The fact is that the “culture wars” were always poorly defined and largely made-up conflicts. They made for good copy, perhaps. The Week writer Matt K. Lewis offers no specifics about what the “wars” actually were, and what constitutes a loss.
Lewis cites the claim that President Barack Obama won the election by promising more “stuff,” but then dismisses it.
“There may be an even larger fundamental problem that should alarm conservatives even more: Too many Americans simply no longer agree with them on the merits,” he says. “In recent months, it has been especially depressing to be a conservative. In the past, one could more easily endure the ranting of liberal commentators by taking solace that — outside of New York City and Washington, D.C. — most of the country was center-right … Today, conservatives have made a shocking discovery: They are the ones in danger of appearing out of touch with middle America.”
Again, Lewis offers no specifics. But we can fill in some blanks for him. Two issues, abortion and gay marriage, have long been considered “cultural” issues. But they’re not; they’re legal and moral issues. People have always made up their own minds about the issue. The only questions relate to public policy, as it pertains to both of them.
Yet stranger bedfellows have rarely been found than on both sides of each of those issues.
Support for gay marriage brought together young voters of all stripes, old libertarians and neo-conservatives, such as Dick Cheney.
On abortion, similar coalitions fought both for and against its legality.
Yet policy follows public opinion, and this is Lewis’ main point. Public opinion has been turning against “conservative” views for some time, he warns. He quotes a 1999 letter from conservative leader Paul Weyrich, who said “politics has failed because of the collapse of the culture. The culture we are living in becomes an ever-wider sewer.”
Lewis goes on to bring up that usual suspect, Hollywood. He makes no mention of the fact the top movies right now include “The Hobbit,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Lincoln,” all films conservatives can enjoy without guilt.
No, what’s happened to the Republican Party isn’t the sudden realization that nobody agrees with it anymore. What’s happened is a demographic shift. More single women are heading households now (not always by choice), and they feel the Republican Party has little to offer them. Polls show they still agree on most of the big “cultural” issues.
The GOP will only emerge from this dark night of the soul when it learns to communicate to those women about what matters to them: security for themselves and their families — and how in the long run, that security can only come from a stable and growing economy.