Culture wars

Culture wars, old and new By E.J. Dionne Jr. Opinion writer, Washington Post, January 25, 2015

How the Right Has Turned Everything Into a Culture War — And Why That’s Terrible for Our Democracy By Joshua Holland, AlterNet, February 28, 2012 — Today, conservatives have a social argument for every subject of debate – everything has become part of the culture wars…the intermingling of social and concrete issues has accelerated in the age of Obama… today cultural narratives dominate conservatives’ arguments. This is not just a matter of academic interest. It’s helping to fuel the growing reality-gap between conservatives and liberals – and not just because we continue to see these issues as matters of substantive policy while increasingly they see them as cultural. It’s also because people tend to be more defensive about social issues, and less likely to be open to counter-arguments or new information.

Us vs Them: A Simple Recipe to Prevent Strong Society from Forming By James Rohrer, AlterNet.org, July 27, 2012 …We humans are by nature social creatures, even the most introverted of us, and we tend to trust and follow the thinking of the groups with which we identify…Our groups define “us” and exert powerful influence on how we think, even how we feel, and how we behave in society. By definition, of course, every group creates “Them”— they are all the ones who are not in our group…most groups have some set of outsiders—some particular slice of the vast population that is “them” –that serves a very special symbolic function in their cosmos. These are members of other groups that believe things or advocate things that our group opposes. They are the enemy. Many groups, in fact, are formed specifically in opposition to some other group, and thus are defined precisely by their competition or conflict with “Them.” In this case, between “us” and “them” there can be nothing but implacable hostility. Conflict, often low level, but sometimes violent, is endemic to human social life.…Throughout history, political elites have manipulated social groups to achieve and maintain power.… in the last two generations Republicans have masterfully used wedge politics– pitting us against them — to gain and keep power and to implement policies that a clear majority of the populace dislikes, but apparently cannot find any effective way to change.…Although we live in an irreducibly pluralistic world, we have yet to learn how to function as a pluralistic democracy…To restore civil discourse and bring down the level of polarization, we need to learn new ways of relating together as us and them.….…The fundamental questions need to be raised, because what we imagine—no matter how inchoate it may be—influences the way that we act and the choices that we make every day. Nothing is more immediately practical and political than imagination…We have a lot of rehumanizing to do. There are powerful political and economic interests that want to keep us fragmented and at one another’s throats rather than working together to establish a more inclusive democracy. They will do all they can to stir continued discord between groups and to use wedge politics to defeat our aspirations for meaningful change. Can progressives of all persuasions, no matter what our primary interest groups may be, at least agree that we will stop doing their job for them?

Why are “Wedge Issues” Essential to Republican Rule? Buzzflash News Analysis, July 23, 2006 — While they have the public and the media distracted with red hot emotional topics, they go off and make the wealthy wealthier, increase our national debt, dismantle the Constitution, and take away government social services. Wedge issues are a powerful distraction — and allow the right wing to accomplish their goals while the public is preoccupied with some trumped up emotional issue that the Busheviks could care less about… wedge issues are emotional in appeal. They bypass the cognitive function of the brain and go right to a subconscious emotional response. Name any Republican wedge issue from immigration, to abortion, to gay marriage, to flag burning… “the war on terrorism” … and you run head into an emotional, not a reasoned, hook…. Basically, the Republican “rule by emotional appeal” boils down to a big brother elitism whose message to Americans is simply this: “Don’t think. We’ll do the thinking for you. Just follow.”  

We the People, and the New American Civil War by Robert Reich, Com­mon Dreams, Novem­ber 6, 2012 The vit­riol is worse is worse than I ever recall.…It’s almost a civil war.…What’s going on?…And we’ve had big­ger dis­agree­ments in the past…Maybe it’s that we’re more sep­a­rated now, geo­graph­i­cally and online.…But now most of us exist in our own polit­i­cal bub­bles, left and right…So when Amer­i­cans get upset about pol­i­tics these days we tend to stew in our own juices, with­out ben­e­fit of any­one we know well and with whom we dis­agree — and this makes it almost impos­si­ble for us to under­stand the other side.…I think the degree of venom we’re expe­ri­enc­ing has deeper roots.…In other words, white working-class men have been on the los­ing end of a huge demo­graphic and eco­nomic shift. That’s made them a tinder-box of frus­tra­tion and anger – eagerly ignited by Fox News, Rush Lim­baugh, and other ped­lars of petu­lance, includ­ing an increas­ing num­ber of Repub­li­cans who have gained polit­i­cal power by fan­ning the flames. That hate-mongering and atten­dant scape­goat­ing – of immi­grants, blacks, gays, women this degree of divi­sive­ness would have taken root had Amer­ica pre­served the social sol­i­dar­ity we had two gen­er­a­tions ago. The Great Depres­sion and World War II reminded us we were all in it together. We had to depend on each other in order to sur­vive. That sense of mutual depen­dence tran­scended our disagreements…So we come to the end of a bit­ter elec­tion feel­ing as if we’re two nations rather than one. The chal­lenge – not only for our pres­i­dent and rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Wash­ing­ton but for all of us – is to redis­cover the pub­lic good.  

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