Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More Cultural War Stuff

Just read the following from this blog post regarding the cultural war. Basically, my favorite blogger gave his top ten reasons for a conservative to vote for Barack Obamam, and Culture 11 website which is a really cool place for young conservatives who are trying to reshape what it means to be a conservative in modern times, provides some analysis.

One of the big reasons I think Obama is such an incredible candidate is that he seems the perfect vehicle to bridge the cultural civil war that is tearing our country apart.

Here's a cold splash of reality:

"Wishful thinking, I’m afraid. Figures on the right and the left both need to come to terms, here, and Obama can’t do it alone. He helps in some ways, but hurts in others; and if he’s president, you’ve got to be sure he’ll be under intense pressure on the left to do rotten culture-warlike things — even if Obama develops no interest at all in doing them himself, which runs contrary to at least some of his public statements, especially as concerns abortion. The main trouble is that the culture war is real — and cultural conservatism is good — but fighting it out at the level of national politics is debilitating because there’s no national agreement durable enough to provide laws on the cultural hotbutton issues with the legitimacy they need. The obvious answer here is to devolve the decision point down to the states. But this is as dissatisfying to liberal ideologues as it is to some conservative ideologues. That’s a problem Obama might be able to help with in some respects. But as the Dems’ president, he’s likely to hurt in others. Unless he wants to stand up to the left and advocate for federalism on culture issues! That seems unlikely, though I’d cheer loudly if it happened. Obama does seem willing to go there on capital punishment. And he is right that the boomer war is tiresome. It’s certainly not clear to me that McCain would amp up the culture war in office. He’s not a boomer either. That leaves Palin, who we meet in the next point."

I added the bold for emphasis on the key point, and it's exactly right. The cultural war is real. Homosexual marriage, especially right now, is a major emotional issue and there is simply no hope for a resolution, no hopes for a grand compromise.

Abortion has basically played itself out generally, but many, many people still care deeply about this issue as well.

But regarding homosexual marriage, how can you compromise?

One side views it as a sin and a danger to traditional families. The other side views it as a civil rights issue and that all churches and individuals who want to ban homosexuals from marriage are hate-mongers, practicing discrimination.

The problem is that its impossible to come to a moderate or nuanced position over issues like these because the people on both sides of the cultural war largely do not associate with people on the other side. When that happens, when you rarely if ever associate with people who disagree with you, your positions tend to get more entrenched, more extreme.

The biggest problem with American politics is the great segregation you have amongst the partisan players. The cultural conservatives simply live in different cities and in different parts of the cities from the cultural liberals. They aren't friends, they don't attend the same churches, or social gathering, or clubs.

Personally, my goal is moderation in all things, I'm far from being there, but I recognize the valid arguments on both sides, on the homosexual issue and on abortion. But really, the only way to really become a sophisticated moderate is to have a lot of experience engaging with people who disagree with you, something that seems more and more difficult to do.

The problem is that if you are vocal about people who refuse to see these issues in a nuanced way, even when you try to, you are automatically parked in the extreme opposing camp from the person you happen to be talking to.

In just over a week, I've defended Obama's position on homosexual marriage to a cultural conservative and I know she views me as a raging liberal with one foot out of the Mormon church.

I've also, just today, had a rather heated argument with a cultural liberal, and I know she views me as a hateful person belonging to a hateful church who refuses to look at his own faith with an introspective eye.

See what I mean? Are not we all more complicated than that? Are not these issues more complicated than that?

I agree that some issues are not, obviously. Some issues, like racism in the 1960's require strong people taking strong stands. Or terrorism, or war, or poverty. These are issues where its pretty easy to come to a national consensus, all that's left is to work out the details on how to deal with them.

But let me give you a hint. If there is an issue where large numbers of really good, thoughtful, caring, smart people have strong contradictory positions, chances are almost 100% that there's more than one way to look at the issue.

Maybe we could all learn a little bit more from each other.


ElectionWatcher said...

As many prominent experts have noted, Obama is a member of Generation Jones–born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and GenXers.

Here's a recent 5 minute GenJones video features many top pundits (including David Brooks, Clarence Page, Dick Morris, Juan Williams, Karen Tumulty, Howard Wolfson, Michael Barone, etc.) specifically talking about Obama (and Palin’s) membership in Generation Jones, as well as the surprisingly big role that GenJones is now playing in this election:

And here is a clip from a couple of days ago from a discussion about Generation Jones on MSNBC:

tempe turley said...


Great insight. Thanks a ton for posting this comment.

Jillian said...

Well put.

Rachel said...

Scott, this really made me think. I feel like the more I learn the more I realize what you mean by the "cultural war". It doesn't mean that abortion isn't important or that like you said the many people who "are tired of talking about it" aren't moral. It means that we have been trying to solve the problem of abortion by villainizing the other side. By forgetting that they are people too. It makes sense that if we address some of the other issues it will make it more possible to address abortion in a more helpful way. Anyway, that's my late night sleep deprived awakening.

tempe turley said...


Yeah, it's a tough call... But pragmatically, I just don't see how productive it will be trying to force a view onto all of America when half the country violently agrees and the other half violently disagrees.

I think we would be much more productive if we could find common ground and work from there.

Also, like you said, its important to remember that there are kind, wise, moral, ethical, smart people in both parties and we would all benefit from more dialogue.