As a rule, I don’t post (anymore) on politics. I used to on my Xanga blog, and it caused such a headache “in real life” that I just decided to stick with the other things that tickle my fancy; having opinions on things like theology and culture can be controversial enough in their own right. However, I’m going to break that self-imposed embargo for at least one post.
American politics, for the past twenty years or so, have been largely influenced by the so-called “culture wars”. People on the far (socialist?) left and the extreme (religious?) right have become increasingly polarized over certain complicated, emotionally charged issues, primarily abortion and gay rights. Now, I’m not going to even bring up my own opinions on these matters, because that’s not what this post is about. I simply want to note some significant changes that are directly affecting these “culture wars”, and ponder how these changes may or may not change political life in these United States…
First off, the death of Rev. Falwell (may his soul and the souls of all the departed rest in peace) is fairly significant symbolically, if not practically. He represented the “heart and soul” of conservative evangelical politics for a long time, and was the figurehead of the movement; both for its followers and opponents. His departure signals a major transition.
Second, and most of interest, is the very real possibility that the GOP will field a presidential candidate in 2008 that is not only pro-choice, but largely silent on gay marriage as well. The current frontrunners for the nomination are Rudy Guiliani, who is openly in support of reproductive rights for women and seems to imply at least tolerance for the expansion of civil rights for GLBT persons; and John McCain, who is conspicuously silent on both issues, even as he half-heartedly courts the evangelical vote (Guiliani hasn’t even bothered, and after his recent comments on abortion, probably won’t).
So, the question is, along with the Democrats holding to their traditional positions on these issues, does this shift mean the “culture wars” are over? And if so, what will be the impact on the next election and beyond? Dr. Dobson even seems to acknowledge that the shift is real, as per his expressed uncertainty about voting at all in 2008. Apparently, “family values” conservatives have already conceded (before the primaries, even) that Romney and Brownback are out of this race before it’s officially begun. Now, the potential dark horse candidacy of Newt Gingrich could tip the scales again, but he has always seemed more concerned with economic policy than moral authority.
I do hope that all this, at the very least, signals a cease-fire in the “culture wars” for the next election. With hot-button, polarizing issues like gay marriage and abortion off the table, maybe the candidates can distinguish themselves on other pressing concerns: poverty, affordable housing and healthcare, the environment, how to properly end our involvement in Iraq and rehabilitate our image with the rest of the world, just for starters. Anything that elevates presidential politics above who looks best on TV, and who is able to best mobilize their base, can only be a good thing. Let’s hope that the decline of our cultural warriors does just that.