Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Conservatives Without a Stool at the Bar

A fairly accurate assessment of the state of social conservatism.

By Matthew Walter, The American Conservative

Like the movement of the ’60s and ’70s, social conservatism is a genuinely countercultural phenomenon, but seems unlikely to achieve the same success.

Several months ago I made what I thought at the time were a handful of self-evident observations about the future of the Republican party and its much-abused handmaid, the conservative movement. To my mind there was nothing especially striking or novel about what I had to say; indeed I had made most of the same points a year earlier, in an article about the shifting nature of the so-called “culture wars.”

Because I made the mistake of applying a label to the phenomenon I was describing—“Barstool” conservatives, though I might just as easily have prefixed “stonks” or “porn”—I find that my piece has given rise to a handful of apparent misunderstandings. The first is the idea that the phrase “Barstool conservatives” somehow implies that all or even a majority of the writers and personalities associated with the eponymous website share such views or attitudes. The second is that the phenomenon somehow emerged directly out of Barstool and that its fortunes are ultimately bound up in whether, say, Dave Portnoy runs for president. Finally, there was the implication that I in some sense approved of “Barstool” conservatism or welcomed its displacement of the old fusionist consensus. While I do not regret the destruction of the latter, I see it as inevitable rather than the result of conscious intellectual effort on the part of its critics.

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