Who’s Winning the Culture War?

Who’s Winning the Culture War? By David Hopkins.

At the 1992 Republican National Convention, Pat Buchanan famously declared that American politics had become a “cultural war.” In the years since, social issues and identities have become more important in dividing Democrats from Republicans.

Traditionally, the two parties fought mostly over economics. But now cultural issues like abortion and gun control divide Americans more sharply along regional lines than economic policies. One impact of the rise of the culture war in the 1990s was to reorder the popular coalitions of the parties — for example, by attracting evangelical Protestants to the Republicans while propelling secular voters toward the Democrats. This also redefined their geographic constituencies. …

Political analysts often argue that the rise of the culture war has had an acrimonious effect on American politics by expanding the battlefield of partisan disagreement to include a set of policies that provoke moral fervor, like abortion and gay rights, or activate fundamental personal identities such as religion and ethnicity. These divisions, they suggest, do not lend themselves to negotiation and compromise as readily as differences over economics, where horse-trading and difference-splitting are more feasible solutions.