The Culture War is Lost – Now What?

The Culture War as we know it is over, and we’ve lost. Now, mark my words carefully. I said the Culture War as we know it is over. The war for our country’s soul has only just begun.

What’s over now is what you might call the Napoleonic Phase of the Culture War: the two armies in smart uniforms lining up and trading grapeshot like gentlemen. That phase is over, and we’ve lost. The radical Left has finished its “long march through the institutions.” They now control every major center of power—be it political, military, economic, social, and cultural.  

The trouble is that most conservatives aren’t willing to change their tactics. We’re going through the same old motions: donating to Republican campaigns, posting articles from Fox News on Facebook, etc. I call it the share-and-spend method. We’re looking for champions like Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson to fight our battles for us. 

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Don’t get me wrong, now. Trump and Tucker are great! But we need to do more. All of us.

We’re entering the second phase of the Culture War: the Guerrilla Phase. The Left has control of the institutions of power. We have the majority behind us, but their troops are much better organized and well equipped. It doesn’t matter how many troops you have: you can’t siege Fort Knox with spears and rocks.  

We can’t reverse the “long march through the institutions” using twentieth-century tactics. We need Third Millennium tactics.

The first and most important step is to build up our mountain strongholds. These are our “safe spaces.” They’re fortified positions where our beliefs, our women, our children—our way of life—can be safe away from the battlefield. And we can fall back to them when we need shelter or rest.

Take an example from the news. Earlier this month, The Irish Rover, the student magazine of Notre Dame University, ran an article on a “Coming Out Day” Mass for undergraduates. The Mass was celebrated by a newly ordained priest named Fr. Robert Lisowski. Click on the article and there’s a photo of Fr. Lisowski in a rainbow stole standing in front of a rainbow flag.

Fr. Lisowski told the Rover, “My presence at this event was simply to affirm, support, and celebrate the dignity of every human person as a child of God. We prayed in gratitude for the unique gift that every person is [and] for an end to discrimination.”

Now, obviously, he’s lying. Everyone knows that the LGBT Pride movement is pro-homosexuality. It’s pro-transgenderism. Fr. Lisowski is “affirming” students in behaviors that the Catholic Church has always held to be “intrinsically disordered.” But my gripe isn’t with Fr. Lisowski. It’s not even with Notre Dame, which has long since dropped any real pretense to a “Catholic identity.” That’s old news. I’m asking what you, the rank-and-file conservative, are going to do with this information.  

Let’s say you’re a Notre Dame alumnus, which many of you probably are. What are you going to do about it?

Most will share an angry article about it on Facebook. They’ll text their old roommates and bewail the fate of the alma mater. They’ll resolve to vote for Trump again in 2024, but they’re going to vote even harder than they ever have before. And yet, when football season comes around, they’ll drop $50 on a new sweatshirt. When they get a fundraising letter, they’ll add their pieces of silver to the school’s $12.3 billion endowment. And, of course, they’ll send their kids to Notre Dame, too. (Hey, it’s a good school!)

Then they’ll act surprised when little Susie comes home after freshman year talking about how the Church should ordain women. As a sophomore, she declares that a woman should have the right to abort her pregnancy if she chooses. As a junior, she moves in with her boyfriend. As a senior, she stops calling herself a Catholic altogether.

Why? Why put yourself and your family through all of this? It’s true that Fr. Lisowski and Notre Dame are lying when they pretend to conform to Church teaching. But they’re not very good liars.

Maybe you don’t really care. Christianity is just something you do on Sunday. Patriotism is just a game you play on social media. It’s something to watch on TV. It’s an internet meme, a bumper sticker, a coffee mug you leave out in the breakroom to trigger the libs in your office. When all’s said and done, all you really want is to send your kids to the fanciest schools so they can bring home the biggest paychecks and put you in the swankiest nursing home.  

Or maybe you’re just too afraid to admit how badly we’re losing. You’re unwilling even to contemplate the sacrifices we need to make in order to bring our country back from the brink.  

If that’s you, you’re part of the problem. You may claim to support the Resistance, but your actions support the Regime. The Regime might not thank you for it; you might end up on the wrong side of a jackboot, same as the rest of us. But you’re helping to make their victory possible.  

Other parents are sincerely confused. They have this fantasy about their kids “salting the earth” in South Bend.  

Folks, it isn’t like the movies. Your kid is not walking onto the set of God’s Not Dead. His Marxist professor isn’t some crypto-theist who’s going to tearfully renounce his unbelief at the end of the semester. He’s a hardened ideologue.  

Timmy’s not St. Francis Xavier. He’ not going to convert all of his classmates and reclaim Notre Dame for Catholic orthodoxy. He’s an 18-year-old who’s lived with his parents his whole life. All he knows about the world outside of suburban Connecticut is what he learned on his school trip to Washington, D.C. You’re sending him to his doom.

The good news is that Timmy can become a saint, a missionary, a warrior. He just needs the right teachers. You and Timmy both need to start thinking in terms of guerrilla warfare. And that means you need to start building up those new institutions.  

For starters, don’t send your kids to Notre Dame. Don’t send your kids to any of those elite schools, which have gladly recast themselves as progressive reeducation camps.  

If you’re Catholic, send your children to one of the colleges recommended by the Cardinal Newman Society. It’s true, they’re not as prestigious. They won’t dazzle your mom-friends when you meet at Starbucks to catch up over pumpkin spice lattes. But they’ll get a much better education. They’ll be formed in the Catholic faith and the traditions of Western civilization. Instead of becoming janissaries, pressed into fighting for an anti-Christian elite, they’ll learn to be soldier-scholars in the service of Christ the King.  

This is just one example. If every conservative in America committed themselves to these little acts of sabotage, these elite institutions would fall. The secular-progressive elite would be driven from their fortresses.  

Of course, this means conservatives will have to become something more than conserve. We’ll have to become reactionaries. As I wrote in my new book, the reactionary is one who “lives in open revolt against the modern world.”  

If we’re to win the Culture War, that’s what we have to do. Anything less will be insufficient to save ourselves, our republic, and our civilization. 

Once, perhaps, conservatism was enough. It’s not anymore. There’s nothing left to conserve; we have to reclaim. The Third Millennium belongs to the reactionary.

[Photo Credit: The Irish Rover]


  • Michael Warren Davis

    Michael Warren Davis is a contributing editor of The American Conservative and the author of The Reactionary Mind (Regnery, 2021). He previously served as editor of Crisis Magazine and U.S. editor of the Catholic Herald of London. His next book, After Christendom, will be published by Sophia Institute Press. Follow his Substack newsletter, The Common Man.

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