Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant, it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.
– Ronald Reagan
In the media, the culture war often gets boiled down into a winner-take-all political slap fight between two monolithic political ideologies entrenched on either side of a rhetorical no man’s land of scorched intellectual earth, and there’s an entire generation of voters today that have grown up thinking that this is just how things are.
However, it really depends on who you ask. Some of us are old enough to remember when the president and Congress, though often vehemently opposed on many issues, could still manage to hammer out a compromise that most everyone could live with. Reagan even managed to pass two major tax reforms through a Democratic congress.
Let’s not misunderstand, however, there have always been those who have pushed a more strident political brand, but the point is that there’s two different perspectives, and it behooves us to be specific when we talk about the American right. The “right” is not a monolithic political movement, and it really never has been.
Take just the Republican party, and you can find people who call themselves libertarians, pro-business corporatists, southern evangelicals, neo-liberal moderates, nationalists, and conservatives of all brands. For the sake of discussion, however, the two political factions most relevant today are the Buchanan nationalists and Reagan conservatives.
Generally, Buchanan nationalists engage in smash mouth confrontations, are more than a little racist (seriously, Buchanan openly advocated for protecting a white majority), and necessarily see political conflicts as being between persons and groups. They are most likely to characterize political opponents as hostile “traitors“.
Nationalism is about conformity to a (white) cultural identity. Since they tend to believe that ethnicity, national identity, and political ideology are all tied together, they tend to view foreign nationals with suspicion. When they look at an immigrant, they think in terms of the political threat, focusing on the immigrant’s “otherness“.
Reagan conservatives, on the other hand, are far more likely to engage in debate, to be far more egalitarian (because they believe race is used to artificially divide people), and, specifically to necessarily see political conflicts as being between political ideas and ideologies. They are most likely to see political opponents as “misinformed“.
Conservatism is about universal ideals of liberty and egalitarianism espoused by the Framers. Conservatives believe all individuals, whether aware of it or not, desire the freedom to pursue their own happiness, and that this is morally good. This is why when conservatives see foreigners, they see them as individuals and potential allies.
Only one of these two perspectives is consistent with the moral ideal that “all men are created equal“, and the other is simply bigotry. It is up to you, the reader, to decide whether or not you believe the culture war is about defeating bad ideas or “defeating bad people“. On this point, at least, there is no middle ground.
Liberty is For The Win!