Are the Culture Wars Winding Down?

| Thu Jul. 16, 2009 9:38 AM PDT

Demographics guru Ruy Teixeira says that the era of the culture wars is drawing to a close.  Why?  Demographics, of course:

First, Millennials — the generation with birth years 1978 to 2000 — support gay marriage, take race and gender equality as givens, are tolerant of religious and family diversity, have an open and positive attitude toward immigration, and generally display little interest in fighting over the divisive social issues of the past.

....Second, the culturally conservative white working class has been declining rapidly as a proportion of the electorate for years.

....Other demographic trends that will undermine the culture warriors include the growth of culturally progressive groups such as single women, and college-educated women and professionals, as well as increasing religious diversity. Unaffiliated or secular voters are hugely progressive on cultural issues and it is they — not white evangelical Protestants  —who are the fastest-growing “religious” group in the United States.

Over at the Democratic Strategist, somebody named "staff" predicts a positive feedback loop that will soon turn culture war issues into a political backwater:

The point here isn't, or isn't just, that the American population is becoming more progressive on cultural issues. It's that as cultural issues lose political punch, the incentives for conservatives to focus on them decline, further reducing the politicization of culture.

Teixeira himself says that while this may eventually be the case, it could take a while before the culture warriors calm down: "Indeed, reaction to their current desperate plight may lead them to intensify their efforts in some states, especially where demographic change has been slow or where local right-wing culture war institutions retain strength." I think that's right.  Barack Obama has been remarkably successful at marginalizing culture war issues so far, but it's not clear to me that he can keep this up forever.  It's going to be a rough road before we get to Teixeira's promised land. Fasten your seat belts.

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