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Opinion | Republicans aren't the only ones who can play cultural warriors

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Suddenly, Democrats don’t have to moderate or defend culture, they can happily do anything about raising the corporate tax rate or Medicare for All.

This has always been an illusion, and indeed, the Democrats are regaining their footing in the midterm elections with a completely opposite approach.

Over the past few months, the Republican Party has used a variety of issues to launch a culture war to beat the Republican Party. While Republicans across the country are desperately trying to keep their focus on the ultimate kitchen table concern, inflation, Democrats are one of the most controversial issues in American politics. Insist on talking about abortion. There is a good reason for that.

It cheers Democratic voters and scares Republicans.

Back in July, I was skeptical of the idea Dobbs It will have a big impact on the midterm elections, but there was clearly a difference.

Anti-abortion opponents suffered a fiasco in the Kansas referendum in early August. From a progressive perspective, it turns out that there is nothing in Kansas that can’t be cured by fighting off the poorly crafted ballot measure that has stirred up massive Democratic voter turnout. Since then, Republicans outside the deepest red area have continued to retreat in earnest, either trying to avoid the topic or readjusting it on the fly.

Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters has rewritten his campaign website to soften his position.In fact, before the insouciant maximalistDobbsthe primary position on abortion, which he shifted to make the gradualist postDobbsGeneral Election Position on Abortion.

He now argues that abortion is a media-driven act that distracts from more important issues such as inflation.

Not just miscarriages.Drawn by Democrats Dobbs As a threat to a range of “privacy rights” issues, from birth control pills to interracial and gay marriage. Democrats in the Senate hope to make Republicans writhe on the last of these in a vote on the federal codification of gay marriage that will split the Republican caucuses just before the midterm elections.

Even Joe Biden’s focus on Donald Trump, a transparent tactic to steer the midterm debate in a more favorable direction, has a cultural component.

Biden’s lawsuit against his predecessor is shrouded in rhetoric of defense of democracy and threats of electoral denial, but ultimately Trump is the country’s greatest cultural lightning rod. For both, the most important thing about Trump is that he stands for a set of values. Represents intellectualism, protean strength or threat to rule, credulity or undirected demagogy.

Indeed, suburban women who seem to be backtracking on Democrats’ ways think Trump is a hateful figure.

Cultural issues have never been inherently vulnerable to Democrats. It has always depended.

They are strongest when they can express their position as a logical extension of individual autonomy and choice, similar to abortion and gay marriage.

When their positions conflict with strongly held community values ​​such as patriotism and legitimacy, when their positions reflect the priorities of a few uncontacted elites (e.g., the term ‘Latin’ promotion of adoption), or take the Hectoring tone.

The past few months should underscore, if doubted, the legitimacy of culture war politics.

Cultural issues are especially powerful because they involve conflicting values ​​and fundamental questions about who we are as people. They are “fragmentary” in nature. People go deep and are emotionally involved on both sides. It’s a cultural issue in the first place. And they almost always involve identifying the insider threats that must be defended in beleaguered constituencies.

Republicans are not without their own cultural issues in this campaign. They want to talk about borders, crime and transgender issues. But what they overwhelmingly want to focus on is the economy. As usual, it looms incredibly large. Part of Biden’s slight recovery in the polls is apparently due to somewhat weaker gas prices and inflation.

But Republicans, as Democrats have proven over the years, cannot simply talk or hope for the cultural pitfalls of their party. It needs to be established, and we need to avoid falling into the trap of litigating Trump’s myriad conflicts with Biden and the Justice Department as much as possible.

Using cultural issues to your advantage to complain to the other side may provide some satisfaction, but having effective answers is much better.