Why Conservativism Lost The “Culture War”
In the United States, culture war generally refers to a perceived conflict between conservative and liberal values. Beginning in the 1990s, culture wars have influenced the debate over public school history and science curricula in the United States, along with many other issues.
The expression “culture war” entered the vocabulary of United States politics with the publication of Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America by James Davison Hunter in 1991. Hunter perceived a dramatic realignment and polarization that had transformed United States politics and culture, including the issues of abortion, federal and state gun laws, global warming, immigration, separation of church and state, privacy, recreational drug use, homosexuality, and censorship.
They are often called these, and that may indeed be the case, but they are often a filter to decide which side of the political spectrum one falls. Individually, these issues of consequence are human rights issues. People know more about their pet issues than other issues, so they fixate figuring it is where they can affect the most amount of progress. In a pluralist society, this will happen. It is what is unique about the American experiment.
I point to same sex marriage the preeminent social issue of the day for, in my opinion, it has been successful for the reason that the public eschews the most. It is being implemented, using the system laid out by the Founders. From a tactical standpoint, the largely progressive movement has found a formula to implement policy. Social conservatives, on the other hand, seem to not have found a way of continuing the implementation of their own vision of what rights gays should have.
The Founders were not gods of modern morality as evidenced by codifying slavery in the Constitution. They did know and provided an avenue for the Constitution to be revisited because they recognized that society, and its rule of law, is not static.
The founders implemented the judicial system. Gay rights supporters have been using it for decades. That is well within the framework they intended when establishing our republic. A lot of conservatives seem to think the judicial system only works when their pet issues are ruled in their favor; otherwise, they decry unelected tyrants in robes.
The Constitution itself is a fantastic, if not the best, example of a modern democratic republic governing document. It is, however, very aged. There are better ways to govern, especially with regard to voting. Our current system has only one stable equilibrium: two parties. No more can survive. Why is that?
“The Ruling Class”
The Constitution was written with the express idea that the masses should have their voice filtered through a ruling class. It’s why there were no direct election of Presidents or Senators until very recently. Cries of “throw them out!” and “elitism” were implemented by the Constitution to ensure this would be the case.
This is why the culture war is being won by progressives. They are capable of affecting change through law and government as intended when our country was founded while conservatives have abdicated and condemned both institutions. The best response conservatives have mustered in the last 30 years is the image of mainly white people with misspelled placards holding guns in Revolutionary War garb. In an era when everyone agrees we need change, these images do not invoke it.