The idea of a conservative counterculture might seem like an oxymoron. The term itself has been colored by the 1960s, when left-wing intellectuals, revolutionaries, and artists captured the spirit of revolt against a supposedly homogenous, oppressive, conformist America. That old counterculture has become the dominant culture, having been absorbed into the bureaucracies of universities, schools, government, and now major corporations. The left-wing culture no longer carries a critique; it is the status quo.
This reversal has created an opening for a new counterculture that challenges the orthodoxy of the “successor ideology” and reveals the hollowness of left-wing institutional management. Though many conservatives have seen the opportunity, they have been pessimistic about its prospects. Conservative critics have long lamented the lack of right-wing pop-culture production; some have rallied to such troubled figures as Kanye West, hoping that dissident celebrities could break through the stranglehold of left-wing ideological control.
But this pessimism is misplaced. The solution to left-wing cultural dominance is neither to embrace any celebrity who casts a glance rightward nor to mimic the artistic production of the cultural Left. It is to go deeper—to rebuild the structures that provide the basis for healthy, integrated human development: families, schools, churches, neighborhoods.
Though few have noticed, this is already happening. A “Quiet Right” is patiently, and nearly invisibly, building a viable counterculture.
The main locus of this movement is in education, where conservative families have created robust alternatives to the secular and predominantly left-wing public education system. Many have turned to homeschooling, which has seen double-digit growth in recent years. Others have enrolled their children in a fast-growing network of “classical schools,” which have returned to the traditional liberal arts curriculum of logic, rhetoric, grammar, mathematics, Latin, and music. And the small but influential network of traditional, faith-based colleges, such as Hillsdale, Benedictine, Thomas Aquinas, and University of Dallas, have seen record-breaking enrollment.
In the cultural domain, the Quiet Right has broken significant new ground. In the arts, right-wing pseudonymous authors have created new magazines, publishing houses, and literary prizes. More mainstream companies, such as the Daily Wire, have sought to create conservative media institutions at industrial scale. Figurative painting and neo-classical architecture have gained appreciation. At the grassroots level, faith-based and family-oriented social media content have seen rapid growth, with “mom bloggers” revalorizing family and motherhood and a “back-to-the-land” movement appealing to classic Americana imagery and offering an alternative to millennial aesthetics.
The Quiet Right is also reshaping America’s social geography. The past decade has seen a movement to repopulate small towns and create culturally moderate communities that offer an alternative to misgoverned coastal enclaves. Covid-19 accelerated this shift, with many families packing their bags and seeking more ideologically compatible communities. They fled California, Illinois, and New York for Florida and Texas. Even within states, the flight to the suburbs is, in large part, a flight from left-wing culture and policy.
Though it might not make headlines, the Quiet Right represents a key social shift. Its adherents believe that human life is not cultivated primarily in the abstract—through ideology, media, and technology—but in the flesh. They sense the danger of captured institutions and are determined to build viable alternatives, substitutes, and replacements. As the New Year begins, it’s worth remembering, before falling into the regular tumult of the political, that the Quiet Right is where conservatives should devote their energy. It is home to the things that will last.
Originally published in City Journal.