In legislative terms, American corporations have claimed the biggest victories so far. The growing sectional divide — the coasts and a handful of Midwestern and Mountain West states vote blue, while voters in the culturally conservative heartland of the South and interior West largely vote red — is magnified by winner-take-all electoral rules that concentrate representation in the hands of local partisan majorities.
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On balance, the trend of rising geographic polarization has worked to the advantage of Republicans in both houses of Congress. The Republican Party has captured more seats in culturally conservative red America than it has relinquished in culturally liberal blue America, allowing it to control at least one legislative chamber in all but four years since after six decades of near-permanent minority status.
Increasingly unfettered by a declining bloc of dissident party moderates from the Northeast and Pacific Coast, ascendant red-state Republicans have prioritized an ambitious conservative economic agenda encompassing regulatory rollbacks, repeal of the Affordable Care Act and substantial cuts to federal taxes — like the tax bill passed last week — and entitlement programs. Bush presidency, have fallen out of fashion among post-Tea Party Republican leaders increasingly devoted to the pursuit of ideological purity.
Political analysts often argue that the rise of the culture war has had an acrimonious effect on American politics by expanding the battlefield of partisan disagreement to include a set of policies that provoke moral fervor, like abortion and gay rights, or activate fundamental personal identities such as religion and ethnicity. These divisions, they suggest, do not lend themselves to negotiation and compromise as readily as differences over economics, where horse-trading and difference-splitting are more feasible solutions.
But the growth of cultural conflict has polarized Democratic and Republican politicians on economic issues as well, by providing the two parties with increasingly distinct and insulated electoral constituencies, and bitter debates over health care and tax reform have generated just as much partisan rancor in the current Congress as any other policy domain.
Empowering The New Evangelists
The numerous Republican victories in congressional elections during the past 25 years have not managed to prevent the cultural change that has occurred over the same period, from declining religious observance and increasing support for same-sex marriage to the decriminalization of marijuana and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. The focus on evergreen topics rather than stories has produced some unlikely viral hits.
Shortly after Donald Trump won the election while losing the popular vote, the video went nuts. As of today, between YouTube and Facebook, the video has been viewed more than 55 million times. The most obvious reason PragerU has attracted so many young viewers is the quality of its videos. It's clear after watching just a few seconds of any of the segments that they have a higher level of polish and professionalism than the other popular conservative digital media outlets. PragerU employees have an obsessive focus on brand.
Though independent contractors — including at least one funded by the Wilks brothers — handle most of the production, the videos are remarkably consistent.
Each one features the same aesthetic, with the same cartoon characters illustrating each speaker. Each script, which generally starts from a draft by the presenter, is edited to words or fewer by a PragerU staffer. Each video adds to a uniform whole. This is a product I want to be associated with. Clean and cool extends to the emotional temperature of the videos. Alex Jones suffering from encephalitis in a panic room they are not. Instead, the scripting, the calm delivery, the anodyne graphics, and an endless procession of numbers call to mind a kind of deeply conservative Vox.
Like that site aspires to be, PragerU videos feel authoritative, a one-stop shop for simple answers to big questions, or, if you like, an inexhaustible cache of ammunition for campus debates. Why is health insurance so complicated? Let a Hoover Institute fellow tell you. Is gun ownership a right? Of course it is, says Eugene Volokh, the respected libertarian law professor.
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And scrolling through the list of videos, there are a lot of questions, many of them extremely loaded. Ty Seidule Yes! PragerU spends a lot of time and money figuring out how to push people to its content. That includes targeted campaigns on Facebook and Instagram, preroll ads on YouTube, and a 1,strong high school and college student volunteer team called PragerFORCE, who flog Prager content on their social feeds. But the best marketing for PragerU probably comes from their savvy choice of presenters, many of whom come prepackaged with enormous audiences.
The formula is working. Streit said she expects PragerU to hit a billion views this year. To put it in slightly different terms: By one estimate, Facebook currently has million US users. According to Streit, Facebook analytics show that their videos have reached nearly a third of those million users.
And that new audience has made Stephens into a kind of campus celebrity. Stephens said that students regularly tell him after university speaking engagements that they discovered his work through PragerU. More viewers means more conversions. The PragerU Twitter account liked that one.
Winning the Culture War – BDI
One of the most popular videos in the history of PragerU is a conversion story. But what are these PragerU students converting to, exactly? Take just Dave Rubin.
On his show, Rubin has thoughtful segments featuring mainstream guests like Laura Kipnis and David Sirota. But he has also twice interviewed Milo Yiannopoulos, whose connections to white nationalists and neo-Nazis are well documented; Paul Joseph Watson, a host of the conspiracy site InfoWars; and Stefan Molyneux, a popular YouTuber who is fond of discussing the scientific differences between races.
Rubin declined to be interviewed for this story. PragerU employees bristle at the idea that they are introducing their young viewers to the extreme fringes of the internet. The video spends most of its runtime, though, stressing the similarities between the alt-right and the American left, comparing Richard Spencer to Karl Marx.
PragerU sees the restriction as a naked example of an ascendant liberal industry censoring conservative media. On its face, the organization has a point. The suit is probably not a winner.
Who’s winning the culture war? Answer: No one
Still, even if the litigation fails, the suit has generated an enormous amount of good press for PragerU in the conservative press; Fox News has devoted multiple segments to it. And the publicity from going up against a tech giant may very well help PragerU in another plan of attack: to make universities more like the internet.
In August, Rutgers University launched an investigation after students were disturbed by a PragerU video about campus sexual assault shown during resident assistant training. The past five years have seen dozens of universities start to stream their courses for free through services like edX.