Conservatism is also hopelessly inadequate as an agenda because of its near total reliance on "politics" as the battle ground. The real battle for the hearts and minds of the people doesn't take place in election cycles. It takes place every day when they watch television, when they read their newspapers, when they go to church, when they go the movies, when they send their children to school, when they listen to music, when they go to college.This, of course, is precisely what Gramsci meant by the 'war of position' (summary here). Gramsci was addressing the question of why, during times of economic crisis, socialists were failing to lead successful revolutions against capitalist states. Comparing the class struggle to the first world war, Gramsci argued that victory was determined not by individual battles - which might be enough only to seize an outer trench or two - but by the "overall relation of the forces in conflict."
Those are all battlegrounds where core values are shaped. Those cultural institutions are almost totally out of the control of conservatives. They will not be won back because of any election victories. At the same time, election victories become tougher and tougher for conservatives because of the power their adversaries have over the culture.
A war of position is not, in reality, constituted simply by the actual trenches, but by the whole organizational and industrial system of the territory which lies to the rear of the army in the field. It is imposed notably by the rapid fire-power of cannons, machine-guns and rifles, by the armed strength which can be concentrated at a particular spot, as well as by the abundance of supplies which make possible the swift replacement of material lost after an enemy breakthrough or a retreat. A further factor is the great mass of men under arms; they are of very unequal calibre, and are precisely only able to operate as a mass force.The 'war of manoeuvre,' in turn, "must be considered as reduced to more of a tactical than a strategic function ... it must be considered as occupying the same position as siege warfare used to occupy previously in relation to it." To Gramsci, the lesson for socialists was that
the same reduction must take place in the art and science of politics, at least in the case of the most advanced states, where ‘civil society’ has become a very complex structure and one which is resistant to the catastrophic ‘incursions’ of the immediate economic element (crises, depressions, etc.). The superstructures of civil society are like the trench-systems of modern warfare.Gramsci argued for a war of position in capitalist society, to challenge capitalist ideological domination of culture and media, and to achieve cultural hegemony. He argued, in short, for a culture war.