The Future of the Culture Wars

The term culture in a society has been parsed as shared patterns of behavior and interaction, cognitive constructs, and affective understandings that are learned through a process of socialization. In the United States, the cognitive constructs of most people about issues concerning firearms arise from their socialization since we are not endowed at birth or genetically disposed to a penchant for or against firearms. Yet, there exists a clear, deep cultural conflict about firearms.

Politically, culture wars generally have favored conservative Republican candidates over the last several decades “more than policies, the economy, trade and tariffs,” an MSNBC host opined last week. He was reflecting the conventional wisdom about the power of abortion, gay marriage, immigration, and gun control to energize the conservative Republican base. There may be some shifting of the winds following the intensity of political emotion and capital expended, perhaps exhausted, during the reign of the former president.

Some Democrats, progressives, and others believe that in the post-Trumpian Age, Republicans can no longer assume the mantle of principled protectors and promoters of morality and Judeo-Christian cultural values. These competing observations address a possible watershed shift of the culture wars struggle. In particular, the two camps lobbed ordnance marked toward one another in cancel culture assaults.   

Thus it came as no surprise to followers of the political waxing and waning of party factions that the annual meeting of CPAC branded its theme around cancel culture, the motif for conservative Republicans to defend themselves against the lamestream media and perceived attacks on their prominent icons. Ted Cruz, the Cancun Cowboy, took the CPAC stage to offer some truly lame comments on his aborted “daughters made me do it” escape to Mexico.

But it may be that the cultural tide favoring conservatives has begun to ebb, particularly following the term of Trump and, perhaps more acutely, his last-minute, frenzied pitch to remain in office, culminating with the January 6 insurrection…. In the view of some, the reasons for the loss of fervor for demonization can be attributed to the fact that the Republican culture warriors have exhausted the voting public with hollow prophecies and political hogwash to the detriment of cultural ideals voiced by their base.

But it may be that the cultural tide favoring conservatives has begun to ebb, particularly following the term of Trump and, perhaps more acutely, his last-minute, frenzied pitch to remain in office, culminating with the January 6 insurrection. While the 7-million-popular-vote margin by the Democrat in November was one signal, a number of other cracks in the walls of conservatism are beginning to appear. These have been gaining energy for years. Paul Krugman, a New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist, recently noticed a marked decline in demonization by Republicans of Democrats:

But why this somnolence? Republicans may realize that an attempt to revive Obama-era critiques would expose them to ridicule over their record of hypocrisy: After declaring deficits an existential threat under Obama, the dropping then issue the minute Donald Trump took office, it’s hard to pull off another 180-degree turn.

They may also be inhibited by the utter failure of their past predictions, whether of inflation under Obama or a vast investment boom unleashed by the Trump tax cut, to come true–although inconvenient facts haven’t bothered them in the past.

And, at a deeper level, Republicans may simply have lost the ability to take policy seriously.

In the view of some, the reasons for the loss of fervor for demonization can be attributed to the fact that the Republican culture warriors have exhausted the voting public with hollow prophecies and political hogwash to the detriment of cultural ideals voiced by their base. This hypothesis will be tested as the $1.9-trillion pandemic relief package unfurls. With a 65% favorability rating, this initiative could be the predecessor to a mullti-trillion-dollar infrastructure program. The simple size of these programs echoes the energies of the New Deal under FDR as measures to meet the needs of the nation.

As flat as Cruz’s attempts at humor, the wind in the sails of the cultural assaults by conservative Republicans faces diminishing energy. For the first time in decades, the Gallup Poll revealed that less than 50% of Americans identify as religious or Christian.  Krugman closed his evaluation of the decline of conservative demonization to remark, “Republicans will have to come up with something beyond boilerplate denunciations of socialists killing jobs…. Democrats know what they want to achieve and are willing to put in the work to make it happen–while Republicans don’t and aren’t.”

Of course, time will test Krugman’s crystal ball visions. The midterms in 2022 will be another mile marker on the road to skirmishes involving cultural conflicts, however many survive.  The times they are a changin”.

 

 



Categories: elections, Issues, National, politics, State, VOTING RIGHTS

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