WASHINGTON — Some may find the nation’s relentless culture wars exhausting, but self-described “right-wing ideologue” Mike Davis does not count himself among the battle-weary. The energetic conservative operative announced on Monday the creation of a new group, Unsilenced Majority, that seeks to “oppose cancel culture and fight back against the woke mob and their enablers,” as a press release put it. “Our goal is to organize a grassroots army of everyday American activists all over the country,” Davis told Yahoo News. Those activists, he hopes, will act as a countervailing force to progressive activists who have pressured or persuaded corporations, politicians and cultural institutions to tack left on racial and gender issues.
In effect, Unsilenced Majority is seeking to defeat cancel culture by using cancel culture. What happens if and when the two opposing forces cancel each other out remains to be seen.
The targets, according to Davis, will include companies that terminate employees for alleged offenses against the liberal consensus, as when Google engineer James Damore circulated a memorandum that questioned the need for diversity in Silicon Valley. Davis’s organization will also focus on “left-wing fascism on campus,” a reference to progressive activism that has discomfited a fair number of liberals, and on corporate support of Democratic causes, such as opposition to the restrictive new voting law in Georgia.
Davis has also started groups to advocate for a conservative judiciary and against what he and other conservatives describe as censorship by internet giants. All three efforts are related, he says. But the new group will not have big-ticket funders, he says, unlike its two predecessors. Whether the group survives, or thrives, will clarify just how much appetite conservatives have for cultural warfare.
Davis envisions a “coalition of online activists” taking the fight to social media platforms like Twitter, where progressives have frequently been successful, much as conservatives were on talk radio in the early 1990s. The goal will be to fight cancel culture with cancel culture, to give the left “a dose of their own medicine,” according to Davis.
He did not explain how he would recruit these activists, or how they would achieve a seismic shift that has thus far eluded Republicans. Progressive pile-ons have been most effective when they are “organic,” or at least appear to be. It would be difficult for, say, the Democratic National Committee to stoke outrage that had a similarly genuine feel.
There’s also the question of what constitutes cancel culture, or if cancel culture exists at all. Some say it has existed for centuries, long before the advent of Twitter. For the left, what has come to be defined as cancel culture is a necessary rebalancing that takes far greater account of the voices and experiences of people of color, LGBTQ individuals and members of other marginalized groups. The right, though, sees all this as an attempt to abnegate America’s cultural legacy by depicting that legacy as prejudiced.
Davis, for his part, thinks that cancel culture is viewed as un-American by a “silent majority,” a phrase made famous by former President Richard Nixon. Today, a majority of Americans do in fact hold unfavorable views of cancel culture, but it is not clear that that distaste will redound to Republicans’ electoral benefit.
The phenomenon is certainly more closely affiliated with the Democratic Party, especially its left flank. In March, the culture wars were stoked by the announcement that six Dr. Seuss books that contained alleged racist images would no longer be published. Although that decision was made by a privately controlled corporation, conservatives saw a political opening, one they eagerly exploited.
Conservatives recently tried to foment outrage by claiming that first lady Jill Biden was seeking to “cancel” the Rose Garden redesign of her predecessor Melania Trump. That redesign, initiated in the summer of 2020, had been decried by liberals as a cancellation of the original Rose Garden vision. The White House has said there are no plans to cancel the Rose Garden in its present form.
Last week, President Biden did reject the Garden of American Heroes, which former President Donald Trump had proposed as a rebuff to the cancel culture movement.
The right has been accused of practicing its own version of cancel culture, as when Trump supporters discarded their Keurig coffeemakers. Last week, House Republicans were accused of canceling Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming by ousting her from her leadership post, a payback for her blunt criticism of Trump and Trumpism.
All this suggests that almost any development can be denounced as yet another pernicious manifestation of cancel culture.
GOP hopefuls for the 2024 presidential nomination like Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota have expended significant energy in denouncing cancel culture. Unsilenced Majority is plainly intended to abet those efforts.
The economic argument against Biden has thus far been difficult to make, but April’s lackluster jobs numbers provided a potential opening, one that could be more auspicious than Seussian appeals.
Davis insists the cultural battle is worth fighting, and not just because it seems to receive inordinate coverage by all facets of the media. “I can work circles around people,” he said.
The 43-year-old Davis has served as both an independent adviser to the Senate Judiciary Committee and counsel to Sen. Chuck Grassley, that committee’s leading Republican for part of the Trump presidency. He helped the GOP successfully confirm all three of Trump’s nominees to the Supreme Court: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
The most bruising of those hearings was that of Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault. Davis says that fight showed conservatives that “if you punch back, you win, never bow to the left-wing mobs, whether it's #MeToo, #BLM, #antifa, or woke fascism.”
Joining the Unsilenced Majority effort will be Andy Surabian, a former associate of Steve Bannon who has served as an adviser to Donald Trump Jr.; Ian Prior, a longtime Republican operative who served in a public affairs role in the Department of Justice during Trump’s presidency; and Will Chamberlain, editor of the conservative publication Human Events.
Together, they have far fewer Twitter followers than the left’s most adept culture warriors. They think it won’t matter. Time will tell.
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