In case you were not aware of it, conservatives control all three branches of the federal government. They are rapidly gaining control of the federal judiciary, too. Their party has total “trifecta” control (the governorship and both legislative branches) in 26 states, compared to just eight for the other team’s party. It’s safe to say that a majority of the employers who boss around a majority of Americans reflect the views of their mega-lobby, the rigorously conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A majority of military officers self-identify as Republicans. And while houses of worship and the clergy who tend to them widely vary in their political leanings, it’s safe to say that most religious conservatives attend churches where conservative politics are welcome, if not shouted from the pulpit.
Yet the strange belief persists that conservatives are a besieged and even persecuted minority that must use stealth to express its views and seek influence. The latest example of that story line is the celebration of the revived 1990s sitcom Roseanne as representing the repressed ranks of white working-class folk — especially women — who have been intimidated into silence by godless liberal elites for too long now.
While Roseanne’s title character is indeed a white working-class Trump supporter (and so, it seems, is Roseanne Barr herself these days), the show and its characters are a bit more complicated than some sort of anguished cry of a despised and ignored lumpenproletariat. As Tom VanDerWerff notes, the president’s embrace of Roseanne is destroying nuance:
[T]o watch Roseanne is going to be seen by many who don’t support the president as a tacit support not just of Trump but of everything he stands for, at least for a little while. That makes it awfully difficult for the show to become anything other than a Donald Trump-shaped lightning rod, which is probably what he intended by grafting himself onto the biggest entertainment story of the week.
It’s certainly ironic that Barr, the 2012 presidential nominee of the lefty Peace and Freedom Party, has become both a fictional and real-life Trump booster. But it’s nearly as ironic that pollster and pundit Mark Penn, who was chief political strategist for Crooked Hillary Clinton in 2008, is front and center in celebrating the alleged liberation of conservatives by Roseanne:
“Roseanne,” the ABC sitcom, brought in 25 million viewers and counting to the shock of elites who believed that the biggest new draw on TV was Jimmy Kimmel and comedy tilting politically left. But there are an estimated 15 million closet conservatives in America today — people who have views that are more conservative than they let on to friends and family
There is no question that the social pressure on people today — and conservative women in particular — is intense to conform to liberal stereotypes. In a recent Harvard Caps-Harris Poll, 40 percent of Americans said they were afraid to express their real political views in their own homes with their own families, while 60 percent said they were unable to express their political views at work. These are astounding numbers for a society founded on the First Amendment and the belief in the free marketplace of ideas.
Penn doesn’t offer any evidence that these terrified people are mostly conservatives, other than alluding to research that finds that people are slightly more willing to admit pro-Trump views online than to live interviewers. But nonetheless, he’s off to the races, agonizing over a world in which “closet conservatives” fear being fired or losing spouses or even dates, for the sin of identifying with the people who run this country.
In the conclusion of his column on “closet conservatives,” Penn makes this remarkable suggestion:
The fact that so many hide their views in public underscores the importance of letting them vote in private by preserving the secret ballot, and avoiding any kind of internet or mail voting that allows others to stand and watch people select their choices. Polls are no substitute for actual secret balloting.
That’s interesting coming from a pollster. But it does make one wonder if down the road the Trump media machine might decide that its next act of war against the Left Coast might be an attack on the voting by mail that’s already universal in Oregon and Washington, and is increasingly prevalent in California. After all, one can easily imagine those poor persecuted Roseanne-loving conservatives being pressured by lefty employers and spouses and lovers to vote for evil people like Mark Penn’s former political sponsors.