Culture warriors put on their combat boots

CULTURE WARRIORS PUT ON THEIR COMBAT BOOTS…. There’s periodic talk from some Republican leaders about a “truce” in the culture war, and polls suggest most Americans want policymakers to focus on economic issues. Fresh off their midterm victories, however, many Republicans are poised to invest time and energy into hot-button social issues.

Although fixing the economy is the top priority, Republicans who won greater control of state governments in this month’s election are considering how to pursue action on a range of social issues, including abortion, gun rights and even divorce laws.

Incoming GOP governors and legislative leaders across the nation insist they intend to focus initially on fiscal measures to spur the economy, cut spending and address state budget problems.

“At this point, the economy dominates everything, and until the economy is turned around and our fiscal house put in order, there’s not going to be a lot of appetite for anything else,” said Whit Ayres, a pollster in Alexandria, Va., whose firm did research for several GOP candidates in the midterm race.

But the pressure to go further, as soon as possible, is only slightly below the surface in states where conservatives’ top social goals have been foiled for years by Democratic vetoes and legislative obstacles.

Nearly all of the culture war focus is going on at the state level. In Washington, Republicans would no doubt welcome the chance to tackle these issues, but a Democratic White House and Senate renders most of the far-right wish list irrelevant, at least for now.

But at state houses, conservatives have grand ambitions. The AP’s report noted that Wisconsin, for example, will take up measures to restrict abortion rights, expanding concealed-weapon laws, and strip gay state employees and their domestic partners of their benefits. Kansas will tackle stem-cell and divorce policies, while making the state “as close to an abortion-free zone as possible.” The far-right is demanding similar moves from newly-elected Republican administrations in Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, also reported recently that voters can expect related culture war fights elsewhere, including a battle of sex ed in North Carolina, and fights over gay rights in Minnesota and New Hampshire.

All of this is the result of voters giving Republicans more legislative control than the party has had since 1952.

Americans who thought they were voting on economic issues may be in for a rude awakening.