Last night, Meryl Streep gave an impassioned, five-minute political speech that encapsulated most of what I hate about Hollywood liberalism. Streep had just received the Cecile B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes, and she used the opportunity to launch a direct frontal attack on Donald Trump. You can watch it here:
Condescension? Not content to take a shot at Trump for apparently insulting a disabled reporter, she made the puzzling statement that the insult was designed to get his audience to “show their teeth” — dehumanizing language that would outrage her if applied to anyone other than Trump’s crowd of Republicans. Moreover, does she not understand the deficiencies of her chosen candidate? Does she not know that many millions voted for Trump in spite of his personal attacks and not because they love his insults?
Alarmism? Streep raised the specter that Trump would expel “outsiders and foreigners,” leaving Hollywood bereft of talent. Yet is anyone proposing deportation of legal-immigrant Hollywood actors? Is anyone proposing that we “kick out” the wealthy Americans from South Carolina and Florida that Streep singled out in her speech as somehow vulnerable?
And that brings us to the self-regard, the staggering self-regard. Streep firmly and fully believes that she and her colleagues are on the side of the angels, standing bravely against the “bullies” who would degrade our culture and denigrate our citizens. Yet it is the cultural Left that has raised bullying to an art form, commandeering immensely powerful institutions to exact vengeance on those who dissent from leftist orthodoxy.
Even while Streep was still speaking, conservative Twitter sparked to life, making all these critiques and more. Yet there was one sentiment that I thought was misplaced, a dash of triumphalism that rang hollow. “This is why Trump won,” said some. “Keep talking like this, and Trump wins again,” said others. In the narrow political sense, there’s some truth to this. Lots of voters don’t like to be hectored. Lots of voters defy Hollywood’s commands.
The Democrats are the weakest they’ve been in generations. But in that same period, whose cultural values have most advanced?
Indeed, since 1968 — when the modern Left really got rolling — the Democratic party has been largely losing ground. It’s lost most presidential races, it’s lost its stranglehold on the House of Representatives, it has lost the Senate, and now its fortunes in the states are at a low ebb. For all their celebrity star power, the Democrats are the weakest they’ve been in generations.
But in that same period, whose cultural values have most advanced? The secular Left has taken a sledgehammer to God, family, and country — the pillars of our national culture — and Hollywood has led the way. American irreligiosity is rising, the family (especially in our most vulnerable communities) is collapsing, and generations of children are now raised to view their nation not as a flawed but indispensable beacon of freedom but rather as a bigoted oppressor, an instrument of evil across the globe.
In fact, it’s strange to even think of Trump as somehow a triumph over Hollywood. In many ways, he is Hollywood — a towering celebrity who has exhibited and lived exactly the personal values that fill the pages of People magazine and Us Weekly. To “beat” Hollywood, the GOP turned to Hollywood. It can mock celebrity culture no longer.
Hollywood sells the best cultural drugs. Truth is optional, self-indulgence is a virtue, and bullying is bravery. And last night it was all wrapped in Streep’s alluring package, an emotion-laden call to arms that stirred the hearts of millions.Over the long sweep of history, what matters more? Donald Trump’s immigration policy or the fate of the family? Paul Ryan’s entitlement reforms or the faith of a nation? The fate of the family and the faith of the nation narrow and constrain our politics, limiting our choices to those options that are palatable to an increasingly dependent people. Hollywood is helping redefine our nation’s character. And if the Left keeps winning our culture, the GOP can keep winning our politics and the nation will still lose.
So laugh all you want at Streep, conservatives. When it comes to the things that truly matter, she’s winning, we’re losing, and Donald Trump isn’t going to turn the tide.
— David French is a staff writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and an attorney.