It’s The Culture, Stupid!

During Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, the “ragin’ Cajun” hung a huge sign in campaign headquarters proclaiming: It’s the Economy, Stupid!

That approach, focusing upon economic issues, was evidently a winner at the time. Right now, despite considerable economic turmoil and growing economic unfairness (Gilded Age #2, anyone?), that sign should probably read “It’s the Culture, Stupid!”

In fact, when I read reports about the suicidal stupidity of lawmakers at both the federal and state levels, I remind myself that they are fighting a rearguard battle–that changes in the culture have been “baked in” and will sooner or later make them irrelevant.

I don’t mean to minimize the harm these self-identified “Christian soldiers” can do in the meantime, nor am I suggesting that those of us who are appalled by mean-spirited attacks on everything from trans children to accurate history should take a vacation from activism. But I do believe that cultural change will win the day, and that most people who despair–young people, especially– fail to recognize just how rapid and profound such change has been.

Those of us who are older–okay, a lot older–have seen immense shifts in our own lifetimes. When I delivered a “Last Lecture” at my university, back in 2015, I pointed out that I’d lived through the Civil Rights movement, the women’s movement, the sexual revolution, the gay rights movement and truly explosive advances in technology, communication and transportation, all of which caused big shifts in public consciousness. Each shift has been accompanied by multiple less-remarked-upon, minor changes in our everyday lives. (Today you can wear jeans pretty much everywhere, and I haven’t seen a girdle in a very long time…)

What really brought the extent of cultural change home to me was research I’ve been doing for a book I’m co-authoring with Morton Marcus, who sometimes posts (usually sardonic) comments here. Morton and I have been friends for some thirty years, and our joint effort–titled “From Property to Partner”– traces women’s progress along that path. ( The book is in the last phase of copy-editing and will be available for purchase soon, at which time I will shamelessly urge you all to buy it.)

When women emerged from “barefoot and pregnant” status, we changed a number of cultural norms, and the extent of that change has been demonstrated in the reaction to the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs. 

Jennifer Rubin was one of the many pundits pleasantly surprised by the unanticipated reaction to that first-ever withdrawal of a Constitutional right.

Who could have guessed that preserving access to abortion would be such a unifying position?

Given how divided our country is, and how loud voices seeking to criminalize the procedure have become, one might not expect abortion bans to be so unpopular. Yet polling shows that support for abortion care is remarkably consistent.

 A recent report from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) finds, “Just under two-thirds of Americans (64%) say that abortion should be legal in most or almost all cases,” including 68 percent of independents. Only one-third say it should be illegal in most or almost all cases. Even among Republicans, 36 percent favor legal abortion. And the percentage of the party that favors banning all or most abortions has declined from 21 to 14 percent in just over a year.

In fact, majority support for abortion access cuts across gender, racial, ethnic, educational attainment and age lines. That support also spans most religious groups. The PRRI finds, “White evangelical Protestants (27%), Jehovah’s Witnesses (27%), Latter-day Saints (32%), and Hispanic Protestants (44%) are the only major religious groups in which less than half of adherents say that abortion should be legal in most or all cases.”

Unlike the many positions that divide Americans, support for reproductive rights is not limited to residents of Blue states. In  2018–before Dobbs— there were only seven states in which fewer than half of residents wanted abortion to be legal in most or all cases: South Dakota (42%), Utah (42%), Arkansas (43%), Oklahoma (45%), Idaho (49%), Mississippi (49%), and Tennessee (49%).

I don’t have access to surveys posing similar questions back in the 1950s, but I imagine the results would have been very different. (Not that women didn’t abort back then–they just didn’t abort safely. In my high school days, I was aware of at least two deaths of girls from botched terminations–as the saying goes, the law can’t prevent abortions, it can only prevent safe abortions.)

I’m sure the magnitude of the response to Dobbs came as a shock to the inhabitants of what I think of as “holdout communities”–the bubbles populated by men (and some women) determined to cling to the verities of a bygone society. Those folks need to brace themselves, because the culture has turned sour on plenty of their other pet issues.

And ultimately, culture prevails.


  1. How many Trump Republicans does it take to change a light bulb? None; they prefer staying in the dark ages.

    “Those of us who are older–okay, a lot older–have seen immense shifts in our own lifetimes.”

    I am older than Sheila; and probably, like me she began questioning in her childhood but not recognizing the need for many of those immense changes. As one of those considered to be a “privileged white” I questioned early on why the Catholics separated themselves from the rest of us and why we separated ourselves from the black neighbors two blocks away. We now watch the downshift to reverse the progressive changes to return to darker days of the culture of racism, bigotry, sexism and antisemitism. Yesterday’s blog about Artificial Intelligence (AI) has me questioning exactly what information is contained in the AI electronics that has allowed this to happen without an attempt to prevent it? Of what use is AI if government, or the public, could avail themselves of the vast supply of knowledge which must contain some answers and solutions to the chaotic Donald Trump takeover of the minds of the GOP and its staunch Republican supporters? The Trump MAGA White Nationalist and the Freedom Caucus supporters make up the culture of hate and violence; if Artificial Intelligence is so smart, let’s see some solutions to our dilemma in government today. Could the current chaos within the various cultures have been prevented or reversed? What are the holders of Artificial Intelligence waiting for?

    “And ultimately, culture prevails.” Sad but true!

  2. JoAnn – How many Republicans does it take to change a light bulb? None, so they won’t be ‘woke’.

    How many other last lines can folks contribute that follow Sheila’s guidelines for civility?

  3. These red-state warriors are puppets of the Koch express, so the topic should be economics, but the media diverts your eyes. The two provide a convenient distraction so you won’t march in the street like our French bros and sisters.

    In Arkansas (Walton family), they use teenagers in meatpacking plants—child labor. The media is more outraged with trans kids wrestling against other teen girls. So are the Razorback men and women.

    The ultimate problem is, while these nincompoops drag our country in a non-progressive direction with the help of the media, China and Russia are building alliances with the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the Global South. These must be taken seriously, but we have Koch idiots running interference. The Democrats are stuck in the pocket of the oligarchy and lining their pockets with our money.

    It’s always the economy first for the oligarchs. For those equating socialism with communism, think again. China is leading regional planning for the New World Order while the AUKUS demands war against China. It’s truly embarrassing!!

  4. You all know how I shout TAX THE CHURCHES, because they are the evildoers of this culture war. Let’s tax the Sh*t out of them so much that these small community buildings can be converted into clinics for women’s healthcare. We can get the doctors and nurses back into taking care of women like they should and we would not have them fearing for their lives and moving to states that provide care legally and safely. If there is an excess of buildings, we can turn them into daycare centers for all of these children and Teach them so that we don’t repeat this disastrous culture re-education. These warriors need to be defeated and we need to do this yesterday. Thanks for coming to my Ted talk.

  5. The Dobbs decision was a perfect example of what Republicans claim to abhor: Legislating from the Bench.

  6. Did anyone see the story of the teacher who was fired for showing her Renaissance Art class a picture of Michelangelo’s David? Back to the 16th century we go! That’s when the Catholics put a fig leaf over the statue’s junk? It took until the early 29th century to plainly see how insane that was, but here we are, 90 years later, inviting that insanity into our schools. Talk about one step forward and four centuries back!

  7. “Ultimately, culture prevails.” In the words of my favorite Alaskan governor: “you betcha”. Looking at millennials and Gens X/Y/Z, the good news is that they are very racially/ethnically tolerant. The bad news: narcissism, focus on their own/their tribes “brands”, libertarian values, digital addiction, lack of civic engagement (especially voting). IGIO.

  8. “Trump Arrested? Putin Jailed? Fake AI Images spread online.”
    “NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump getting gang-tackled by riot-gear-clad New York City police officers. Russian President Vladimir Putin in prison grays behind the bars of a dimly lit concrete cell.

    The highly detailed, sensational images have inundated Twitter and other platforms in recent days, amid news that Trump faces possible criminal charges and the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Putin.

    But neither visual is remotely real. The images — and scores of variations littering social media — were produced using increasingly sophisticated and widely accessible image generators powered by artificial intelligence.”

    The above is copied and pasted from an Associated Press release dated yesterday; “It’s The Culture, Stupid!” fits here. I received this news item on my cell phone and Googled the article. As if Trump’s lies aren’t enough that he would be arrested this past Tuesday, and to send money, netted him $1.5 MILLION more for his legal fees. Is Artificial Intelligence artificial, a new “culture” or just more lies accepted by the far right?

  9. Lester. What is it about libertarian values, which Sheila defined for us earlier this week, that you think is “bad news”?

  10. Sharon – “I can say anything, do anything as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone directly (or, if illegal, I am likely to get caught)”. Result? A “culture” of no standards, no ethics, no caring for others. ME, ME, ME….I decide.

  11. Lester. The libertarian principle, as stated by Sheila, IS an ethical standard and DOES take others into consideration.

  12. Culture wars. Sure. Even during our time of great peril at the beginning of WW II, it took Harry Truman’s Senate shaming committee to expose the profit raking of corporate America. The greed of the accountants/CEOs was profound: combat boots that came apart after a few wearings. Construction lumber left to rot in the rain because nobody hired workers to build barracks.

    It’s still the economy that drives the culture to a great extent. In this country, as long as we have Federalists on the SCOTUS, the CEOs will continue to fund cases to get their way. As long as the GOP still exists – its death throes now on TV daily – the backwardness and deregulation of banking will continue apace until Marx’s prophecy comes true.

    All the rest is bullshit. It’s about the Benjamins. Republicans are so totally and completely owned and operated by corporate/banking America (Sorry, Todd. The Democrats can’t compare to this abject corruption.) that they will continue to destroy the economy – and real freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution – until Marx’s prophecy comes true. Yes. I’m redundant, but it’s all the same pathway to self-destruction.

    And real Americans still vote for Republicans at over 90% while Democrats sit on their asses and have only 45+% vote. Well, it won’t be that long before there will no longer be honest elections if this “culture” keeps evolving.

  13. Sharon – I wasn’t referring to Sheila’s definition. The same word means different things to different people.

  14. JoAnn, I love that light bulb question!
    Sometimes the dark can be comforting, despite the lack of stimuli,
    or for some, because of it.
    Yes, the culture is changing…quickly, frighteningly quickly for some.
    Not smoothly, however.
    If we could get rid of gerrymandering, we would see a smoother transition,
    it seems, but gerrymandering is just what the Luddites among us love.

  15. I’m with Lester, and for the reasons, among others, he noted. We have graduated from prairie schooner economics of the libertarian caste where there was no one to hurt except the Indians. There are now some 332 million people from sea to shining sea available to be hurt and having libertarians such as terminal capitalists and politicians in high office who can barely contain their pretended love of democracy with their (per Lester) individual standards and ethics doesn’t cut it anymore. Perhaps there is room for “groupthink” these days.

    Political philosophy and indeed the concept of “freedom” itself are not immune to change, and not only because we have gone beyond some three plus million people scattered along the Atlantic Seaboard in 1776 to some 332 million today, but also because of the immense changes in the economic, scientific, social and political settings within which such changes have occurred. For instance, I would have been a Republican in Lincoln’s day but would not be a member of such a party today with its libertarian bent which allows one, for instance, to have an individual view on existential matters such as the environment and continued existence of the American state (see that party’s votes approving the 1/6 debacle).

    The Jeffersonian idea of democracy, i.e., that what one does or doesn’t do is fine so long as it doesn’t harm another was and is a good idea, but that entrusts such choice of what is harm to the individual in libertarian parlance today, and with melting icebergs, 1/6s, 8 billion people and counting, dictators both real and wannabe, etc., I think that Lester is on to something and that libertarian philosopy does not fit the realities of today.

  16. Culture wars are the low hanging fruit –its the bait and switch for the gullible, naïve and stupid. There are so many egregious bills coming forth from the state legislatures, it is really mind numbing.

    Agree, it is still the economy, stupid but the cultural crap is the bright shiny thing that the media chases as they know that generates the most clicks. A posting by Robert Reich does not generate the ‘outrage’ needed.

    I am working in an industry on the verge of collapse (healthcare), and you barely hear a peep on it unless you are reading industry articles. Public education is on the verge of collapse being further pushed by nuts who do not even have children in the schools.

    It really exhausting–no wonder on a daily basis the crisis calls on teens wanting to commit suicide have skyrocketed. Look at the mess

  17. Gerald and Lester: The original libertarian principle is a far cry from the Koch brothers version that the two of you (correctly) disdain. It basically provides that certain areas of individual life are–and must be– off-limits to government. If an individual is not harming the person or property of someone else, it’s none of government’s business–and government must honor an “equal liberty” to all. (Obviously, there are legitimate arguments about the nature of harms that justify legislation.) The term has been appropriated by people who want to “do their own thing” w/o regard for the common good.

  18. From an article today in The Guardian – something succinct down in the roots of American culture now and forward – digging deeper as the money divide sharpens:

    “Perhaps nothing confuses and bedevils Americans more than talking about class. It’s the thing we’re supposed to pretend doesn’t exist, doesn’t define us, doesn’t lay out the road map to our lives from birth. But we are a society organized by socioeconomic class and the intersection of racism and regionalism.”

  19. The Republican Party has been dragged by entertainers to being pure examples of hypocrisy, saying one thing to gather up political power and casting it into concrete while preaching rights, the diametric opposite.

    Why are mesmerized audiences not believing their own senses? They don’ wanna. Comfort is preferable to responsibility. Don’t talk to me about what I should be doing until this show is over.

  20. Wow,

    Deep today!

    As far as abortion goes, I would say that is a personal issue. If one’s conscience allows them to do it, who’s to ridicule that individual?

    I suppose in a way, it goes along with yesterday’s thread. The laws of robotics? The laws of man? Or the laws of scripture?

    Where do these overlap?

    One area would be, “Do no harm!”

    Human rights would cover all of these, even the laws of robotics! As we wouldn’t want artificial intelligence wiping out the human race.

    But most of humanity really doesn’t live by the ‘do no harm’ mantra. We easily murder each other, domestic violence is off the charts, the constant uptick every year in murdering children, mass shootings, disinformation on vaccines and medicines, the purposeful disinformation on birth control, it becomes more intense every year.

    Let’s face it, if there were no unwanted pregnancies, the only abortions would be because of medical reasons. There is no scriptural law against that. When it’s all said and done, it ends up to be a matter of conscience. The apostle Paul actually mention that when he stated, ‘whose conscience takes precedent?’ We all have to live by our own and not someone else’s.

    Sure there is a lot of fear out there, not just about one or two simple things, but about the speed of which change is occurring. Hide in the bed and pull the comforter over your head? Maybe bury your head in the sand? Not very practicable!

    I think the original Mosaic law was pretty good, and Jesus Christ actually mentioned this himself when he said to love God and love your neighbor, later on he said to love your enemy! If we actually practiced these things, the world would be a much better place.

    One would have to agree that these particular teachings of Christ reflected human rights and civil rights.

    With the advancement of information access, with typical human curiosity, any human can formulate a very informed opinion and outline concerning life. But we always inject the imperfect human element, disinformation, conspiracies and innuendo. Things that are not truthful but being passed off as settled truth. When people are lazy, when people decide to have a specific belief that is diametrically opposed to morality, compassion and empathy, it’s because they refuse to become self-enlightened by simple learning. Believe in some of what you see and none of what you hear, the grapevine is never truthful.

    I love to engage my fellow humans. In the store, in the park, on the pier, My wife says I’ve never met a stranger. That’s the way we learn. If we interact, we show respect, we practice restraint, compassion and empathy, we see that people are mostly just afraid, and when people are afraid, either they pull the blankets over there heads or they lash out. It’s because they have no hope, and even less faith!

    Stop the World, they want to get off!

  21. I strongly recommend reading “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson. I have never read any other book that makes so much sense. Ms. Wilkerson does an excellent job of defining the problem.

  22. Lester,

    Obama used class to win the nod against Hillary and then screwed voters. It created the rise in the Tea Party, and then MAGA. It’s populism, but they’re wrongly targeting the government because they believe we still have a democracy. Their view is too narrow!

    The Democrats are following the GOP down the same rabbit hole…

  23. John; your comments regarding the overlapping of laws reminded me of the court scene in “Inherit The Wind” when Spencer Tracy (defense) was trying to connect overlapping in Scripture and evolution showed Fredrick March (prosecution) a rock with an embedded fossil. He told March how old science stated the rock was and asked what he thought of that. March responded he preferred thinking more about “Rock of Ages” than the age of rocks; when Tracy again asked but what do you think about that. March replied he doesn’t think about the things he doesn’t think about, Tracy then asked “Do you think about the things you do think about?” That last question should be put to the Trump Republicans in the media reports and these investigations and hearings into their actions; so much of the information coming out is so colossally unbelievable that there could have not been any thought put into their actions, their answers or their foundation. These are unbelievable times for thinking people who research what they think about as well as what they are told and what they see in the media. As for AI and the cultural differences today; consider H.G. Welles’ science fiction writings which became reality and today are old news and have been surpassed by trips to the moon and to Mars and those who are wealthy enough to take their own trips into outer space and submarines which have traveled beneath the antarctic circle. Maybe culture prevails today but but which culture in today’s mix will prevail tomorrow and the tomorrows beyond that?

  24. If the legislature wasn’t so gerrymandered it might have a better sense of what’s going on with their constituents. Using authoritarian methods like skewing facts to control democracy is causing problems.
    I appreciate the direct insight of people like James Carvelle, Jennifer Rubin. Looking forward to reading “From Property to Partner” when released.

  25. JoAnn,

    “Do you think about the things you do think about?” Is the perfect question for Republican donors, entertainers, politicians and voters.

    Apparently the answer is, no, why do you ask?


    A problem so extensive that there’s no solution for the country is the most dystopian view I can imagine. Where does that assumption leave us?

  26. Once again, I am constrained to say that I believe the majority of Americans are compassionate, decent people. We go about our days doing compassionate, empathic things to make life better for all. We do not seek to impose our personal beliefs on others.

    There are many Christians in this country who share my belief that people are people are people exactly as it delights God to create us in all of our infinite variety of eye, hair, skin colors, height, etc etc. I personally am convinced that transgender people are created to teach us what true courage is.

    The RW gets the media attention by making loud noises and ever more outrageous suggestions that, IMO, the media should ignore instead of fueling the flames of the RW’s embrace of evil.

    Just this morning alone I read that in Utah there is a suggested bill that would label the Bible as pornography because of its references to many things including dildoes and fellatio. Having read the Bible in its entirety several times, and having studied it academically in both college and seminary, I can say with certainty that there are no references to dildoes and fellatio anywhere in the Bible.

    I also read that Republican women politicians in Idaho have voted against providing girls with free menstrual supplies. My assumption is that Republican males (I can’t call them men) have brainwashed Republican females (I can’t call them women) into Stepford females.

    Access to safe abortion has never been the issue. The issue is to control all women of child-bearing years, forcing women to give birth to unwanted babies. I suspect it is a reaction of panic to the expected decline of white Americans as the majority demographic in the USA in 2045 or so. Of course, this will backfire as white Americans are not the only ones who will give birth. Other ethnicities are also denied safe abortion rights.

  27. What terrifies me the most about the Dobbs decision and the culture war is the fact that the women who will be denied their rights are the ones who are already uneducated and in poverty, who are being forced to bring a new life into their poverty and squalor; thereby condemning it to perpetuate the cycle of ignorance.

    I say that because the educated women already know how to avoid pregnancy, and do. In case of accident they also have the economic means to get rid of the problem, thereby avoiding the consequences.

    The long term result is that those of us who are intelligent enough to read and respond to blogs like this one are, like dinosaurs, blissfully walking into oblivion because we aren’t reproducing while forcing the ignorant to bring more ignorance into the world.

    (Yes, it is both elitist and dystopian!)

  28. Just to emphasize, Libertarians, as Sheila defines them, worry about climate change, because it harms others; they believe in masks and vaccinations, because they want to protect others; and they believe in equality for all of humanities variety, because they don’t want to harm others.’

    Let’s call the Ayn Randian Libertarians what they truly are – selfish jerks (trying to pick the nicest term).

    Lester, not every one of today’s youth are selfish jerks and thanks for reminding me that I am not as much the curmudgeon as I sometimes think. 8)>
    Note – I do appreciate your comments – you are on my “read” list – I also have a “don’t have time to bother with” list

  29. Peggy – you reminded me of John Ashcroft covering the statues in the Department of Justice building – these people have been with us for a while

  30. You know what JoAnn,

    Firstly, I’m sorry I didn’t read your comment earlier. I got busy with my disabled father-in-law & that whole issue.

    Anywho, I find it interesting that those who believe in creationism think that the earth was created in 6 days. Six literal 24-hour days. The fossil evidence proves that that is not the case. The fact that we have coal and oil that has been created from dead animals and plants, the same with natural gas, the same with the tectonic plates forming mountains and valleys. I mean, it’s obvious there have been specific time periods which has been proven by science. Some hundreds of millions or billions of years per time period! The Cretaceous period and the Jurassic period to name two. These are Epochs. These Epochs are extensively expansive lengths of time.

    As scripture talks about those six days, it’s talking about the creation of the world. If one actually read it completely.

    Nowhere does the Bible claim that everything was created in 6 24-hour days, that’s ridiculous, that’s a falsehood, and that’s something that was invented by radical elements to use for control.

    So, we have polarized ends of this magnet we call humanity. A positive polarity and a negative polarity. But what about the middle of the magnet? Well the middle of the magnet is neutral! That’s where both ends kind of meet in the middle so to speak. There’s no repulsion or attraction, just stability.

    Common sense and the willingness to keep an open mind about issues can be an enlightening feeling. I was taught very very early in life that there were no dinosaurs running around with humans, and there were no 6-24-hour days for creation.

    I don’t necessarily believe anything Darwin has to say about evolution, because that theory has changed quite a bit over the years if you really go back and look. But he was right about adaptation, animals adapt. Animals that are of the same species but live in different environments, adapt in different ways. The survival of the ones who can adapt probably look different than the ones in another environment. Longer necks, shorter necks, longer beaks shorter beaks, thicker fur or thinner fur, longer feathers, shorter feathers, different colors of feathers and scales or skin, because the predators would dictate which animal could get away and be camouflaged. Look at a litter of cats, in that litter, there might be four or five different patterns on a cat, now say a dog couldn’t see one of those patterns, but attacked and killed all the other kittens but one. That one kitten would pass its genetics on to others, and those that were born with the color scheme or camouflage that would protect it, would survive. It’s the same with all of the others mentioned above. Adaptation is different from new species.

    Just a question, there are no more Chromagnon men or Neanderthals, but, there are still a whole bunch of chimpanzees and apes. So I’m wondering, why those didn’t die out also? I’ve had individuals try to explain it, but, it hasn’t been done even remotely in a satisfactory way.

    Just sayin 🦖🦕

  31. John; the time factor was what Spencer Tracy’s character was trying to prove to Fredrick March’s character; my point was to get to the question “Do you ever think of the things you do think of.” March’s character also stated that Bishop Ussher used chronology proved the earth was created on October 22, 4004 BC. The argument about the time factor of 6 24 hour days is an old one between those who take the Bible literally and those who do “Think about the things we do think about.”

    The movie “Inherit the Wind” is timely today; as is the Scopes “Monkey Trial” in Tennessee in, I believe 1922. You stated you “don’t necessarily believe anything Darwin has to say about evolution, because that theory has changed quite a bit over the years if you really go back and look.” Those changes you refer to are the meaning of evolution.

  32. Mea culpa, my misquote of my own quote “Do you ever think ABOUT the things you do think ABOUT?”

    It’s early and I haven’t had my coffee yet.

  33. CGH makes a good point about abortion, that people with means can get them even when they’re illegal for everyone else. When I was in college in the 1970s, my friend got a safe, illegal abortion because her father was a doctor. I don’t believe I would choose abortion for myself, but I want others with different beliefs and needs to have that option. Safely.

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