being sensible and united will.
As those on the right recognize, President Biden is a lackluster politician who is easy to ridicule. He forgets things, he says bizarre things, and his administration flip-flops daily. Klavan thinks there is no reason conservatives ought to not call out such nonsense when they see it.
But in taking a longer view, there is much work to be done from a broader perspective. If we are to genuinely make a dent in the left’s political and cultural domination moving into 2021, it’s time to get down to strategizing and acting, not lamenting.
“It’s going to have to be done boldly,” he said about beginning the daunting, yet necessary, task of restoring American culture. “And it’s going to have to be done by people who have the guts to take take the flack.”