The Phony War on American Culture

Bereft of an economic program, Republicans turn to social values, beliefs, and prejudices to gain votes and turn the clock back on the change that accompanies society’s development. The GOP can no longer convince a majority of voters to support tax cuts for the rich, eliminating government regulations and cutting programs for the poor. In desperation, they are conducting a war on changing American values.

Powerful and wealthy interests discovered that rural people fear the social changes that replace the white Christian power structure with more open, inclusionary, equal, and forward-looking values that attempt to fulfill American ideals. A new set of values accepts gays, different ethnicities, business regulations to protect our health and environment, food, education, housing assistance, and the equal distribution of our economic surplus.

The world changes as America’s great melting pot absorbs immigrants, young people, women, and tries to prevent discrimination based on skin color. They reject being ruled by a closed white, male power infrastructure. People no longer accept being dictated to by the color of their skin, sexual preference, cultural choice, or other incidental characteristics—and demand to share power.

When GOP billionaires, the Koch network, Fox News, and smaller state and local elites began to lose power, they pandered to traditional religious, business, and rural prejudices to gain support. Politicians like Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Marco Rubio, and Marjorie Taylor Greene cashed in. They exemplify politics that clings to the past and resist change. They cherry-pick the most radical, out-of-the-mainstream behavior and language for campaigns that promote elite corporate and business interests to amass power and take a larger share of national wealth.

Their made-up “culture war” focuses on changing values and diverts attention from everyday concerns about medical care, paychecks, and standard of living. Instead of asking why the government doesn’t guarantee education and health care, they conceal how, sometimes in concert with Democrats, they distribute economic surplus into their own pockets. A perfect illustration is the 470 state anti-gay bills the GOP is trying to pass, which diverts attention away from GOP demands to cut aid for education, housing, and environmental protection. They increase military spending and ignore the GOP gift to the rich when they passed Trump’s tax cuts.

This strategy shifts focus from worker rights, pay increases, housing costs, and medical care to disguise their efforts to keep profits high and shrink government power to allow the wealthy to control the country. They use language such as “woke” to label anything threatening their power and authority. By connecting cultural changes to gay marriage and teaching the American history of institutional racism, they shift emphasis away from issues such as Trump’s rapes and molestation of women, stiffing contractors, lying about his taxes, demonizing minorities, and promoting violence and insurrection. It likewise obscures their continual demands to cut taxes, deregulate, and shrink government.

Consider how gender is one focus of their culture war campaign. Transgender people hardly affect our personal lives, despite the Republican campaigns to make it a voting issue. In America, only 1.3 million adults and 300,000 children identify as transgender out of a population of 332 million. Only 36 transgender athletes compete in college sports that include over half a million participants. Yet the Republican legislature in Kansas recently banned transgender girls from female high school sports, despite having only three transgender girls out of 41,00 competing in the state. Indeed, they should be respected and accommodated in some way. Yet, GOP legislators are considering a flood of bills to restrict transgender behavior, flooding email boxes with requests for donations, blasting isolated events on Fox News, and making them campaign issues.

The GOP’s phony culture war is a temper tantrum orchestrated to blame everything on Biden and the Democrats, a simple hate campaign that reminds us of playground rivalries and dictatorships like the USSR and Nazi Germany. At the same time, these attempts are real and divert people’s attention from the everyday issues and reforms that affect our lives. As for culture: It’s changing—religion, ethnicity, immigrants, sexuality, age, and attitudes. The GOP cannot stop change.

Don Monkerud is an California-based writer who follows cultural, social and political issues. He is the author of America Unhinged: Politics and Pandemic in the 2020 Election (2021). He can be reached at: Read other articles by Don.