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Will the Culture Wars Return Under Obama?

5 years ago
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After winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to global concord, President Obama may face his fiercest battles for tranquility at home. Under his administration, could the culture wars be reignited with renewed intensity?

Obama was ushered into the White House by a diverse coalition of voters; some of those voters had, at one time, taken opposing sides in the cultural wars. Some of those constituents who entered the Obama tent to elect him now worry whether the president will satisfy their interests.

For example, many gays view Obama's pledge to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" military policy as just that, only a pledge. They say that by not establishing a timeline to repeal the policy, Obama is not responding to their needs fast enough. As Matthew Yglesias noted in the Daily Beast:

On the campaign trail, Obama was clearly committed to ending discrimination in the military. "We're spending large sums of money to kick highly qualified gays or lesbians out of our military," he observed, "some of whom possess specialties like Arab-language capabilities that we desperately need." Ever since the New Year, however, Obama and his team have been slow-walking the implementation of their promise.

Meanwhile, shifts have taken place nationally. According to the God and Country Blog in U.S. News & World Report, a recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 49 percent of the public believes that homosexuality is morally wrong. That same Pew survey shows more Americans comfortable with gay civil unions, while another Pew finding indicates that support for abortion rights has "slipped," another fixture-issue in the culture wars. Obama supports abortion rights.

A Gallup poll also recently reported that "Americans now show a clear preference for the government's promoting of 'traditional values,' a change from recent years, when the public's views were more divided, but a return to the prevailing view from 1993 through 2004."

The shift, Gallup says, "comes primarily from the political middle. Independents' views show a dramatic turnaround, from a 55%-37% split against government-promoted morality last year to a 54%-40% division in favor of it today. By contrast, Republicans' and Democrats' views have been relatively stable, with the former solidly in favor of the government promoting traditional morality, and a majority of the latter opposed."

Although much of the political narrative so far has focused on critics from the far right who wish for Obama's presidential failure (and worse), could the real story be the alienation that might increasingly occur between the president and the assortment of voters who put him in office?

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