Cultural Wars and Headwing Alternatives

By David Eaton

david_eatonDoes the “Culture War” actually exist or is it purely a myth?

In the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election, Morris P. Fiorina of Stanford University and the Hoover Institution, published his book, Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America, in which he contends that the idea of America being a “deeply divided” nation is a specious claim. Offering copious data, Fiorina makes the case that a high percentage of Americans possess moderate viewpoints regarding social issues and politics, and as such, we are not as “deeply divided” as those on the fringes of the political/cultural spectrum (or news media) would have us believe. According to Fiorina, these fringe elements tend to confer with coteries who reinforce their particular perspectives and as such, do not represent the large, moderate and politically ambivalent demographic that seeks pragmatic solutions to problems.

This is a counter to the views of Pat Buchanan and others who have long held that America is under siege due to the encroachment of non-traditional religious (or anti-religious) influences and not-so-well intentioned multiculturalists. For Buchanan, nothing less than the soul of America is at stake. That said, Fiorina admits that there is something to the “newly emergent” idea of “Two Nations Under God.” He writes:

The culture war metaphor refers to a displacement of the classic economic conflicts that animated twentieth-century politics in the advanced democracies by newly emergent moral and cultural ones… [m]any contemporary observers of American politics believe that old disagreements about economics now pale in comparison to new divisions based on sexuality, morality and religion, divisions so deep as to justify fears of violence and talk of war in describing them.

By characterizing the idea of a culture war as a “myth,” while admitting that cultural concerns have displaced what heretofore had been conflicts born of economic concerns, is Professor Fiorina conceding that the “culture war” is more than just a metaphor?

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