Culture Bores


I have a new theory: 9/11 did change the country, but it only changed it by about 1%.

The media's line is that Bush's reelection turned on the culture war. I don't know whether that's true, but it's plausible; conservative Christians turned out in Ohio to vote against gay marriage, and that may have made the difference between a national victory for Bush and a national victory for Kerry. To judge from what I've been reading and hearing since Kerry conceded, this has set some left-liberals into a panic about evangelicals in the fever swamps trying to take away our freedoms.

They should calm down. Neither Ohio nor any of the other states that banned gay marriage this week enjoyed legal gay marriage before; the electorate merely reiterated the preexisting order. I'm sorry to see it happen, but it's not a dramatic development.

Once they're calm, those Democrats should take a look in the mirror. I hate the Red America/Blue America cliche, the whole idea that the country can be painted in just two colors. But if I had to speak in terms of that map, I'd say the most successful culture warriors come from the blue states. The dominant species of liberal doesn't just want to maintain the old taboos; it wants to introduce some new ones. For many Americans, the Democrats are the party that hates their guns, cigarettes, and fatty foods (which is worse: to rename a french fry or to take it away?); that wants to impose speed limits on near-abandoned highways; that wants to tell local schools what they can or can't teach. There is no party of tolerance in Washington—just a party that wages its crusades in the name of Christ and a party that wages its crusades in the name of Four Out Of Five Experts Agree. I say fie on both.

Here's an idea for liberals looking for a political project: Team up with some hard-core conservatives and make a push for states' rights and local autonomy. If you have to get the government involved in everything under the sun, do it on a level where you'll have more of a popular consensus. Aim for a world where it won't matter what Washington has to say about who can marry who and whether they can smoke after sodomy. Then, in 2008, the presidential election can turn on something national—like, say, foreign policy.

Update: Down in the comments, I'm informed that some of the anti-marriage measures could prohibit not just gay matrimony and civil unions, which did not already exist where they are now banned, but private domestic partnerships, which did. So the news is worse than I thought.