Is this election mainly about a "cultural war"?

From the Los Angeles Times, (registration required but free):

Presidential elections are usually about “the economy, stupid.” Is this one going to be different because the cultural differences between the two sides are (or appear) sharper than usual?

[Moderator Hat ON]

Brainglutton, you’ve posted three threads just today that are pretty much just a quote and a few sentences. Normally you post pretty good threads, but maybe you should cool it a bit for a while and flesh out your debate topics a bit more. Thanks.

[Moderator Hat OFF]

Sorry, I didn’t think that way of framing an OP was inappropriate.

We do like to see more to a post than just [cite][one sentence]. Normally we don’t make a fuss, but three of them in one day from the same person is a bit much. You’ll also be less likely to get good responses; people seem to think “well if he won’t put much work into it, I won’t either”.

Well, here’s a better way to frame the issue: Sometimes when conservatives talk about economic issues and security issues, I have to admit that they have some good points. But when they talk about morals, values and culture – gay marriage, abortion, gun rights, SOCS – they’re never right, always wrong. The “culture war” Pat Buchanan identified is real enough but he’s fighting on the wrong side of it. This election presents the American people with the clearest choice possible between enlightened values and ignorant ones. And the conservative side, in the long run, is doomed to lose, because of lasting generational changes in culture. Anyone care to debate that?

The Wall Street Journal has a satirical site)
that pokes fun at liberals, and strongly supports Bush. One of their running themes is the “Roe vs Wade effect”–meaning that generational changes tend to be more conservative that liberals like to believe.The logic is that as liberals abort their babies, and have fewer children, more children are born to conservative parents.And children usually adopt their parents’ morals.

It’s tongue in cheek, but there is some truth.Why, after 30 years, is abortion still a major issue? The conservatives arent “doomed” to lose–they have a pretty significant chance of winning.

Also, after 30 years of the army ROTC being prohibited from liberal campuses, there is no shortage of soldiers, coming from mostly conservative homes.

I think the article is pretty much spot-on, except that I’d emphasize the way the two different sides of the cultural riff conceptualize America and American power: the “red mind” (we’re already playing generalities here, right?) perceives America as threatened and at risk from other nations and fortuitously strong enough to stand up to them, an America best off worrying only about its own interests when it comes to deciding what is the moral political course; while the “blue mind” sees America as possessing an astonishing amount of power and having, before it, the choice of whether to behave as an imperial power (conquering anything that stands in our way, even in the way of our convenience) or as an ethical nation that treats other nations as equals so as to encourage other nations to do likewise and to make it easier to ostracize warmongering nations.

I think the low-level war that’s been fought probably since the Sixties wound down has heated up again since the evengelical Christians (most notably clergy) have become less reticent about getting deeply involved in politics. The so-called “silent majority” appears to be less-inclined to let God sort it all out, and have become activist in a way we probably haven’t seen in our lifetime. The evengelicals have aggressively worked to sway the votes of more moderate right-wing voters by persistently bringing social issues front-and-center, and drawing stark “right vs. wrong” lines in the public debate, challenging the loyalties of the moderates and inviting them to rise to the Right.

Given this newly-sought and successfully-obtained influence, Republican (and even Democrat) candidates of all types have had to adjust the political calculus, some only slightly, some (in the case of Bush) quite radically to accomodate/pander to this rightward swing.

What’s perhaps startling to those on the left is the effeciency and organization the evangelicals have displayed (recall the MO gay-marriage battle, where conservatives were outstripped in all areas except the one that counted: votes). On closer inspection, it’s less of a surprise: Evangelical Churches have become a hotbed of Republican grass-roots activism, and clergy have become leaders in the charge against liberal social platforms, like abortion, safe-sex/birth control (e.g. The Pledge), and of course, gay marriage/civil unions. Such fora require no extra funding, have a captive audience, exert considerable peer-pressure, and help lend immesurable authority to Right/Conservative = Moral assertion.

I am not as confident in your hypothesis as you are, regarding the inevitable defeat of “conservative morals”. I don’t think such faith-based forces are easily beaten with fair play and appeals to reason. Since all other angles of attack are undesireable (being themselves immoral), there’s little for enlightened skeptics to do but ride out the storm and try to protect their own turf from invasion. Given the rather clear geographic boundaries of Bush Country (everywhere but much of the West Coast, and the Northeast), there’s no better time than now for a strident appeal for State Rights and closely-guarded autonomy. If legal abortion is overturned, the stem-cell ban maintained, gay and minority rights further assaulted, the importance of the State is greater than ever. Gay marriage/civil unions will be legal here, not there; abortion will be legal here, not there; stem-cell research will recieve public funding here, not there. The only recourse the evangelicals will have to instating moralistic hegemony will then be amendments to the national Constitution, which will be virtually impossible to attain.

In sum: The war is a regional one, maybe turning into a “cold war between the states”.

In BG’s defense, I’d like to chime in: Nearly any statement with a hint of partisan controversy incites a rash of “CITE!!!” posts so fast your eyeballs get whiplash. Never mind the cite-Nazis could look it all up themselves with a skillful google in five minutes; it is, as other posters have pointed out, a kind of war-of-attrition tactic. I’d say BG is wise to make a big cite his opening salvo, if, for no other reason, to preempt the cite bomb before one’s dialectical adversary seeks to score rhetorical points by insinuating you made it all up.

Oh, we definitely encourage cites in the OP. But we just don’t want a bunch of threads that are just a cite and a few words. I’d like cites used as supporting material for your argument, rather than being your argument. And it’s not something we’re going to worry about unless it seems to be getting out of hand.

Understood. Thanks for your thoughtful reply!


The thought that came to my mind after reading the LA times article was: are we seeing the beginnings of a party realignment?

Right now (and I’m going to use vague stereotypes), Republicans are the social conservative, economic conservative party. Democrats are the social liberal, economic liberal party. The social distinction between the party is very clear. The economic distinction is becoming more muddy.

If the Republicans find that their social conservative positions resonates better with poorer people (who often benefit more from liberal economics) and Democrats find that their liberal social positions are more attractive to richer people (who often benefit more from conservative economics), will the parties start changing their economic planks? Republicans will become a party of conservative social values and liberal economics (e.g., Bush supporting steel tariffs, farm subsidies, unbalanced budgets), and Democrats will supprt liberal social values and conservative economics (e.g., Clinton’s NAFTA, Kerry’s balanced budget promises).

This would of course be a gradual change, taking a decade or more, similar to gradual shifts seen in the social planks of the parties since the Republican Southern Strategy.

That makes it all the more urgent for us to abolish the things that artificially inflate the power of the “red states” – the Senate and the Electoral College.

How does the increased mobility of society factor into this?

For instance, a young liberal person today might be very likely to leave a small conservative town (red leaning) they were born in and move to a more liberal big city (blue leaning). Thus, big cities (especially on the coast) end up more and more liberal and “flyover” country becomes more and more conservative.

But that works the other way too – suburban sprawl scatters middle-class and upper-middle class people over what was previously a sleepy, conservative countryside.

I’d say, from my own personal experience, the further away from the city center the sprawlers live, the more likely they are to be conservative. The sprawler and the rural dweller may vote Republican for slightly different reasons, but they’re still both pushing the same button in the voting booth.

Nevertheless, traditional Christianity is on the decline in America. From The Next American Nation, by Michael Lind (New York: Free Press Paperbacks, 1996), pp. 278-279:

However, while traditional religious believers are now a minority in America, they are a very self-conscious, well-organized and motivated minority, and they’re not going to shut up and go away any time soon, more’s the pity.

You don’t want much, do you? Just your cake, a fork, and five minutes alone? :rolleyes:

It was Buchanan et al. who declared a “cultural war” in the first place. Now the forces of Rationality and Righteousness have got to fight the forces of Ignorance and Religion with all weapons available.

And you’re going to win “Hearts & Minds” with rhetoric like that?

Jeebus, you scare me. Thank Og you don’t have any real power other than your one vote.