Saturday, March 10, 2012

Political gamesmanship and the culture war

Last week, as the result of the pounding he's taken as the result of his remarks condemning Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, radio commentator Rush Limbaugh admitted that he may have fallen into a trap.

I rarely have reason to agree with him, but he may be right this time.

While I have no way to know for sure right now, I suspect that the recent controversy surrounding the health insurance mandate for contraception, which has a lot of "culture warriors" aflame, may very well have been instigated by the White House -- a deliberate strategy to keep the Republican Party at war with itself. (Of course it could be just dumb luck, but that seems unlikely.)

The reason is simple: The "culture war" is at bottom a losing proposition for the GOP.

Two things to consider: The folks who support "traditional morality," including anti-abortion activists and opponents of same-gender matrimony, generally aren't interested in the political process in that they see compromising -- the "art of politics" -- on their positions as tantamount to ultimate defeat. These are the people who are driving the candidacy of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who has always run on those themes and is currently second in Republican primaries and caucuses.

However, they don't seem to understand just how relatively few of them there are; indeed, candidates rarely run campaign ads on such issues, whether for or against, because voters as a rule just don't care. The now-nearly-invisible tea-party movement understood that, which is why it as a whole was silent despite its supporters' likely commitment to traditional morality.

Moreover, with the "religious right" practically defunct since 2006 and U.S. Catholic bishops regarded cynically by many Catholics because of a number of sex-abuse scandals in that church, neither group can provide the prophetic leadership needed to rally the troops. And let's not forget Pat Buchanan's "culture war" speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, which many believe caused even many Republicans to vote for Bill Clinton that year. Bottom line, by taking what many consider to be hard-and-fast stances, such folks manage to make people vote against them.

Which is just what the Democratic Party wants. (Getting Limbaugh, who has inordinate power in the GOP these days, off his game and possibly off the air certainly won't hurt the cause.)

Clearly, this is a problem for whomever the Republicans finally nominate this summer. While former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, now in the lead, would probably be the strongest Republican to run against Obama when it comes to political positions, many conservatives see him as "Obama-lite" and won't commit to endorsing him. But GOP honchos also probably understand that a Santorum victory might drive away even more voters because of what they might consider his extremist rhetoric.

Assuming that this represents a Clintonian set-up, the birth-control flap is certainly cynical and divisive politics. But it will probably work -- and that's the bottom line.

1 comment:

Mark said...

The culture war has gained alot of strength from Pastors playing it safe. It's easy to target gays, therefore legitimizing their claim of being singled out. Biblically, sex outside of marraige falls into 2 catagories fornication and adultery. Soft pastors fearing a stampede out the door, prefer to focus on a smaller populace. It was no Fluke who was picked to be the perfect bait ; she probably knew full well she would draw fire. She is a reproductive rights activist, and probably is glorying in her martyrdom. 31% of Christians voted for Romney; the ghastliness is that their leaders knew, he beleives that lucifer is equally the Son of God as Jesus. and they pushed voters with the cry' " Anyone but Obama ". Pat Robertson's Weed statement's totally missed the connection to Ron Paul's platform. Ron Paul's son "would be thrilled to be Romney's running mate. CBN never replied to my e-mail condemning Evangelical Leaders for choosing a Luciferian, and flipping Jesus off... Mark David Madden