What if they recognized that the current libertarian/conservative messaging strategy is badly flawed, serving mainly to stir up bad feelings among perpetually-warring factions – while recruiting virtually no new adherents?
What if philanthropists and ideologues in quest of a better America woke up to the notion that a better America requires better Americans – and that better Americans cannot be cultivated by coercion, verbal abuse or ridicule but only by, you know, cultivation?
What if they shared in my epiphany that the message that will recruit new members – and retain and sustain the current crowd – is poetry, not polemics? Art, not argument – and an art aimed at enlarging the middle class by celebrating everyday middle class virtues: Self-reliance, committed monogamy, a devoted family life – and well-defended physical, mental and moral values.
What if they decided to try things my way?
My advice to the Koch Brothers was to buy a three-hour block of prime-time television. I have all kinds of other ideas about how things might be done, but Wednesday night – often the divorced dad’s night with his kids – is a good place to start.
So what if they let me program that block of time? What would I do with it?
The big-picture answer should be easy to suss out: Family programming. There is no need to lecture anyone – and no benefit to be realized from it. Artistry is show-don’t-tell, but even then it’s not necessary to set up High Noon over and over again. Instead, the art that will effect the changes libertarians and conservatives want will simply show everyday families working through everyday real-life dilemmas in a way that leaves everyone better at the end of the story.
That’s the benedy story arc – things were bad at the beginning, but the protagonists learned and mastered better ideas, so things are better at the end – applied to the problem of recruiting and retaining new members of the middle class.
Note that that’s all I’m interested in doing: Portraying middle class role models as they make their own lives better by making their family commitments stronger and more enduring over time. That’s it. Party platforms, religious claims, three-hour speeches – not just cut out but explicitly excluded. Middle class people take care of their own problems, which is all their liberty-loving neighbors need from them. Any message beyond simply celebrating the middle class family is alienating, and – as anti-Marxist polemicists might have learned by now – alienating people is a poor recruiting strategy.
So how does that big picture play out on the small screen?
For my first half-hour, I would go with a family sit-com – something like Last Man Standing but with younger kids, and without the secrets and lies (I call them Lucy-plots) that infest virtually all comedies.
For the next hour, a family drama. Still loving and warm-hearted, but of greater moment. I would like to see an interaction among families, to show the many faces of middle class aspiration, so perhaps the over-arching story is set in a cul-de-sac – neighbors thriving, each family in its own way.
And for the last ninety minutes, when the younger kids have gone to bed, I would do a movie-of-the-week – a different benedy every week. I can think of a lot of stories to tell here. From my own catalog, a good candidate is Xavier’s destiny or the story I concocted when I was picking on Liberty Island Magazine. Another good example is the film Chef – and there are many other decent independent films that serve as good examples.
What I want is a different family every week working through something serious – but not gratuitous – and coming through it better in the end. Stripped of the details, it’s the same story every week. But it is those details that enable people to see themselves in the story – and that is where the magic happens.
What am I doing, really? I’m modeling the behavior I want to see more of, that’s all. I’m not manipulating people – that can’t be done. I’m just showing them a better world, over and over again, and inviting them to move over my way. “We are what we habitually do.” Some old guy named Aristotle said that. If I can persuade people – adults and their children – to adopt better habits over time, they will do everything else I want done, all on their own initiative.
Archimedes – another old guy – said, “Give me a lever and a firm place to stand and I will move the Earth.” Give me three hours of prime-time a week – not that spendy for a billionaire – and I will show you how to change everything for the better for everyone.