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Serious Stuff

Casualties of the Culture Wars

October 16, 2011 by Somebody Else

This election cycle, as we should well know, all of the action is going to be on the Republican side during the primaries, since, as tradition has customarily dictated, the sitting president eligible for a second term -- in this case President Obama -- will be the presumptive nominee for his party. Still, Dennis Kucinich might run against him anyway, but that's a topic for another article.

So, as those committed and potential Republican primary voters consider the candidates they might pick from, let's have an overview of the key issues that will impact the choice of a nominee.

I'm not going to beat around the bush here, folks. By far, the number-one issue defining the bedrock base of the Republican Party is, pure and simple, its opposition to abortion, or more specifically, its stated commitment to overturning Roe vs. Wade. That is the litmus test for any viable candidate for the Republican Party, and all major Republican frontrunners are, as far as I know, totally on board with that key objective, even Libertarian candidate Ron Paul. So, it's not so much an issue that will decide who will get the Republican nomination, but rather the minimum standard for even attempting to run in the first place.  

The essential Republican strategy for overturning Roe vs. Wade is fairly simple. Number one, keep a Republican in the White House at all times so that when liberal Supreme Court justices retire, they might be replaced with conservative ones. Number two, keep decisive Republican majorities in both houses of Congress at all times as well, so that when a conservative Supreme Court justice has a confirmation hearing, his or her chances of being confirmed are all that much greater.

Devotees of the so-called pro-life movement are highly mobilized, politically active, and well-funded. No one can doubt that they wield tremendous power in American politics today, at least as much if not more power than supporters of the legal right to an abortion. And they have been inching ever closer to their goal over the years.

At this time, it appears that if the Supreme Court were to review Roe vs. Wade again, the vote would probably go 5-4 in favor of upholding the ruling. Replace one liberal-leaning justice with a conservatively-inclined one, and Roe vs. Wade could be overturned. At least in theory, this could happen with a Republican president from 2013 to 2017 if he or she is supported by a Republican-dominated Congress.

Other hot-button cultural issues are not so black-and-white, and the nuances just might decide who gets the Republican nomination.

For example, let's consider the issue of legalizing gay marriage. All of the major Republican candidates oppose it. Even Barack Obama opposes it, or is at least personally against it. But the devil is in the details.

Should the federal government introduce a constitutional amendment which will effectively prevent states such as California, Massachusetts and New York from legalizing gay marriage within their own borders? Some Republican candidates say yes, others no, others maybe. If gay marriage should not be permitted, should civil unions between gay couples be allowed? Again, the response is mixed. The Republican base is loud and clear about opposing both gay marriage and civil unions for gay couples, but independent voters, who will undoubtedly make or break a Republican candidate in the general election, are not so monolithic in their views.

Another big cultural issue for the Republican base is immigration. The central idea here is pretty straightforward, and goes like this. The United States has immigration laws that must be enforced. People who enter this country illegally are breaking those laws and must therefore be treated as criminals. Effective steps should be taken to keep people from entering illegally into the United States and to deport those who have done so.

Once again, defining exactly what all of this should mean and precisely how it should be carried out is where things get very complicated. Being too soft on illegal immigration can make a Republican candidate look weak to the party's base, but being too aggressive on that issue can cause a candidate to lose a crucial piece of the Hispanic vote. For those reasons, it shouldn't be surprising that the current Republican field does not really have a unified position on immigration matters.

There are other cultural issues that strongly define the ideology of the Republican Party, such as gun control, vouchers for private schools, stem-cell research, prayer in schools, flag burning, etc.

As for health care, is opposition to it a cultural issue per se? The Republicans have had considerable success in presenting it as one, but in reality, it is only about cynically pitting the haves against the have-nots, and is little more than thinly-disguised class warfare, a charge that Republicans have quite ironically launched at Democrats over this very same matter. 

I find it absolutely astounding that anyone would think that the right to choose their own doctor -- a right which is by no means guaranteed under our current health care system and which the new legislation does not necessarily infringe upon -- is more important than providing adequate health care insurance coverage for the population as a whole. As I see it, such a perspective amounts to little more than sheer selfishness and gross indifference to the welfare of others. Sadly, so much of our population has been brainwashed into thinking that this is acceptable.

Republicans also oppose the new health care legislation based upon what they spuriously warn us it will cost. I guess they think it's more important to invest in our military adventures in the Middle East than to protect those of us here in the United States so that we don't end up having our homes foreclosed upon and repossessed when we have an unexpected illness.

As I see it, the ostensible primary basis of the Republican opposition to health care reform is that individuals who are content with their lot in life should not be asked to make any changes for the benefit of those of us who are not. The hidden agenda, however, is the need to retain the support of the powerful private health insurers and their highly influential lobbyists who keep Republicans in power in the first place.

As for affirmative action, opposition to it is indeed a cultural issue, but since such opposition could potentially have a considerable economic impact upon a large segment of the population, I'm also going to put it into another category, which I call redistribution of wealth.

Yeah, you heard that right, but let me be clear -- it is opposition to affirmative action, rather than support of it, that amounts to redistribution of wealth, which is to say that by means of the former, you take away from minorities and give to the white majority, and in this way move toward the higher levels of income disparity between races that existed before affirmative action. Support of affirmative action, on the other hand, is to an extent support of the current status quo, or a commitment to at least not purposely widen even more the economic gap between races.

Check that out, Joe the Plumber, if you dare. On second thought, here, come fix my toilet, it's been backing up lately.

The Republican Party is much more dedicated to the redistribution of wealth than the Democratic Party is, with all standard commentary from Joe the Plumber notwithstanding. Here's an example.

Let's say that the United States has only 100 dollars and only 100 citizens. One of those citizens, representing the wealthy elite, has 50 dollars. The other 99 citizens have 50 dollars. The Democrats would like to take away one dollar from the wealthy elite and distribute it among the other 99 citizens. It wouldn't do all that much good, but it would at least be a tiny step in the right direction. But don't hold your breath, because there's no way in hell that Congress will allow that to happen -- who do you think they are, a bunch of crazed radicals?

The Republicans, however, would like to take away 49 dollars from the other 99 citizens and give it to the wealthy elite -- just so you know. Talk about class warfare and wealth distribution, indeed. At this very moment, in fact, Congress is probably seriously considering such a plan, or something similar to it, as a supposedly necessary measure for "saving the economy."

We all know the usual economic argument from back in the Reagan years. Reduce corporate taxes, allow businesses to increase their profit margins that way, and they can hire more people, who will use their salaries to pump more money back into the economy, thus creating even more jobs for America's working class. Sounds great, right? As George H. W. Bush pointed out many years ago, this is voodoo economics, and it's been making zombies out of millions of us for decades. Isn't that just wonderful?  

All those tax cuts will just trickle right on down to little old you and me as long as government allows big mister businessman up there to rake in the dough without having Uncle Sam take away too much of it. After all, that CEO has worked very hard to pay low wages and exploit his workers and ship most of his jobs overseas, so he deserves to have his tax rate slashed. He just might happen to sweep a couple of leftover crumbs off his table every now and then, and we'll open our mouths and pray that one or two of them might land upon our extended tongues. After all, times are hard, sacrifices have to be made for the good of the nation, and as for people like us -- we take what we can get. Beggars can't be choosers, as the saying goes.

So, at this point, you might be wondering how in the blue blazes the Republican Party is able to survive with such an economic platform. It truly boggles the mind.

But the answer is really quite simple. Cultural issues are the Republican Party's bread and butter. Time and time again, people who are hurt by Republican economic policies vote for the GOP because of their unyielding positions on certain hot-button topics. In that regard, here are some voices:

"There's nothing more important to me than the right to get out there in the woods and shoot deer. The government shouldn't get involved in the business of me going out to hunt. And also, let's say that someone tried to break into my house while I was in there with my family. I have a right to protect myself and my loved ones with a loaded weapon, because if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. So, my vote goes with the candidate who supports my constitutional right to bear arms, and that candidate is a Republican."

"I only care about one thing in politics, and that's the right to life. If a politician doesn't protect the life of the unborn, he doesn't get my vote, pure and simple. After the Republican Primaries, I could care less what any politician says. I've already made up my mind by that point."

"I served in Vietnam and made a big sacrifice for the country I love. I left my right leg back there in 1968. So I'll be damned if I'll stand by and watch some rotten, snot-nosed punk burn the flag that so many of my platoon buddies gave their lives for. You ought to get the death penalty for that, and I'd be pleased to personally administer it myself to whoever burns the flag. I don't hear any Democrats sticking up for Old Glory, so I won't be voting for any of them -- First Amendment my butt."

Never mind that the deer hunting guy just got laid off from his job at the local plant because the corporation that shut it down just shipped his job overseas where they can pay workers one fifth of what they paid him. Forget the fact that our pro-life lady, who is a single mother of four and who has no health insurance, just spent a week in the hospital and as a consequence ran up a debt that is three times greater than her annual salary. And disregard what you heard about the Vietnam War hero getting his benefits slashed owing to recent budget cuts to social services for veterans.

Are the Republicans largely responsible for those outrageous outcomes? Of course, but they support the right to bear arms, are anti-abortion, and want to make flag-burning illegal. And in the minds of so many people, everything else just fades into the background.

God forbid that the good people of the United States might ever stop just a moment to take a good look at themselves and realize that the real political divide in this country is between the small minority of economic elites and the vast majority of the rest of us who -- in one way or another -- allow ourselves to be taken advantage of by such powerful and wealthy people. Such a widespread realization would make it rather difficult for the privileged few to continue to exploit the hapless masses with such shameless arrogance, contempt and indifference, don't you agree?

Just imagine how quickly things would change in this country if the deer-hunting country boy, the Evangelical Christian single mother of four living in a trailer, and the flag-obsessed Vietnam vet were to suddenly figure out that they'd been hoodwinked into voting against their own economic interests, that they'd been bamboozled into signing up for a platform that leaves them poor, abused and defenseless, that plays upon their fears, prejudices, baser instincts, and irrational hatreds and uses them as a means to turn their attention away from the gross economic injustices imposed upon them by a greedy and heartless political leadership, and sets them against so many of their fellow working-class citizens, putting them in direct opposition to people just like themselves who work for a meager living or struggle to find a decent job, and thereby renders them incapable of incorporating themselves into a unified and truly effective movement for increasing their own standard of living.

This is not to minimize the importance of the cultural issues mentioned in this article. Admittedly, these are topics of considerable importance in their own right -- I have no argument with that whatsoever. However, let there be no mistake, the purpose of the so-called culture wars is to divide and conquer the masses for the benefit of the master class, which is the very small percentage of this country (1%) that essentially rules and owns the rest of the population (99%).

The purpose of the two-party system in the United States is to create the illusion of a representative democracy. The existence of the Occupy Wall Street movement is a testament to that fact. If we had a truly representative democracy, we wouldn't have the need to take to the streets and protest in this way.

Why did we take to the streets in the 1960s to draw attention to the need for civil rights? We did this because our political system at that time was not responsive to that particular issue.

Well, today, our government is not responsive to the economic rights of its citizenry, and for that same reason, we have taken to the streets once again.

"Won't you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love's eyes...