posted on: Thursday September 16, 2010
by Ewen Finser ’12 / Commentary Staff
Let’s face it, the culture wars of the Bush era and late ’90s are over. The Republican Party today is undergoing seismic shift. For some, this shift away from the traditional moral values platform may come as a severe shock. Our generation today – the generation that voted so overwhelmingly for Obama in a repudiation of George W. Bush – may find it hard to accept that the Republican Party that they have become accustomed to suspecting, dare I say hating, is not the party of bible-thumping Baptists any more. Realizing this new political reality may be akin to hearing that former Bush campaign manager and Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman…..is gay. The longtime Republican operative came out this past week in a bizarre transformation from an artful gay-baiter of the culture wars ilk to a 21st century reformed Republican realist. But what is really going on at the nitty-gritty, issues-based level? If the conservative movement is changing, what is a new era going to look like? The rise of the Tea Party movement has changed the game in many ways. For much of the late ’90s and early 2000s, some of the most active, impassioned, and consistent political operatives were the so-called values voters. Groups like Focus on the Family could mobilize droves of socially conservative voters and drive them to the polls come election time. For all intents and purposes, these activists were one-issue voters concerned with things like abortion, traditional marriage, and putting God back in the public square. The 2008 elections proved that “values voters” have finally lost their pivotal role. Out of this vacuum came the frenzied tea partiers with severe angst over rising levels of debt, stimulus funds for big banks, and a complicated re-organization of the healthcare system. The protesters who marched on Washington in droves (some estimates upwards of one million) almost a year ago to this date are a whole different breed of political activist. Most of these activists are new to the game, but they are in relative abundance and garner sympathy from socially moderate, fiscally conservative independents; a constituency none too pleased with the policies of George W. Bush.