Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The changing culture war

EJ Dionne in the WaPo sees a change in the culture wars, away from abortion and gay rights and towards nativism:
This is the new culture war. It is about national identity rather than religion and “transcendent authority.” It focuses on which groups the United States will formally admit to residence and citizenship. It asks the same question as the old culture war: “Who are we?” But the earlier query was primarily about how we define ourselves morally. The new question is about how we define ourselves ethnically, racially and linguistically. It is, in truth, one of the oldest questions in our history, going back to our earliest immigration battles of the 1840s and 1850s.
The Republicans are painting themselves as the party of zero-tolerance for immigrants.  Thing is, most people don't like the idea of deporting children or splitting families, or punishing decent young people for having been brought over illegally.  Kiss the Hispanic vote goodbye, Elephants.

But that's not all:
The other issue gaining resonance is often cast as economic, but it is really about values and virtues: Why is the hard work of the many, those who labor primarily for wages and salaries, rewarded with increasingly less generosity than the activities of those who make money from investments and capital? 
Politically, this could be explosive. What is at heart a moral battle could rip apart old coalitions, since many working-class and middle-class social conservatives are angry about our shifting structures of reward. If issues such as abortion and gay rights split the New Deal coalition, this emerging issue could divide the conservative coalition.
Yes, and news that the Koch Brothers have created their own party with a budget that exceeds that spent by the REpublicans last year suggests that we now truly have a Billionaire's party.

Dionne sees a role for the Pope in this evolving culture battle.
The rise of Pope Francis could hasten the scrambling of the moral debate, since he links his opposition to abortion with powerful calls for economic justice and compassion toward immigrants.
As we have noted before, American conservatives are angry about Pope Francis, his constant harping about the poor, and his concern about the environment.  How dare he recall the ideals of social justice Catholics!

The Gilded Age was followed by the rise of Progressivism.  Perhaps we can hope that will happen again.

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