Friday, November 7, 2008

Last of the Culture Warriors

On November 3rd, Washington Post columnist Peter Beinart wrote his monthly column about Sarah Palin called "Last of the Culture Warriors." Beinart writes,

"Palin's brand is culture war, and in America today culture war no longer sells. The struggle that began in the 1960s -- which put questions of racial, sexual and religious identity at the forefront of American politics -- may be ending. Palin is the end of the line. "

The article continues, [emphasis mine]

"Today, according to a recent Newsweek poll, the economy is up to 44 percent and "issues like abortion, guns and same-sex marriage" down to only 6 percent. It's no coincidence that Palin's popularity has plummeted as the financial crisis has taken center stage . . . She's depicting the campaign as a struggle between the culturally familiar and the culturally threatening, the culturally traditional and the culturally exotic. But Obama has dismissed those attacks as irrelevant, and the public, focused nervously on the economic collapse, has largely tuned them out. "

Beinart's premise is at least temporarily belied by the success of state propositions banning same sex marriages, indicating that traditional culture advocates still prevail. But according to Beinart, culture wars wax and wane with generational change. He believes that

"The long-running, internecine baby boomer cultural feud just isn't that relevant to Americans who came of age after the civil rights, gay rights and feminist revolutions. Even many younger evangelicals are broadening their agendas beyond abortion, stem cells, school prayer and gay marriage."

The problem with "culture war" is that it divides us - across the nation, among friends, even among families - based on what we essentially believe in. At issue in the culture war is not which of several similarly plausible economic policies is best, but the core beliefs that lie directly in the center of our being - is it right to abort a fetus, is it right for two people of the same sex to be married, is it right for people to freely be able to purchase assault rifles, is it right to torture and imprison people without trial. These are not win-win scenarios, as solutions that would satisfy both sides are few and far between.

Beinart ends his article with the hope that the Republican party will choose as its leader for the future someone like Mitt Romney or Bobby Jindall; social conservatives, but not likely to "try to substitute identity for policy ." Beinart believes "Sarah Palin may be the last culture warrior on the national ticket for a very long time." With the increasing revelation of internal strife within the McCain/Palin campaign, and tales of "Wasilla hillbilly" shopping sprees, some factions of the party have already begun to discredit Palin. It will be interesting to see what path the Republican Party chooses to follow into the future.

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