The Upshot

Are the culture wars over?

Liz Goodwin
The Upshot

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Over at Politico, Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin say President Obama has definitively ended "the baby boomer-era culture wars." The evidence, they say, is that Republicans are focusing less and less on "morality-based" social issues like gay marriage, abortion, and illegal drugs that galvanized the social-conservative movement over the past 30 years.

The debate, they write, has instead shifted to "the very definition of what it means to be American," with conservatives arguing that Obama is steering the country toward a more European social-democratic model of governance.

The libertarian-leaning tea party, meanwhile, would face a message problem if it argued for government interference in social issues and restraint in everything else. Even Fox pundit Glenn Beck has expressed his ambivalence about gay marriage and abortion. "I believe what Thomas Jefferson said. If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket, what difference is it to me?" Beck said.

However, as Politico notes and The Upshot reported last week, growing popular support for gay marriage doesn't necessarily mean that a GOP front-runner for the presidency would openly back the idea anytime soon. It's more likely that he or she will instead follow the advice of the Log Cabin Republicans and political strategists and stay quiet on the issue.

Many national Republicans are apparently already practicing this tactic, as a federal judge's decision to strike down California's gay marriage ban was met with relative silence from GOP leaders this month.

Meanwhile the abortion debate is still raging on the state level. As of June this year, 11 states had passed laws to restrict abortion.

Smith and Martin sidestep altogether the furor over the proposed mosque near Ground Zero in their discussion, and only briefly mention the fierce national debate over illegal immigration as an exception because it's related to the economy.

Though not a "morality-based" social issue like gay marriage or abortion, in some more extreme corners of the mosque debate, a Christianity vs. Islam narrative has taken hold. Perhaps the culture war is over — only to make way for a new strain of Samuel Huntington's "Clash of the Civilizations" thesis?

(Photo: AP)

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