Following Up: The Culture Wars

Friday, October 26, 2012

Robert O. Self, historian and author of All in the Family: The Realignment of American Democracy Since the 1960s, follows up on this week's 30 Issues in 30 Days topics and talks about how the post-'70s political realignment and the "culture wars" continue to reverberate in U.S. politics.




Robert O. Self

Comments [22]

John A

The question remains for me, Marcos, whether these efforts to secularize society are in any way tied to people in political power? Much progress to secularize America took place while GWB was president, for example. But to your main point, I would love to see more Democrats "out" themselves as pro-religion, because the Republicans that have done so don't seem to be doing much good. My eyes see the wolves in sheep's clothing.

Oct. 26 2012 05:08 PM
Marcos from the Bronx

You can't fight for a future that has no place for you.

If progressive coalitions would like to include people of faith they must liberate their minds from the eurocentric assumption that social progress and secularization must be synonymous. That may have been the story in western Europe, but in this country the narrative has been different. Every era of progressive paradigm shift in this country has had religious people as dynamic participants and leaders, for example: abolition, the civil rights movement, and the lead up to the New Deal (which was preceded by advocacy of the social gospel, exemplified by folks like Eugene Debs).

There have always been progressive as well as conservative impulses in communities of faith. The big shift is that in the 1970's the rich began to align themselves with the religious right. Before that the secular elite loathed religious conservatives as anti-intelectual, and favored more progressive religious institutions which culitvated "book learning". In the 1930's the Rockafeller family supported the Riverside church, today the Bush family supports the "Christian Coalition".

While many white social progressives still assume that secularization is a precondition to social progress. They assume that the state will be used to accomplish social progress as well as a literalist reading of separation of church and state. So, religious people are to some secular humanists as Native Americans were to European conquerers of the Americas. We are in the way. And we must disappear in order for the "manifest destiny" of progressive social change to unfold.

So of course religious people are forced in to the arms of the right, which has been happy to welcome us in recent years. Because, you can't fight for a future that has no place for you. If secular humanism would stop trade a focus on "separation of church and state" with a focus on freedom of belief and expression, perhaps they could recognize that religious folk are human too.

I was very disapointed that this segment did not "follow the money", and offer material analysis of the coalition between the rich and religious literalism. Please have on Cornell West, or Rev Heidi Nuemark, or Jim Wallis perhaps in dialogue with a secular humanist progressive for follow up.

Oct. 26 2012 12:19 PM
John A

"every study says there is NOT"
Sounds like I have some work to do searching around for proof of your point, that's a lot of studies to find. Since Guttmacher, usually used as the go-to source, is descended from Planned Parenthood, finding fairness may be a tough slog. Personal observance is strongly against your point I must say.

Oct. 26 2012 11:40 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

John A: Premarital and extramarital sex have been going on since we first crawled out of the seas. Abortion is relatively recent (say the past 150 years). So, whether or not contraception is available, people will have sex, but if contraception is available, there is less likelihood of pregnancy and therefore less need for abortion.

By the way, there was a female pope way back when. She managed to hide her identity all the way from the priesthood through the hierarchy up to becoming pope, but what finally gave her away was when she was being carried in the then pope-mobile and gave birth. Either contraception or abortion would have worked to keep her identity secret, but neither was practiced at the time.

Oct. 26 2012 11:39 AM
Rayogesh from New Jersey

Look at other cultures. I am from India, where Brahmins and other higher caste people were in power for long time, just like Whites here. These people believe that the rather powerful affirmative action policy of the government (often propelled by populist politics and not just by fairness) work for lower caste and Muslims. Upper caste people now align with the Right. Issues like abortion are non-issues though. An abortion is a taboo on the family more because it implies low morality of female members.

Oct. 26 2012 11:33 AM
Not A Fan

I cannot believe you are going to excuse and explain Obama's racist, hate-filled justification of people who embrace conservative pronciples.

Wait - this whole segment has demonized conservatives. They must believe what they believe because they're hatemongers. In that light I guess it's not so hard to beliee you would late Obama off the hook for his HATE.

NPR, you really are just another pathetic echo chamber.

Oct. 26 2012 11:33 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Well thanks, caller Bob, for telling it like it is. What a relief...Race is all over this. Yet folks (and the media) continue to act like it's not, as usual, at our peril.

Oct. 26 2012 11:32 AM
Tom P

John A your logic is twisted and just wrong. If there's more pre-marital sex, which every study says there is NOT, then more contraceptive negates it. And AIDS is doing more to NOT normalize pre-marital sex than anything related to procreation. And you can stop the the fox news ask-a-question-like-it's-a-legitmate issue thing.

Oct. 26 2012 11:31 AM
The Truth from Becky

HOld on are u F'n kiddin me? We are going to make government services a minority issue? There are more poor whites on the system than anyone else!!

Oct. 26 2012 11:31 AM
John A

"readily available contraception reduces the need for abortion"
It also Increases it by normalising things like premarital sex.
Do the two balance out? Don't know.

Oct. 26 2012 11:26 AM
Dorothy from Manhattan

"The Culture Wars" has less to do with gay rights, abortion rights and values than with race. Affirmative Action and civil rights laws was seen by many white males as taking away their rights to jobs and allowing "unqualified" blacks and women to "take over." White males, of course, were seen as qualified (always) while women and blacks were seen (always) as being required by the ever-evil government.

Black families were over time weakened as a women with a resident male in the house/apt. (married or not) could not collect public assistance. Hence the break up of families. Thus MANY (not all) whites considered black families to be weak so then we get into values and "family values."

Oct. 26 2012 11:25 AM
Gordon from NJ

Why has the term "libertarian" been used in this discussion? Libertarians and conservatives disagree on social issues. Liberals will use any stick to beat the libertarian.

Oct. 26 2012 11:24 AM
Laura from UWS

Why are you quoting Romney when he is totally inconsistent?
Why not quote The 2012 Republican Party Platform?
It could be most informative.

Oct. 26 2012 11:23 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Look, "culture wars" aside, the end of the "family" system, just like the end of monarchy and slavery, simply reflect the changes and improvements in technology. There is no need for "family" just as there is no need for slavery or monarchy anymore. We can produce children in test tubes. We already warehouse them in government schools for most of the time. Our aged are taken care of by government. Nobody needs anybody; nobody belongs to anybody. Everyone is autonomous. It's all a function of science and technology. These obsolescent remnants of outdated times are being flogged like a dying horse. It's almost over, so why fight about it?

Oct. 26 2012 11:19 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

What everyone seems to bypass is that readily available contraception reduces the need for abortion. You'd think for that reason alone the republicans would endorse it.

Oct. 26 2012 11:19 AM
Robert from NYC

I'm glad he didn't say it is a "great" question. It is a complex question, let's hope THAT doesn't catch on. Right now it's a good comeback.

Oct. 26 2012 11:13 AM
John A

Again when I blame Republicans for all messaging all the time, I must observe that "Pro Choice" and (Abortion as the)"Reproductive Right(s)" are all Democratic constructs.

Oct. 26 2012 11:12 AM

The republicats seem to have lost the culture war in large parts of the country. The west coast, the northeast, you know the parts of the country that work and have an economy.
Yet, even in NY 33 % are just crazy enough to vote for a Paladino type

Oct. 26 2012 10:49 AM
John A.

ED from Larchmont,
It's an issue in this election mainly to galvanize you into voting republican. If they can get you to vote automatically with wedge issues, then there may be (*is*) less incentive to do the hard work, like compromising, budget solutions, world peace, etc.

Oct. 26 2012 10:38 AM

@Ed from Larchmont

Please re-read your comment and try to understand how crackpot it makes you sound. Abortion is only unsettled among the right-wing extremists and some GOP candidates. American opinion has not shifted and will never shift to accept the GOP platform positions on abortion. Preference for sexual relations with partners of the same sex is not a mental illness. It is not the statistical norm but no judgement about the qualitative norm should be established.

The 'culture war' has been, in my opinion, nothing but a useful distraction for the theft of the buying power of an hour of American labor. Rope-a-dope to distract us while our pockets are picked.

In a bullet... Over the last forty years, GDP growth has been a percent and a half higher than CPI increases with the overage going into the accounts controlled by the one percent. Unions and a working democracy would normally protect us from the theft but we have been hoodwinked into dismantling one and neutering the other. Shame on us.

Oct. 26 2012 09:51 AM


So legal abortion and letting gay people accept that they were born that way has led to hip-hop murders, reality TV, the Kardashians, and X-Factor?

Oct. 26 2012 08:01 AM
Ed from Larchmont

1973 was the watershead year when this all changed and the culture wars began. Abortion was decriminalized (with false numbers - see Bernard Nathanson) and homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. And much as abortion proponents declared the question settled, it's more in dipute today than ever, even being a major issue in this election.

Oct. 26 2012 05:47 AM

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