Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Everyone thought that the 2012 election would be about jobs, jobs, jobs.They were wrong.
Yes, America still has long term debt problems. And Americans are saddled with lots of household debt.
But the last three weeks prove that what gets Americans really fired up is the culture war.
Yesterday we saw the 9th Circuit Court overrule the popular referendum in California that banned gay marriage. Rick Santorum, who defined his career in the Senate as the point man for conservatives in the culture war is suddenly surging in the GOP nomination contest. The nation and its media had a week-long freakout over a minuscule $700,000 grant from the Komen Foundation to Planned Parenthood. And now the Obama Administration and the Catholic Church are in open conflict over whether religious institutions should be dragged into the bedroom to pay for their employees’ contraceptives of choice.
No one is saying that jobs are the only issue that matter anymore.
And these are the long-term issues at stake in every presidential election. What kind of judges will be appointed to federal courts and the Supreme Court. Will Roe v. Wade be chipped at or overturned? Every time the parties switch control of the White House, America’s policies around the world change on matters of culture. Under Democrats we support the worldwide expansion of access to abortion in our foreign aid and at the United Nations. Under Republicans, we get stiff rules forbidding taxpayer money for abortions.
So why shouldn’t these questions fire us up. If America is supposed to have a “government by and for the people,” then Americans will always be interested in defining what sort of people they are. Are we a religious people, who hold fast to our traditions? Or are we a modern people who want religions to update or go away altogether? Democratic countries are notorious for encouraging a kind of “identity politics.”
And in a country with so much ethnic diversity, and a powerful central government that regulates everything from health-care to the amount of water that flows through our toilets, we increasingly define ourselves by these cultural issues.
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