The Culture Wars Are Ending. Here’s What’s On the Other Side

Manhattan New York
View of Madison Square Park in Manhattan, New York (Unsplash/Daryan Shamkhali)

In 1967, Timothy Leary told the Human Be-In of San Francisco’s Gate Park to “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” It was a high point for counterculturalism, a crescendo of anti-establishment, anti-centrism that exploded into antiwar protests, race riots, civil rights marches and an definitive end of America’s 1950s cultural high.

It wasn’t the beginning of the twentieth’s century’s culture wars, but it was the point by which it was impossible to ignore they were ongoing. They first stirred somewhere in the 1950s in the backrooms of Beatnik poetry slams and the road warrioring of juvenile delinquents as postwar youth experimented with the edges of their humanity in the safety of a democratic superpower’s economic boom. Read more “The Culture Wars Are Ending. Here’s What’s On the Other Side”

Trump’s Ban: Alternative Facts Create Real-Life Policy

Businessman Donald Trump appears at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump appears at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

Donald Trump has always had a difficult relationship with the truth. His sheer volume of daily falsehoods overwhelms an unprepared news media — and buries unsavory stories which the Republican would prefer to keep hidden.

Trump even manages to construct entire narratives via a steady diet of alternative facts delivered to his supporters.

This weekend, we saw something new: For the first time, those falsehoods came together to generate, enact and justify policy. Read more “Trump’s Ban: Alternative Facts Create Real-Life Policy”

Merkel Proposes to Ban the Burqa: Why and Why Now?

German chancellor Angela Merkel addresses her parliament in Berlin, September 14, 2012
German chancellor Angela Merkel addresses her parliament in Berlin, September 14, 2012 (Bundesregierung/Guido Bergmann)

Angela Merkel’s proposal to ban the burqa has caught some of her foreign admirers by surprise.

A headline at the left-leaning Vox reads, “Germany’s famously tolerant chancellor just proposed a burqa ban,” implying it is both intolerant and out of character for Merkel.

Vox is right when it argues the timing is political. Merkel recently announced she will seek a fourth term as chancellor next year and is facing criticism of her immigration policy from the right.

But this is not an about-face. If anything, her open-doors immigration policy was. Read more “Merkel Proposes to Ban the Burqa: Why and Why Now?”

Muslim Registry Would Require Investigation of Thought Crimes

Visitors wait in line outside the Islamic Institute of Orange County, California, October 17, 2010
Visitors wait in line outside the Islamic Institute of Orange County, California, October 17, 2010 (IIOC)

As the Trump transition rolls along, the infamous “Muslim ban” has returned to the forefront.

It all started on December 7, 2015, when then-candidate Donald Trump spoke to supporters after the San Bernardino mass shooting. He advocated a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” This proposal is still on his website.

It has been willfully forgotten or explained away since, but the fact remains: Trump’s first instinct was to call for a Muslim ban of indeterminate length.

It doesn’t stop there. Even in July, Trump said his plan had undergone an “expansion” and would bar individuals from places “compromised by terrorism.” This includes NATO allies like France and Germany. They “totally” meet this definition, Trump said, because they “allowed people to come into their territory.” Read more “Muslim Registry Would Require Investigation of Thought Crimes”

Obama Should Tyrant-Proof the Presidency

Barack Obama Mohammad Ashraf Ghani
Presidents Barack Obama of the United States and Mohammad Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan deliver a news conference at the White House in Washington DC, March 24, 2015 (White House/Chuck Kennedy)

Parents of small children child-proof a new house before moving in. Barack Obama should tyrant-proof the White House before moving out, argues Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic.

With Donald Trump leading in the polls to win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, the imperative to limit executive power is all the more pressing. Read more “Obama Should Tyrant-Proof the Presidency”

Supreme Court’s Reputation Cannot Weigh Against Liberty

Facade of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington DC
Facade of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington DC (Shutterstock/Brandon Bourdages)

It’s an odd thing to be forced to pay for something you disagree with. It’s worse to be told it must stay that way for the sake of somebody else’s reputation.

Yet that is what the left-leaning justices on America’s Supreme Court are saying. Read more “Supreme Court’s Reputation Cannot Weigh Against Liberty”

Hungary Cites Migrant Crisis for Draconian Measures

Viktor Orbán
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán arrives for a meeting with other European People’s Party leaders, December 13, 2012 (EPP)

Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party introduced legislation this week that, if enacted, would further weaken the Central European nation’s democracy.

From making it easier for soldiers to use force and enabling police to conduct searches without warrants to enlisting telecom companies in the collection of bulk phone data, the new laws seem more becoming of a police state than a European republic.

Given that Fidesz has an absolute majority in parliament, the bills are almost certain to pass, possibly as early as Friday.

The government claims the measures are needed to cope with a swelling migrant crisis that is seeing tens of thousands of asylum seekers pass through the country this year on their way to Germany and Scandinavia.

Some of the policies, such as making it easier to imprison migrants without papers and prosecuting those who help them, clearly are linked to the record high influx of people from the Balkans and the Middle East. Read more “Hungary Cites Migrant Crisis for Draconian Measures”

Data Surveillance Debate Heats Up Again in Senate

Skyline of Washington DC at dawn
Skyline of Washington DC at dawn (Shutterstock/Orhan Cam)

Last fall, reformers of the surveillance system run by America’s National Security Agency were dealt a tough blow. After extensive negotiations between lawmakers, concessions granted from the intelligence community, agreement with telecommunications companies and a political environment in Washington that was conducive to eliminating the bulk collection of telephone metadata by the government, reform advocates were unable to defeat a Republican filibuster to proceed in the Senate. The USA Freedom Act — which would have transferred the storage of metadata from the government to private telecoms — was just two votes shy of the sixty votes needed to break the filibuster.

Undeterred, those pushing for changes in how the NSA picks up data on ordinary Americans are trying to get the issue back on the agenda. Read more “Data Surveillance Debate Heats Up Again in Senate”

Republicans Are Learning to Live with Gay Marriage

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27 (Gage Skidmore)

As America’s Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday on the constitutionality of gay marriage, Politico reported that many of the Republican Party’s contenders for the presidential nomination have struck a far less divisive tone on the issue than they did in the past. While they continue to tell social conservatives they oppose marriage equality, “It’s getting harder to believe them,” according to the political news website.

Republicans are struggling with one of 2015’s first cultural litmus tests, not wanting to offend social conservatives, a dominant force, especially in Iowa and South Carolina, or to upset the [Republican Party]’s donor class that’s increasingly pushing candidates to better align their position with the nation’s broader, rapidly changing electorate.

Last year, support for gay marriage reached 55 percent nationwide, according to the polling organization Gallup. That is up from just 40 percent in 2008, the year Barack Obama was elected president.

Even more tellingly, 63 percent of Americans now say gay couples should have the right to adopt children. The last time Gallup asked the question, in 2007, 50 percent of Americans said they shouldn’t.

Support for gay rights is strongest among Americans under the age of thirty. 73 percent of them say gay marriage should be legal while only 42 percent of pensioners agree.

This is a dilemma for both major parties. Democrats and Republicans who turn out to vote in presidential primary elections tend to be older and socially more conservative. This is especially true for Republicans whose primary electorate largely overlaps with the 45 percent of Americans who still oppose marriage equality.

Hence the candidates’ hedging on the issue. When Senator Ted Cruz, a firebrand from Texas, spoke with wealthy donors in New York City last week, he said he would love his daughter “just as much” if she were a gay. A few days later, he asked supporters in the early-voting state Iowa to pray with him that the Supreme Court wouldn’t rule in favor of gay marriage.

Jeb Bush, the former governor or Florida, Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, and Marco Rubio, a junior senator who declared his candidacy earlier this month, have all said they would attend the weddings of gay friends. Yet all three insist they don’t want to change the definition of marriage.

Outright supporting gay rights may be a bridge too far for even socially moderate Republicans like Bush and Rubio — for now. But the party knows it has to change.

A report commissioned by the Republican National Committee after Mitt Romney was defeated by Obama in 2012 recognized that “there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the party is a place they want to be.”

Gay marriage may not be a winning issue for Republicans but it is becoming a losing issue. If they want to remain competitive in national elections, they must appeal to the growing segment of the population that doesn’t care to continue to discriminate against gays.

The Supreme Court might just do those Republicans who agree a favor if it rules for gay marriage in June. If the highest court declares gay marriage legal, there won’t be much point in continuing to fight it.

Sarkozy Seeks to Outflank French Nationalists

Nicolas Sarkozy
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy attends a meeting of European conservative party leaders in Brussels, March 19 (EPP)

French conservative party leader Nicolas Sarkozy has lurched to the right, declaring his opposition to Muslim students wearing headscarfs in public universities and calling on high schools to stop serving halal meals.

In doing so, the former president, who staged a political comeback last year, outdid Marine Le Pen’s National Front, which is neck and neck with his party in polls for local elections this month.

The Front, well-known for its aggressively secular and anti-immigrant platform, had hesitated to call for banning halal meals from public schools, but it quickly endorsed Sarkozy’s proposal. Read more “Sarkozy Seeks to Outflank French Nationalists”