Tuesday, March 31, 2009
In his article “The Culture Warriors Get Laid Off”, Frank Rich describes the descending presence of vehement religious right activists and morally extreme Republicans. He uses the recent stem cell legislation Barack Obama signed into law to demonstrate how “family-values dinosaurs” like Falwell and Robertson are no longer in the political arena to cause hysteria about legislation that opposes traditional religious values. Furthermore, after Obama reversed the Bush administration’s restriction on funding organizations offering abortions abroad there was no commotion or protests demonstrating the shift away from Culture wars and into an era focusing on economic and social justice. In an interesting analysis of this phenomenon, Rich compares the current secular trend to a similar trend during the 1930’s. The 1920’s featured a long “moral crusade” for prohibition and the empowerment of the fundamentalist movement but once the stock market crashed and F.D.R was elected president, prohibition was repealed, there was a large expansion of the federal government and the fundamentalists began to retreat from the political arena. Similarly, the past 30 years featured a “moral crusade” led by the Moral Majority against abortion, homosexuals, and even unmarried moms but after the recent financial crisis and economic downturn the Moral Majority retreated and Barack Obama expanded government spending and reversed decisions to withhold funding from stem cell research and organizations abroad offering abortion. Rich contends that people have lost much of their confidence in organized religion and have less patience for the “intrusive and divisive moral scolds” that once pervaded the GOP. Although I agree with Rich that religious extremism has retreated from politics to a certain extent, I do not think this is a trend that will continue for long. The current economic crisis is not nearly as catastrophic as the depression and as a result, the economy should stabilize in a shorter time period and eventually put a greater focus on social issues. Additionally, the current social issues of abortion, homosexuality and stem cell research seem to be more polarizing than prohibition. While the prohibitionists retreated after their defeat, the religious right is not likely to sit back for 40 years and see the government trample over their traditional values. Even though it is unlikely that America will experience another “40 year exodus [from] these ayatollahs”, what will be the effect of the current retreat from politics? Will the Republicans and religious right come back stronger and revive the culture wars?