One War, Many Battlefields

If you don’t buy my argument that it’s premature to declare the culture wars “over,” or even write off Mike Huckabee’s bid for the GOP presidential nomination, here’s Digby, who reminds us that whenever progress has been made on one issue another one will pop right up. She discusses immigration (where if it were not for the president’s executive actions we’d be in a worse position now than we were in 2007) and police violence, and welfare dependency, and guns, and then this:

[W]e have the granddaddy of all culture war issues: abortion. To think the culture war is over when it is being fought in the trenches of nearly every red state in the union is fairly mind-boggling. According to the Guttmacher Institute, we have seen 231 abortion restrictions enacted in just the last four years. In Indiana, they are prosecuting women and putting them in jail for “illegal” abortions.

But that doesn’t mean they have won. The Guttmacher Institute also reports that 18 states have recently enacted 95 laws to expand abortion rights, the most since 1990. It would appear that the culture war, at least when it comes to abortion rights, has become a war between the states.

The truth is that the culture war defines American politics and always has. Whether it’s characterized as country vs. city or North vs. South or conservative vs. liberal, our culture is always at war with itself. It’s foolish to ever believe that conservatives are going to stop being conservative or liberals are going to stop being liberals. Our political identities are as much about our cultural and social affinities as they are about our philosophies of government. (In fact, our philosophies of government are almost entirely informed by our social and cultural identities.) And liberals should be fine with that. The culture war may be a very long one, but over time, they are winning. In America progress always wins in the long run. But it’s never easy. And it ain’t over til it’s over.

I guess the question a lot of people have in the back of their minds is whether American conservatives will ever become like their counterparts in other countries who seem to have accepted cultural change, even if they bitterly oppose a larger or more generous government.

After all, British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose job is on the line today, is a supporter of marriage equality. And you never really hear talk about abortion or guns in British politics.

But you do hear about immigration, and welfare dependency, and increasingly, however disguised it is, about race. And you can make the argument that British politics more than ever revolves around one party that stands for a white England unhappy with most of the changes the country has experienced in recent years, and a multicultural Great Britain ready for a lot more change.

So no, for the foreseeable future, the culture wars are on, and the only question is which battlefield we are talking about on which day.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.