Culture Wars: Myth or Reality?

By David Eaton

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

In the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election, Morris P. Fiorina of the Hoover Institution published Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America, in which he contends the idea of America being a “deeply divided” nation is specious.

Offering copious data, he claims a high percentage of Americans possess moderate viewpoints regarding social issues and politics, and we are not as “deeply divided” as those on the fringes of the political spectrum (or the news media) would have us believe.

Yet, the divisiveness that has become so pervasive in our culture indicates that our country is, in fact, highly polarized.

According to Fiorina, these fringe elements tend to confer with coteries who reinforce their particular perspectives and do not represent the large, moderate and politically ambivalent demographic that seeks pragmatic solutions to problems.

This is a countervailing argument to that of Pat Buchanan who has long held America is under siege due to the encroachment of non-traditional religious (or contra-religious) influences and not-so-well intentioned multiculturalists who see little or no value in the Western tradition. For Buchanan, nothing less than the soul of America is at stake.

Fiorina admits, perhaps unwittingly, that there is something to Buchanan’s claim when he states:

“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. Even mainstream media commentators saw a “national fissure” that “remains deep and wide,” and “Two Nations under God.”… [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.”

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