Ruy Teixeira co-authored The Emerging Democratic Majority with John Judis in 2002, a time when many analysts were predicting Republican dominance for decades to come. He has now penned a new report for the Center for American Progress entitled “The Coming End of the Culture Wars.” His thesis is backed up by the same kind of compelling demographic analysis that formed the basis for his book.
The crux of Teixeira’s argument is that shifting trends in the make-up of our population are leading the country to be less susceptible to conservative talking points. The same factors that have finally ended Republican control in Washington will also end the culture wars. Here are some examples:
- Generally speaking, young people are culturally liberal, showing strong support for gay marriage, religious tolerance, and immigration. They also understand intuitively that races and the sexes are equal. The arguments advanced by the likes of Pat Buchanan (who famously called for a culture war at the 1992 Republican National Convention) and James Dobson just don’t interest them. And as young people increasingly become part of the voting population, the culture wars will lose their politically potentcy.
- The white working class represents a smaller share of the electorate than it used to. Meanwhile, the share of white college graduates (who tend to be more culturally progressive) is rising.
- Groups like single women, college-educated progressionals, and non-Christians (including the unreligious) are expanding rapidly. Indeed, Teixeira says secular voters are “the fastest growing ‘religious’ group in the United States.”
Of course, the religious right hasn’t thrown in the towel. As Dan Gilgoff reports today in U.S. News, the Christian conservatives of old are in re-branding mode — hoping to reinvigorate their cause by softening their image. Rick Warren is winning a lot more hearts and minds these days than they are, and they want a piece of that action. But as I’ve written before, this effort does not involve any substantive changes in the religious right’s platform. It’s just the same old right-wing agenda. The main difference seems to be that it’s offered with a smile — a forced one at that — rather than a scowl.
So if the culture wars are ending, they’re not ending with a bang. More like a whimper.
Jesse Lava also blogs at jesselava.com.