Despite So Much Winning, The Right Feels Like It's Losing Donald Trump's victory ushered in a level of conservative dominance in American politics not seen in nearly a century. But fears of losing a culture war can stoke "apocalyptic" feelings on the right.
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Despite So Much Winning, The Right Feels Like It's Losing

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Despite So Much Winning, The Right Feels Like It's Losing

Despite So Much Winning, The Right Feels Like It's Losing

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The right holds many of the nation's levers of political power. Republicans control the House of Representatives, the Senate, the White House and a majority of the country's governors' mansions. Conservatives dominate the Supreme Court. Despite that, the right's attitude and rhetoric often revolve around pessimism about the state of the country, especially its culture. NPR's Tim Mak explores the mood inside the conservative movement in America.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: This week, pro-Trump YouTube celebrities Diamond and Silk accused Facebook of suppressing conservative content.

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DIAMOND: Facebook, along with other social media sites, have taken aggressive actions to silence conservative voices such as ourselves.

MAK: Facebook denies this. The site's algorithm has changed in recent years to favor content from friends and family, something that negatively affects political pages of all stripes. But Diamond and Silk are speaking to a broader feeling among conservatives that they are persecuted by the powers that be in American culture.

JOHN HAWKINS: That is a difficult thing for a lot of liberals to get. That, for them, you know, they look and see, hey, Trump's in charge. You know, Mitch McConnell's out there, Paul Ryan. Well, Republicans have got everything.

MAK: John Hawkins is the founder of Right Wing News, a Facebook group with more than 3 million followers.

HAWKINS: Well, a Republican guy gets up. And he reads his liberal college newspaper, and he turns on a TV show where he's insulted. And then he's, like, ah, jeez. Well, maybe I'll just unwind and watch, you know, an awards show. Well, it's the Oscars or something where he gets trashed all day long. This is sort of like a pervasive all-out attack if you're a conservative, and it's all the time sort of thing

MAK: At the core of the problem for many American conservatives is a feeling that the culture war has been irrevocably lost to their ideological opponents.

MATT LEWIS: Politics is downstream from culture. And I do think that it's true that conservatives have lost, in many ways, the culture.

MAK: That's Matt Lewis, a conservative columnist for The Daily Beast.

LEWIS: There is a sense on the right that is apocalyptic and fearful.

MAK: Earlier this month, Jesse Kelly, a writer for the mainstream conservative website The Federalist, wrote that civil unrest was possible, and the best alternative course would be to just split the country up.

JESSE KELLY: We are just not on the same page on (laughter) anything anymore. And I just - rather than the constant fighting, and before it gets nasty, really nasty, I think we should just go our separate ways.

MAK: Kurt Schlichter, a columnist for the conservative Townhall.com, went even further. He recently wrote a column speculating about whether there could be another civil war and predicted how the left would lose a violent conflict if it ever came to it.

KURT SCHLICHTER: We just want to be treated like every other American citizen. We want to be treated with respect. And we will not tolerate anything less, which - it's just unacceptable for this to continue. I'm tired of Hollywood spitting on us. I am tired of academia spitting on us. I'm tired of the news media spitting on us.

MAK: Donald Trump ran on these frustrations and won. Listen to what he said on election night.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

(CHEERING)

MAK: Yet this feeling of losing the American culture war is still reflected in polling of white, working-class Americans. A poll taken last year by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic showed that 48 percent believe, quote, "things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country." Here's Jesse Kelly.

KELLY: Shoot, I had a conversation with my mother about this a couple years ago. This is - had nothing to do with the election. You know, it feels like something's coming. Just feels that way, and I don't like it.

MAK: These feelings have been exacerbated by treating politics essentially like sports - I've got my team. You've got yours. Jonah Goldberg is a senior editor for the conservative National Review magazine.

JONAH GOLDBERG: You know, this is how the center doesn't hold, is when people start sort of, you know, partly out of a understandable sense of frustration, but nonetheless starting to embrace the kind of tribalism that says, there is no unum. There is only pluribus. And that's a real, real problem.

MAK: The 2018 midterms are coming up in just a few months. Midterms are often about exciting your base and running against the other side. Democrats are doing that by running against Donald Trump. Republicans may find that tapping into these feelings about losing power in society is the best way to motivate their base. Tim Mak, NPR News, Washington.

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