Calling a Truce in the Culture Wars


Mitch Daniels says the next president will “have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while” until the economy improves. Ramesh Ponnuru comments:

A lot of people will cheer that statement: Truces are usually popular, and most people see the economic issues as more important than the social ones at this moment. But I’m not sure how a truce would work. If Justice Kennedy retired on President Daniels’s watch, for example, he would have to pick someone as a replacement. End of truce.

Point taken. But the funny thing is that we already have a president who’s called the truce Daniels wants to see: Barack Obama. That doesn’t mean no one cares about social issues anymore, it just means that Obama has done everything humanly possible to keep them dialed down, both during the 2008 campaign and during his 17 months in office. And for the most part he’s succeeded.

(For better or worse. His sluggishness on DADT and other LGBT issues, for example, is directly due to his much broader desire to avoid culture war issues and concentrate instead on things like economic stimulus, healthcare, financial reform, and foreign policy.)

Obama’s strategy, in general, is to (a) use soothing rhetoric that acknowledges both sides in culture war issues, and (b) do his best to avoid taking substantive action on them. So far he’s managed it pretty well.