Why The Right Won’t Win The Culture War

The term “culture war” is shorthand for the increasingly frantic effort of America’s White Christian Nationalists to turn back the clock–to return “uppity” women and Blacks to their prior, subordinate positions, stuff LGBTQ citizens back in the closet, and make it clear that respect for “religion” extends only to Christians (and really just certain Protestants).

The ferocity with which they are waging that battle can make our lives chaotic and dangerous. Bizarre accusations leveled at school boards and teachers are accompanied by voucher programs intended to destroy the schools that create a democratic polity; rogue Courts ignore longstanding jurisdictional rules in order to accommodate anti-gay religious bigotry; a contingent of Congressional mental cases has now gone beyond their effort to defund the FBI by refusing to fund the military if the Pentagon doesn’t eliminate what they call its “woke” policies.

Rational people are understandably depressed and/or frightened.

I don’t know who first uttered the phrase “this too shalll pass,” but it definitely applies to the culture warriors’ current eruption of fear and hate. What we are seeing is a tantrum triggered by subconscious recognition that the America they are fighting so hard to prevent is inevitable.

Why do I say it’s inevitable? Because it is already here.

A few months ago, I was asked to speak to a local church’s Sunday school class about anti-Semitism. It was a good discussion (they were members of a denomination that I categorize as actually Christian), and as I was leaving, a lovely lady stopped me to say she’d appreciated the conversation, because her grandchildren are Jewish.

She has a lot of company. A 2020 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 42% of all currently married Jewish respondents had a non-Jewish spouse. (I’m obviously one of them–in case you were confused, Kennedy is not a Jewish name.) For that matter, the high rate of Jewish intermarriage is of great concern to the Rabbinate and to Jewish organizations; to the extent intermarriage reduces the number of people identifying as Jewish, we may disappear entirely. After all, there weren’t that many of us to start with.

Of course, it isn’t just inter-religious marriage. It’s also interracial and same-sex unions.

America is experiencing the demographic “mixing”that so terrified Southern slaveholders (at least, when they weren’t engaging in some of that “mixing” themselves, with slaves who couldn’t refuse…) The most recent data I could find from the U.S. Census Bureau was from 2019; at that time, about 11% of all marriages in the United States were interracial. Even more significantly, in 2021, according to Axios, approval of interracial marriage in the U.S. hit a new high of 94%, according to Gallup polling.

The article noted that the prevalence of intermarriage continues to increase. In 1967, when Loving v. Virginia was decided, just 3% of married couples were interracial. In 2021, Pew estimated it at 20%.

Numbers and percentages can change, depending upon the definitions used, but whatever the “accurate” percentages, the rate of demographic inter-mingling continues to rise, and to affect the social context within which increasing numbers of Americans live.

It isn’t just increased acceptance of opposite-sex intermarriage. A poll conducted by the Trevor Project found that two-thirds of American adults report personally knowing someone who identifies as gay or lesbian, and nearly two-thirds of them (62%) said they would be comfortable if their child came out to them as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.(Only 13% would not be comfortable–a huge change from past attitudes.) Approval of same-sex marriage is now at 71%.

Dobbs was also too late to re-stigmatize abortion. Researchers tell us that one in four American women have terminated a pregnancy at some point in their lives. Gallup tells us that 85% of American women support reproductive choice–and that 45% would impose no restrictions on the procedure.

We now live in a society in which a not-insignificant number of older White Christians have Jewish, Black, Latino or gay grandchildren. Some number of those people react by rejecting those grandchildren, but a larger number will fight for a world that treats them fairly.

It isn’t just our friends and families. Increasing numbers of Americans go to jobs every day where their colleagues and co-workers are “diverse.” We have doctors and lawyers and CPAs who come from backgrounds different from our own.–and increasing numbers of those doctors, lawyers and CPAs are female.

In short, the world has moved on, and most of us prefer its current contours to the bigotries and caste-like social structures of the past. The exceptions are very angry and very loud, and they can do a lot of short-term harm. But their time has passed–and the tantrums they are throwing are evidence that–deep down–they know it.


  1. Professor-excellent message. Thank you. However, you ended a sentence with a preposition.

  2. Add to all this the current rage in finding our roots, aka genealogy, as in my family’s case discovering the true story of our great, great, grandfather. He wasn’t just from Germany; he was from Prussia. He wasn’t a Protestant. He was Jewish; his last name was Loeb. He was conscripted into the Prussian Army and fought in the battle of Waterloo. After the war he returned to his village, knocked up the Catholic girl from the next village, was forced to be baptized, change his name and marry the girl. Four children later his wife died. The Protestants never wanted him to begin with, the Jews didn’t want him and his brood of Catholic children back, so he backed up the bunch of them and came to America. When they got off the boat they were neither Jewish nor Catholic. They were free thinkers.
    And so we learn the truth of our own history…and move the country’s and our lives along toward a better understanding of who and what we are. Beautiful!

  3. “In short, the world has moved on, and most of us prefer its current contours to the bigotries and caste-like social structures of the past.”

    But; unless and until the media doesn’t interrupt their current 24/7 Trump as the only news more often; we will lose sight of the “current contours” which are being left in the shadows of our hard fought for civil rights which are becoming part of our past. Pray God he doesn’t have a gas attack or we will be notified fart-by-fart of his condition.

    Amazing family history, Theresa, and one to be proud of.

  4. Theresa, you made a great point!

    I wonder if many people who hold strong “cultural beliefs” are willing to explore their family history. According to Gallup surveys, there is a growing minority of people who reject racism and bigotry. Those who spew hateful rhetoric in public spaces face physical consequences, as society becomes less tolerant of their behavior.

    The number of mixed marriages has increased significantly, leading to multiple generations with diverse backgrounds. Racists should be cautious about where they express their offensive views, as they may unintentionally offend someone nearby. As the Professor mentioned earlier, they are likely aware of these risks and resent their current position.


  5. I am one half of an interracial marriage. We will celebrate 18 years together in December. I was afraid that my racist siblings wouldn’t care for him, but once they met him, they realized that he was the best partner I had ever selected before. People can come around, even those that claim they aren’t racist because they have a black friend. The only time we have ever faced blatant racism was at the state fair grounds in Indy. I was holding hubby’s hand and a white couple walking toward us made me notice the guys face looking at us with complete and utter disgust. I could almost read his mind. What is that white woman doing with an Asian Indian? I scowled at him and kept walking never mentioning it to my hubby. He claims to never have experienced racism but I admit, he’s not the most observant person I know. He probably missed it.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is “you know it when you see it.”

  6. My friends Flo (black) and Ralph (white) could not be married here in Indianapolis in the 1960s; they, like many Indiana mixed couples, traveled to Chicago to be married. Once the law denying mixed marriages here was repealed, they wanted to remarry at home with family and friends. The little old white lady in the Marriage License Bureau said she could not issue them a marriage license, they would be committing Bigamy. They left laughing!

  7. Maybe because I was born and raised in the UK, my attitudes have always tended to be liberal. My father was an American GI who “knocked up” my English mother resulting in what I imagine to be a “shotgun wedding.” That father’s Irish ancestor came to the USA, married an indigenous woman, and raised a family. Edward Said, the eminent Palestinian-American founder of Post-Colonial studies, best annunciated what most of us know; we are all hybrids.

  8. Don’t get too comfortable. The handwriting may be on the wall, but that is what’s making the nutcases so dangerous. We all still need to get out the vote and take them so far out of power they can barely see the mountains of evidence against them. Hitler didn’t have a majority when he took power in Germany.

  9. All fine and good and true…BUT…we still face the risk our democracy splitting along tolerant and intolerant lines. And the intolerant are scared and angry and therefore, they vote. For all the wonderful increasing tolerance we have, we also have the Freedom Caucus, current SCOTUS and a majority of RED legislatures and governors like DeSanta and Abblat…

  10. And those of us who push back against the cultural warriors and their religion-based messaging are called religious bigots. The hate, fear and ignorance from the “warriors” is profound, backward and counter-productive to democracy.

    JoAnn is correct about the media, but they are saddled with the concept of profit and the news about the orange hairball keeps selling airtime and papers. It is US the consumer who is driving this very difficult conundrum.

  11. We’re not so smart. None of us are. We only shine as a percentile rank among all humans.

    We got that way mostly by what we were born with and into and how that allowed us subsequent experiences.

    We are collections of experiences which our big brain allows us to reference and piece together in unique ways but it all starts with how our experiences in the past compare to the what we are experiencing now.

    Liberals are lucky because all we’ve experienced pieces in acceptance of the reality of diversity. We remember full well all of the different people we’ve met. That description of different than us defines everyone we’ve met. We’re unique and so are they.

    In our experience that’s among the best things about the human race, not the worst thing as some have experienced.

  12. Dennis, as Winston Churchill once said, “Never use a preposition to end a sentence with.”

  13. You remain a treasure. An island of thought. Knowing of your writing is one of the good things we took away from our 10 years in Indianapolis.

  14. Not “just certain Protestants.” Leonard Leo, the Federalist Society, and the current SCOTUS have done as much to move this country backward as evangelicals have, and perhaps more. Conservative Catholics are very much part of this vast right wing conspiracy, and arguably they are better organized and more powerful.

  15. They also won’t win the culture war, I believe, because as they get more and more
    freaked out, panicked, their clearly bizarre, delusional claims further islate them from
    the rest of the culture: RFK, Jr., and his claims about Covid? Bonzo! MTG has started
    work for the Biden campaign…citing FDR and LBJ? Fantastic!
    The perspective that the culture has moved on is thrilling!

  16. Being raised Catholic in a huge parish back in 50’s & 60’s we were told that if wasn’t for the Jewish people we wouldn’t have our faith; Jesus was Jewish. Also, my dad asked me if I knew what Prejudice meant. When I didn’t, he explained pre-judging which isn’t good. He grew up Catholic in a town influenced by KKK where Catholics had to be defensive.
    I’m the grandmother of Latino grandchildren. I don’t think I’m prejudice, but I think they are beautiful, perfect. My daughter speaks Spanish beautifully and even practices immigration law where being bi-lingual is necessary. She also has clients from other countries as well.
    Even though I found the sexism in the Catholic Church unbearable, their policy on immigration is welcoming and my daughter has built on those roots.
    We’re glad we live in US where we have a fighting chance to progress civilly and know our grandchildren can too!

  17. Did you watch the House Hearing on Hunter Biden? If so, what are your thoughts? Do you Think it will have any impact on the voters?

  18. Jim, I believe he added, “ That is nonsense up with which I will not put.”

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