Sorry Politico, Democrats Aren't Winning The Culture Wars
Wishcasting and gaslighting your way to victory
On Friday, Politico’s lead article was a news piece — not opinion — by their national political correspondent on the undisputed FACT that Democrats are now winning the culture wars. You can read it if you would like to lose a few IQ points, which I won’t judge because it does have some nice side benefits, such as allowing you to have a greater appreciation for reality television or ignorance about the way your hair loss looks in the mirror. But as political analysis, it is utter garbage — a collection of quotes from consultants and no data to back up the argument. It’s wishcasting, pure and simple.
But what is happening with the culture wars? Beyond aiming for a self-fulfilling prophecy, there is a marked shift that is happening in the culture wars — but it is more complex and interesting than what Politico would ever acknowledge.
"It isn’t just abortion. Less than 20 years after conservatives used ballot measures against same-sex marriage to boost voter turnout in 11 states, public sentiment has shifted on the issue so dramatically that Democrats are poised to force a vote on legislation to protect same-sex marriage to try to damage Republican candidates. Following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Democrats from Georgia and Wisconsin to Illinois and California are running ads supporting gun restrictions, once viewed as a liability for the left, while openly engaging Republicans on crime...
"That’s a far cry from the GOP’s one-time strength: campaigning on God, guns and gays. It was only a year ago that the cultural flashpoints in American politics appeared much more favorable to the GOP, with Republicans driving a flurry of news cycles on mask mandates, critical race theory, transgender student athletes and the perceived excesses of social media and big tech.
"Even on abortion, voter intensity — if not overall public opinion — appeared as recently as last year to be on Republicans’ side. In the Virginia gubernatorial race in 2021, a majority of voters who listed abortion as the most important issue facing the state voted for the Republican, Glenn Youngkin, according to exit polls.
"But just as Democrats saw the politics of guns begin to shift in 2018 — when candidates favoring restrictions on firearms prevailed in some congressional swing districts — the rejection of an anti-abortion ballot measure in Kansas and Democratic over-performances in special elections in Nebraska, Minnesota and New York this summer revealed the opening for them in Roe.
“Democrats are like, ‘Eureka! We have our own culture war successes,’” said New York-based Democratic strategist Jon Reinish, a former aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. This year, he said, could be a turning point “in which the deployment of the culture war actually works for the first time in the Democrats’ favor and not the Republicans.”
“That will say a lot about 2024,” he added. “Democrats are so afraid of their own shadows, naturally. But I think that if it works this time, this could give permission to not be afraid.”
"For Republicans, the toxicity of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade was not singularly in the unpopularity of the decision, but in its undercutting of Republican efforts to brand Democrats as extreme. At the base of every non-economic attack Republicans leveled at Democrats — from crime to immigration and education — was the idea that the left was out of touch. But Roe, supported by a majority of Americans — including independents critical in a midterm election — was a reminder that on one of the most salient issues of the midterms, Democrats were in the mainstream."
First, let’s all understand that the Left has an established view, post-gay marriage, that it can move the needle just by suggesting it already has. If voters believe that the Dobbs decision has moved people toward a stronger pro-abortion position, they’ll believe it, they’ll believe their neighbors believe it, and either vote accordingly or not vote at all. Remember: It’s not a lie if you believe it.
What is going on is that on abortion, guns, and soaring violent crime — the three factors that Politico addresses — the Left seems immune to any accusation that they are hypocritical liars. It doesn’t matter if these big cities have decades of Democrat rule, the crime is the fault of all those NRA card holding gang members. It’s a delusional lens but one the media laps up, defends, and parrots like the dutiful little partisans they are.
“We declare victory in the culture wars of 1990” is a fine frame for the Left to adopt, because they won them. But that has nothing to do with the culture wars of today, where there is literally no polling evidence whatsoever that the Left is prevailing — not on crime, not on guns, not on transing kids, not on critical race theory, not on school closures, not on racial preferences, not on sexualizing kindergarteners, not on eliminating gifted programs, not on segregating school cafeterias, not on legalizing shoplifting, not on the Bible, not on the Flag, not on masks, and not on promoting fatness as a lifestyle. The idea that they have figured out a way to spin their extreme positions on these issues exists only within the addled minds of Beltway reporters who regurgitate the lines they are fed by consultants with the ease of an adult actress who has invested dedicated work into eliminating their gag reflex.
I didn’t include abortion in this list, because the “Democrats are winning the culture war” narrative is solely, entirely, about abortion. But how much of this has to do with real dynamics and “newly Democrat” voters, or simply that pro-choice women voters are super activated now, and scared Republican politicians haven't figured out the right language to respond?
Winning culture war battles doesn’t come without a price, and Dobbs definitely will have a price, pushing away some suburban educated women and men who are pro-abortion — whether they admit it or not — who would have voted for Glenn Youngkin and definitely voted for Mitt Romney. That only matters if you value those voters more than the voters you can replace them with — namely, pro-life Hispanics who are increasingly Republican.
What the GOP needs to appreciate is how much advantage they have within the culture wars. Here, the high ground (courtesy of OnMessage polling):
Americans overwhelmingly agree that public school systems are failing and children are falling behind (80%)
Americans overwhelmingly agree that parents should be in charge of all major decisions regarding their kids education (75%)
Americans overwhelmingly agree that we must control our southern border and stop illegal immigration (72%)
Americans overwhelmingly agree that a law that would allow abortion for any reason, at any time during pregnancy, up until the moment of live birth is unacceptable (70%)
Americans overwhelmingly agree that children should not be taught they are inherently racist because they are white (69%)
Americans overwhelmingly agree that allowing biological males who identify as women to compete against women is unfair and wrong (65%)
Americans overwhelmingly agree that white Americans are not inherently racist, nor do they benefit from systemic racism (64%)
Americans overwhelmingly agree that taxpayer dollars should not fund abortion (58%)
Americans overwhelmingly agree that there should be laws that would restrict abortion after the baby develops a heartbeat, with an exception if complications threaten the life of the mother (55%)
That’s not Dobbs, mind you — that’s a heartbeat bill! That’s a six week ban! That’s 55% for an issue where Republicans are running scared!
In other words: rather than being outside the mainstream, these views on abortion are just as much at the center of American politics as many others. They are not the weak part of a culture war, they are in its midst.
There’s absolutely been a shift from “somewhat” pro-life to “somewhat” pro-abortion. Republicans should neither downplay nor overstate it. What they should understand is that the Dobbs decision fixed the Democrats’ enthusiasm gap, driving their voters to increased enthusiasm and matching Republican dedication to vote. But the other truth is that Democrats’ greatest liability on the issue is their actual position.
But tell, where in the national debate about abortion is the Democrat position? The answer is: nonexistent. And that is true for a reason. The media lackeys who worship abortion like it is a symbol as powerful as the cross of Christ will do their absolute best to pretend the party they favor has reasonable unobjectionable balanced views on this issue even as they advance, endorse, and vote for the most extreme legislation on the subject.
There is, of course, something deeper going on here. What is happening is that the Left has run into a stronger than expected opposition to their endeavor to take over the culture and replace our current pedestals with nothing. (One must destroy Thomas Jefferson first to allow for Ibram X Kendi to take his place.) So if you wish to take over the culture, you must eradicate the law of nature and nature’s God, along with gender, patriotism, borders, freedom, and the value of life. You must eradicate a world where people who disagree sing the same anthem, honor the same altar fires, and hail the same flag. You must accelerate the collapse of common culture, because the bonds it creates are too strong to take on directly. You must destroy what we have before you can replace it.
The question before us is: is the American right content to complain about losing the culture wars? Or does it want to do what it takes to win them?
On abortion this seems to be uncertain. For the millionaires who write checks, and church ladies who knock on doors and organize, and admakers and consultants who run campaigns, this is the time to throw their effort behind the most creative ideas. This is the moment to lean in to adding validation to the Dobbs decision and what comes next. Instead there seems to be a general sentiment that the pro-abortion left wants it more, and the pro-life right doesn't know how to respond to that.
I wish this was not the case. But it is. Changing that fact will involve more than just one person. It demands we react as we are: pro-life Americans dedicated to the cause, fearless in the face of the Goliath, and recognizing the nature of the foe we face, and its works.