On the heels of the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell" in the Senate, Walter Shapiro has an excellent column up today titled "Why Are Liberals Winning the Culture War and Losing the Tax Battle
Walter is, I think, spot-on when he gives credit (or blame, depending on your point of view) to the entertainment industry for contributing to the changing cultural attitudes about homosexuality.
As he writes: "An obvious guess [as to why attitudes have changed] is that these positions correspond with the world view of the entertainment industry. Whether it is gay rights, sexual permissiveness or just-say-yes attitudes on recreational drugs, Hollywood has long been at the barricades. . . . My hunch is that a poll of Hollywood would find about 98 percent support for gay marriage but a self-interested majority would object to higher taxes on those earning more than $250,000 per year."
For decades now, Hollywood has introduced American families to gay characters. There is little doubt this contributed to changing attitudes toward homosexuals. I found the following anecdote, which comes from the book "The Architect: Karl Rove and the Dream of Absolute Power
," very telling. It seems that when it came to researching which TV ads to purchase during the 2004 re-election, campaign strategist Matt Dowd's data
showed that Republicans, especially Republican women aged eighteen to thirty-four, liked Will & Grace, a program featuring a pair of gay characters. . . . The Bush campaign broadcast nearly five hundred commercials on Will & Grace during the presidential campaign. . . . The irony was not lost inside the campaign. While the president was reaching out to social conservatives by supporting a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, his ad team was buying commercials on a sitcom celebrating gay life.
It should be noted that "Don't ask, don't tell" would not have been repealed without the support of Republican
senators. Clearly Hollywood (as well as the music industry) has played a part in changing attitudes on a bipartisan scale.
Still, the notion that this change implies social conservatives have lost the culture wars troubles me. While Americans are clearly becoming more open to the gay issue and to legalization of marijuana, they are simultaneously becoming more pro-life
. (I have theories that might help explain this phenomenon, but we will have to leave that for another day and discussion.)
In short, I think it's premature to declare social conservatives the culture wars "losers"
They seem to have given ground on the gay issue, but gained it on the life issue.