The red and the blue
difference between the red and blue states? Here are some answers: Our Secularist Democratic Party
The Public Interest
), and The “morality gap”
is becoming the key variable in American politics
(from The Atlantic Monthly
The Public Interest piece documents the obvious truth that the story of the “culture wars” is the reverse
of that presented by the major media. It was not extremist evangelicals but sectarian secularists who staged a
takeover of a major political party and other public institutions, and so injected religious and moral issues into
politics. It is also the latter who are most energized by fear and hatred of a social and religious minority. While
surveys aren’t perfect, it’s indicative that a quarter of American whites appear to hate fundamentalists as much as
the the most anti-semitic 1 percent hate Jews. Not that you’ll hear any of this from the major media, for whom the
“religious right” is a bogeyman and “secularist” a non-category. Their leaders at The New York Times are too
busy puffing non-existent divisions among traditionally religious voters (for example, in the 125 pieces they ran
about Bush’s willingness to speak at Bob Jones U, something few Catholics cared about).
The Atlantic piece has some analysis relating to a issue we’ve touched on before at VFR: that there’s an
important link between sexual oddity or looseness, rejection of objective moral order, and the sort of managerial
welfare state liberalism for which the modern Democratic Party (and our rulers generally) stand. Not surprisingly,
considering the source, it ends with a recommendation that Bush and the Republicans avoid social issues.
Posted by Jim Kalb at March 08, 2003 02:29 PM | Send
Outstanding post, Mr. Kalb. Rarely have I seen this important point made with such sharpness. I had read that “Our Secularist Democratic Party” essay some time ago: It is nice to have intuitions comfirmed more solidly by data. Give the neoconservatives credit for this at least: They helped us with social science.
Not having read it yet, I’m wondering why the article, after pointing out the real existence of the culture war and the fact that the left started it, urges conservatives to avoid the very issues at stake in the culture war?
As traditional conservatives, we will think what we think and want what we want. But as a matter of practical electoral politics, isn’t Edsall (in the Atlantic) correct in recommending that the Republicans avoid those “devisive” moral issues.
The Atlantic urges avoidance based upon a non-sequitur: “But sex, unlike war, does not go away; its return to political center stage is inevitable. And that is decidedly to the Democrats’ advantage.” First off, War, broadly enough defined, never goes away either. But the real mistake, which makes it a non-sequitur, is the assumption that social attitudes cannot or will not change, that the trends regarding sex are permanent and “progressive” as opposed to possibly, just possibly, temporary and comparable to the swing of a pendulum. Or consider demography. Who raises more children, a.k.a. nascent voters? Perhaps in another few generations certain attitudes may just disappear in a similar way that the Shakers have disappeared.
With that in mind, I disagree with those who urge retreat. Attempts to advocate your view may be rewarded in elections long after yours. I wonder how many 50-somethings have voted Democratic ever since Humphrey ‘68? How many seniors have voted Republican since Dewey 44 or 48 —or even since Thurmond ‘48?
In any event, the question of avoidance is nearly moot. Politicians, judges even, cannot avoid these issues. The questions are asked. To retreat or avoid when asked —that strategey should be re-thought. What better sight than the backpack of the enemy?
Retreat can buy time, and that is good.
I’d be delighted if the Republicans, or some other American party of the Right, would become passionately engaged in the Culture Wars. But I think we wait in vain for that to happen, at least for the foreseeable future. If Republicans just want their best chance to win elections, following Edsall’s advice is a good idea.
“But the real mistake, which makes it a non-sequitur, is the assumption that social attitudes cannot or will not change, that the trends regarding sex are permanent and ‘progressive’ as opposed to possibly, just possibly, temporary and comparable to the swing of a pendulum.”
This same false assumption underlay Francis Fukuyama’s “The Great Disruption.” While the conservative establishment played this book as though it were about undoing the harm of the Sixties cultural revolution, at the heart of the book Fukuyama was saying that the most important aspect of the cultural revolution—the sexual revolution—could not be turned back. So what was the point of this book, other than to help advance the neoconservatives’ ploy of pretending to oppose the left while in key respects actually surrendering to the left?