Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Culture War and Civil War

The exit of Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) has sent shock waves through the political world. What did he mean by it?

But for a politician to complain about the partisan atmosphere in Washington, DC, as Bayh did in explaining his departure is a little rich. What did you expect, Senator?

Washington, DC is full of partisanship when the ends and means of government are in contest. Such as right now. It was pretty hot in the 1930s when the president was calling businessmen economic royalists and sending lefty activists into the federal government to shake things up. And the Supreme Court was ruling the NRA unconstitutional.

There's a culture war going on, on abortion and marriage. And there's a civil war on the role of government. You'd expect things to be testy.

Still, as marriage activist Maggie Gallagher writes, most people hate it. Even successful politicians like Evan Bayh hate it.

Evan Bayh is tired of being the middle patch of ground in a culture war that never seems to end, never seems to get anywhere.

Culture war is not a term we hear that often anymore because, well, the crucial center of American politics is sick and tired of the very idea of culture war.

No doubt the culture war is going on, and no doubt nobody is winning. And as to the civil war over the role of government, the failure of Obama '09 means that the Democratic breakout attempt has failed and it is back to stalemate on that front too.

But just because the center is sick and tired of the war means nothing. People in the middle are always war weary. Wars are fought by combatants, and the sufferings of the people in the center are called "civilian casualties" and "collateral damage."

But the reason that nobody is winning is that neither side presently has the strength and the creativity to win. Forty percent of Americans may call themselves "conservative" but the twenty percent that call themselvers "liberals" seem to hold their own pretty well, despite being outnumbered two-to-one.

But the Bayh decision is at least a clue to the future.

The decision of Evan Bayh to leave the United States Senate seems to tell us that the good old era of Democrats talking a good conservative game at home and voting with the liberals in Washington is coming to a close. Since that game benefited Democrats it is not surprising that the consternation about Bayh is greatest in Liberal-land.

The Obama '09 campaign was clearly a wakeup call to Americans. They don't want whatever it was that Obama was serving up. Now what? We'll see after the next elections.

The culture war front is even more fraught. Maggie Gallagher herself is involved in defending the legal attack on California's Proposition 8, the one that said you can't call gay marriage marriage. A gay federal judge in San Francisco is telling conservative America, in case they were wondering, that they needn't expect justice from a gay bench.

My feeling is that the culture war will turn when women wake up to the fact that the sexual revolution was a disaster for women, making them into pure sex objects to be consumed at will. You read Wendy Shalit's review of the state of the hookup culture on campus, and you wonder: how do college girls put up with this abuse? (We know why they put up with it: oppression, pure and simple.)

As for the civil war about the role of government? That will turn when the government runs out of our money.

I guess that's what Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point is all about.

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