Andrew Sullivan links to Damon Linker, who doesn’t think the “culture war” is going to end:
I’m all for trying to undercut the political salience of culture-war issues. And I think symbolic gestures like these* can be a very effective way to achieve this goal. But we need to be clear that keeping the religious right out of political power (by stealing the votes of its more moderate members) is not the same thing as ending the culture war. Indeed, the core of the religious right might very well respond to political impotence by becoming even more radical and more committed to its causes.
As I see it, he’s missing the point, even while underscoring it. What Obama signifies is not the removal of the religious right, but its irrelevance. If Obama can indeed keep “the religious right out of political power (by stealing the votes of its more moderate members)”, then Tony Perkins and James Dobson simply don’t matter anymore, however much they splutter.
It strikes me that this is relevant on a number of polarizing axes. If Obama is successful at gaining popular support for common-ground, bipartisan, results-driven (as opposed to agenda-driven) actions for the common good, then not only will he “steal votes” from those in power within the religious right, but he will also undermine the domination of authoritarians of all stripes – whether Rush Limbaugh or Osama bin Laden. (No, I’m not equating the two.)
This is the same phenomena that we saw a couple days ago with Obama’s first public interview on al-Arabiya:
Q: How concerned are you and — because people sense that you have a different political discourse. And I think, judging by (inaudible) and
Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden and all these, you know — a chorus –
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I noticed this. They seem nervous.
Q: They seem very nervous, exactly. Now, tell me why they should be more nervous?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that when you look at the rhetoric that they’ve been using against me before I even took office –
Q: I know, I know.
THE PRESIDENT: — what that tells me is that their ideas are bankrupt. There’s no actions that they’ve taken that say a child in the Muslim world is getting a better education because of them, or has better health care because of them.
Obama is gaining well-deserved popular respect and support, despite the disapproval and grandstanding of the Authoritarians.
* He’s referring to Obama postponing his revocation of the “global gag rule” on abortion until the day after the Roe v. Wade anniversary.