Who would have ever thought that a soccer tournament could be made into a political issue? Well, that’s what happened this week when some conservative pundits began criticizing the game as a “liberal sport,” and that theory was essentially proven with this poll.
According to the poll, 24 % of liberals follow soccer when the World Cup is not being played, compared to 14 % of conservatives. It’s a 35-27 split during the World Cup. Another interesting split is between Hispanics and whites, 36-15 when the World Cup is not being played and 47 – 26 during the World Cup.
The political division is actually not that hard to believe when you understand that the political divide in this country is more about our cultural differences and less about our vision of the government’s role in our lives. Really. To be sure, there is disagreement about the role of government, but it’s the cultural differences that carry the weight of emotion with them. Culture is how we live. That’s very very personal.
I’ve said before that the cultural disconnect among many on the right is what is going to keep Republicans from winning another national election. Too many conservatives aren’t willing to venture outside of their comfort zone to embrace the changing cultural landscape and truly see things from others’ perspectives.
For voters to be comfortable voting for you, they have to believe that you have thought about how issues affect them. They want to see that you have thought about it from their point of view.
I have experienced many small, but telling, examples of resistance among some conservatives to engage culturally. One example happened last year at a well-known conservative conference. I was with a group of people who were hanging out at the hotel discussing where we all wanted to go for dinner that night. I suggested Indian or Thai food.
Well, you would have thought I asked them to eat monkey brains! Their reactions surprised me – “No! We’re Americans!”; “What are you talking about?! We don’t eat that kind of food.” I’m not kidding.
We ended up at a chain restaurant in a suburban strip mall eating “American food,” exactly what they are used to. They weren’t even willing to try something different.
Another example happened when GOProud, the national organization I used to run, was having an event in New Hampshire the day before the primary in 2012. We distributed a clever and funny flyer advertising our “Homocon-tinental Breakfast.” It was campy and gay, but not inappropriate at all. (See image)
I got a lecture from a straight conservative friend of mine telling me that the flyer was “too gay.” It had pink letters! He said that were pushing the envelope and asking conservatives to compromise their values. I couldn’t believe what I heard. I thought we were just asking them to breakfast.
It was then that I began to realize that it wasn’t enough for some conservatives that I agreed with them, they expected me to BE like them too. I think that’s the way a lot of people are treated on the right – it doesn’t matter who you are as long as you fit in culturally.
I know that it may sound silly to cite soccer, or ethnic food, or a big ol’ gay flyer as examples of the cultural disconnect on the right, but when you couple that with changing attitudes on cultural political issues, it’s easy to see that conservatives are being left in the past.
I like to call myself a “Whole Foods conservative.” That’s how I describe folks who believe in a limited-government, have traditional values, and who are culturally connected. We are modern people who apply our conservative principles to modern day realities. I like that term because it wasn’t that long ago that health food stores were only for granola-eating hippies. Not anymore. Now everyone goes to Whole Foods. It’s an example of how times have changed.
Times have changed in a lot of ways. We’ve heard a lot about demographic changes in politics lately. Changing demographics mean changing cultural interests in this country. It also means changing the way we do politics too.
Now, if you want to show that you are capable of seeing things from Hispanic voters’ perspective, then it might be a good idea to give soccer a try. They love it, and if you don’t, then they may think that you aren’t capable of seeing things from their point of view. See how that works?
Maybe it’s time conservatives to stop poo-pooing soccer, and give it a try. It might be one way to help them to appear to be living in America in 2014.