tv Book Discussion on Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars CSPAN February 7, 2016 10:00pm-11:01pm EST
offers of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed. watch the past programs online good evening everyone. thank you for coming out tonight. i work with some of the evidence at the store and on behalf of the owners and the staff, thanks for coming out and welcome to politics and prose. right now i just have a few logistics if you can turn off your cell phones we are recording this event this evening and if there's any
interruptions they will be remembered. we have about an hour long presentation and we are past the time given to the speaker and the other to your questions. we have one microphone on the side of it when you have a question you can go up to and use the microphone so we can all hear and it can be on the recording. afterwards if you wouldn't mind holding up your chairs at the pillar, that would be helpful and then we will have a signing immediately following the presentation. now it is my pleasure to welcome you. we have politics and prose love having events because where we can open up the discussion about things that perhaps are not often talked about that are taboo topics in the religion and politics. this evening we are going to talk about both of those things. the book is titled why liberals when the call to war even when they lose elections and the battles that define america from
jefferson to marriage and in it he went about the reasons for this kind which generally is acknowledged by conservatives to be true. in the political climate today, the conservative group on congress and we both have this controlled by republicans and one has to wonder if sometimes the progressive social strides that have been made in the recent years. in his new book he offers a comprehensive look at the flashpoint in the flash points in the culture and religious device in the nations history to demonstrate the current situation is not unprecedented. ultimately the analysis demonstrates that the grappling with divisions has been integral to the shaping of what it means to be an american. with a phd in the study of religion and currently in end of religion at boston university, he has authored other books and
religious literacy. he has appeared on many media outlets including npr, cnn, cnbc and the daily show with jon stewart and the cold air report -- colbert partridge is no longer show but you know them. so please help me welcome steven to stephen to politics and prose. ' [applause] >> thank you all for coming. i'm glad to know we are a subject here in town. it's lovely to be back in washington, d.c.. this is where i get my first job after college search was at a hotel in new hampshire. i think it is now called the renaissance hotel and let me start with that great question from the admiral at the vice
presidential debate of 1992. why am i here? [laughter] and more to the point, why are you here? haven't you heard that the cultural wars are over? just months after pat buchanan warned the delegates to the coachable war was being waged for the soul of america, the neoconservative remark i regrets to inform you that those words might be over. and "the new york times" reporters that the cultural war has become as an anachronistic as a leisure suit. some of you that are as old as i am will remember that. they had arrived and more recently in the book intellectual historian andrew
harkin wrote the cultural war is history of the logic of the cultural war has been exhausted. the metaphor has run its course. a week ago i was in spain visiting my daughter and whenever anyone heard that i was from the united states, they asked me about donald trump. or as one man called him, loco. [laughter] why is the business man so obsessed with mexicans, muslims and the administration, or to put it more broadly why in the midst of the runaway economic inequality and the threat of global warming are americans so obsessed with immigration and islam and abortions and sexuality? y. is the presidential election is shaping up?
the controversy about whether a muslim gentleman that owned a skyscraper on the near ground zero could be rich rocha tipped rich rocketed to become an islamic cultural center. and i was sort of naïvely and foolishly surprised and disappointed that the mainstream political figures on the right were somehow opposed to this project when it seemed to me the two bedrock principles of conservatism, religious liberty and private property rights were arguing very forcefully for his ability to do just what he wanted with the building and so i started to look back on the history of these sorts of battles in this case the battle over islam and i looked back at what i now called the contemporary cultural war in the 70s and 80s and 90s and things like abortion and homosexuality. and then the historian diane, i decided i had to look back further still to make sense of the ground zero controversy and
that is how the book came about and that's when i discovered one of the arguments of my book which is not the cultural war is perennial in american history as america is fact as apple pie. after the farewell address of 1796, and address we might remember when he warned us about the mischief of the spirit of political parties and after that date, americans turned on each other on the meanings and into the not so indivisible nation and on questions as varied as free thought and polygamy and, sexuality and the saloon as enemies of the state and also of
god almighty. you might remember the cultural war along with the moral majority against activism of bad 60s as he called them. but these had an analog and a precursor in the attacks on the moral relativism of the 20s. the 1928 election featured in thai catholicism aimed at the new york governor al smith but that was the recycling of sorts punaro so expanding their footprint in recent years the modus operandi has spread from cultural to politics in general. the term cultural war hinges on the distinction between the cultural politics and ordinary politics where cultural politics is about religious and moral
questions that stand on matters of absolute morality and biblical truth. so, negotiation and compromise are difficult or maybe impossible but ordinary politics is supposed to be the stuff of taxing and spending and first trading area in recent years as he may have you may have noticed, this distinction has broken down. as moderates were purged from both major parties we are left office disgusted of their own accord and as institutions that benefit from the political polarization became more influential. those who were left behind false life and death battles now with their so-called enemies over matters that used to be resolved unanimously and without debate. the outrage that had long been reserved for disputes over the family values bled into the debates of marginal tax rates and presidential appointments and the debt ceiling.
this expansion of the footprint of the cultural war college the cultural war if everything has been our politics even more polarized and and/or politicians even more partisan and so why are liberals when it is an effort by historians of american religions to make some sense of this. so first things first, what is the cultural war? what do i mean by this term? the way that i see it, called churl war has four features. there are public disputes recorded in such sources as presidential speeches, the congressional congressional record, popular magazines and newspapers even though it isn't just a private argument you are having over your dinner table although they can extend that. the second of the disputes extend beyond economic questions of taxing and spending to the moral culture and religious concerns that are typically less amenable to the comp compromise.
third, they give rise to larger questions about the meaning of america and who is and is not a true americans of the country or as it is sometimes said the soul of the country is at stake in the cultural war and last, they are heated and fueled by the rhetoric of the war and is driven by the conviction that one's enemies are somehow also enemies of the nation. so the term and short refers to angry and even violent public disputes that are simultaneously moral, religious" show and address the meaning of america. that's what i mean by the term. so, my book looks at five episodes. i could have picked a lot more episodes. i think there are more in the united states history than this, but i look at five. the first is that election of 1800. and as we have had the last
couple presidential elections, a lot of people have said these are the ugliest elections in american history of the most vicious in american history and you know, this is one john historians have come at the always raise their finger and say there was an uglier one and the life in 1800 was the uglier one. it pitted the john adams federalist against thomas jefferson and as they were called at the time the backdrop of the bogeyman of the election was the french revolution and the same way in the same way that the contemporary was the 60s what do you think about the 60s and hear the issue is what do you think about the french and the french revolution? this included the battle on the house floor that started with a spit of tobacco into the eye of another congressperson that led to the use of a hickory cane and fireplace tongs on the floor of
the house and it happened at a time like your tone in which all newspapers were partisan newspapers. the federalist paper called the jeffersonians. the jeffersonian paper called adam's blind bold, crippled and plus. and it went on to call him something that a put down that makes you wish donald trump was calling you low-energy. and in this put down his coffee hideous character which kept me there before them and firmness of a man nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman. [laughter] meanwhile, jefferson called federalists enemies of our constitution after time and cover a rain of which is. alexander hamilton, some of you may have heard of him and he's
the star of a musical. [laughter] saving the united states from jefferson. but the key issue was his religion. was he as a federalist opponent for massachusetts the great archpriest of infidelity or was he has to connecticut current federalist newspaper said a believer in the koran he was in the first president to be accused of being a secret muslim. [laughter] the second cultural war in the buck is anti-catholicism of the early 19 and 20th centuries. the chapter starts with the burning of the content outside of boston in 1834 and moves on to the bible riots of 1844 in which dozens of people were killed and here protestants labeled catholics moral dilemmas, impostors and traitors
to the nation in other words they have an ethical, theological and political critique of catholicism as a danger to the community and christianity. the third was anti-mormonism which occurs in the united states both before and after the civil war and this was initially a critique of the book of mormon which appeared in 1830 as a fake into someone who's a former gold digger who decided to dig up some fake gold plates and create a book that would make him rich but it extended overtime to questions of public polygamy and theocracy in the territory. they called it the critics un-american for the war on religious liberty and channeling the constitution. they defended polygamy on social logical and biblical grounds. if you read the whole testament
has anyone here read the hottest and? [laughter] a couple of you. okay you'll find that it's in favor of polygamy. so this is something that was pointed out by mormons. another person by the visit was in favor was martin luther some of you may have heard of him. he had something to do with the founding of protestantism. he was in favor also on the biblical grounds because he had read the old testament. it seemed like god was in favor of polygamy. the latter-day saints was an latter day saints was an enemy of the state. they were perpetrating treason against the government and a total subversion of the republicanism. some people even said it wasn't a religion at all, and e-echo that we echo that we have in the debates of islam with a claim that it is and a religion at all
it is a political demonstration. this cultural war involved all three branches of the government. five presidents delivered speeches and the speeches and the first supreme court opinion on the religious liberty was delivered against by the supreme court. the governor issued an extermination order ordering the death of all in the state and in the assassination killed the founder of the most successful new religious movement. the fourth cultural war in the and the book is the battle between wet and dry and drinkers and teetotalers in the 1920s and 1930s. billy sunday who was famous as the former outfielder for the white sox when he would come to give his revival he would come running from the site of the side of the stage and sliding behind the podium.
he was supposed to be the fastest in the major league's before he quit his sporting and became an evangelist. he denounced as the mother of all sins. they famously performed what was called she would go in with a hatchet and break up the saloons and protest against that this wasn't just about booze, it was a wider cultural war about organized crime, the automobile and racial mixing into mixing in the 20s and 30s. the tension as i read it is diversity and how much and maybe -- homogeneity and the culture where they a culture where they were holding onto the unified past versus the multiculturalism in whose vision of culture was
more central to cold and thrilled to have the increasing diversity of the country and the last culture that i look at is what i called the contemporary cultural war which started out as i read them in the 1970s and are still going today. these began with a 1978 tax ruling that decided the segregation academies that emerged in the south after brown v. board of education in particular the civil rights act. they were no longer able to claim tax-exempt status because they were designed to simply undermine the federal policy of educational desegregation. but, the issue at this time prevented from the issue of race and education to questions of gender and family in other words
abortion and homosexuality and the defense of the patriarchal family with its breadwinner. but they also shifted from this beginning to religion and the accusations that the irs was discriminating against the unconstitutional attempt to proselytize. and in this way of cultural conservatives including many evangelicals cleverly redesigned themselves as victims of bigotry. and here again we see two different understandings of american culture. as the one sort of the american family or many does an artwork like the infamous artwork by andrew serrano does have one meaning or many meanings and is the united states a christian nation were in the words of president obama first inaugural
the nation of christians and jews, hindus and muslims and non- believers is it a country that only one race is at home or in the words of frederick douglass a composite nation? so that's the form of the book that looks at these different episodes. along the way, it makes a few arguments and i want to touch a little bit on these arguments and then i will open up to you all for comments and easy questions. the first argument i already mentioned is that they occur throughout american history. in the key compromise is meant to smooth things over between the original states in the united states the founders left unsettled the key questions in the discord and even the readability and in the decades to come one was slavery and another was the relationship between the church and state.
the new england puritans the forebears for massachusetts where i live likely played a role by twisting god and governance tight and transforming to the land ever on the lookout. but whatever cultural wars were in the colonies were muted in the early national period. they were free to start going at each other tooth and claw. my second argument is that cultural wars are conservative projects and here i'm going to read a little bit of the book because i understand in the book readings they are supposed to read a little bit from the book.
so instead of sort of summarizing the argument i will read a little bit from the introduction of the cultural wars are conservative projects. so it goes like this. the cultural war are conservative projects instigated and waged by conservatives anxious about the loss of old orders and about the emergence of new ones. what they see as progress they see as a loss and they are willing to fight to defend what has already been passing away. cultural wars are battles between conservatives and liberals over conflicting cultural and religious code that had a deeper level they are conservative in which liberals are merely props. conservatives would have to invent them and truth be told, they often do. [laughter] there's much debate there is much debate about whether america's recent cultural war
began on the left or the right over what the terms liberal and conservative theme three of many argue that the 60s liberation movement, the left broadly construed in the cultural war this argument is also a staple among the conservatives who blame the left for starting the war by banning of prayer from public schools and pushing for the multiculturalism and universities or agitating feminism or black power. they are defending their turf and i object to the suggestion and i see that i see everywhere that conservative christians started the cultural war. say what you like me are the we are the indians, you are the settlers. a longer view revealed that the conservatives typically fired the first shots in the cultural war. anti-catholicism and mormonism were not backlash movements against revolutions from the
left they were to the catholic immigrations and the invention of mormonism and to the theological, social and economic threats those communities posed to the protestant power. similarly to the 20s and 30s they were conservative responses to the rise of the saloon and two mixed drinks and interracial mixing it up the cultural pluralism brought on by immigration. many now view the culture of victimhood so visible on the so-called war on christmas for example as a pale limitation of the victimhood culture of the identity politics but this tradition goes back much further to the protestants but saw themselves as victims in the 18 hundreds of catholicism in the 1830s and 1840s and of mormonism before and after the civil war. those that insist that it was
started on the left can point to angry radicals and black power advocates are one example that wanted to fundamentally transform american society and in so doing resorted to the discourse of the war but they missed the crucial fact. cultural conservatives do not need a revolution to go to war. all they need is enough change to activate the anxiety that the world is passing away. this can be activated by the cultural revolution that immigration can also do the trick or the supreme court opinion or a talk show host. in the response of the cultural war conservative almost always issued a call. liberals do the responding. as cultural projects, there are just instigated by the right however they are also waged disproportionately by the right. there are two equal sides, blue coat and redcoats perhaps
advancing on each other and relatively equal numbers but most of the shots as the nation opened the border and arms to gays and lesbians. to prevent skirmishes of its own if you look for the violence both real and imagined that characterize the cultural war you'll find it more often on the right. it's the right is enamored of the rhetoric of the war has its invention and signature mode of politics from the french revolution forward the rhetoric of the cultural decline is the most christic and the way that they have expressed their conservatism so it shouldn't be surprising that the analysts of
anxiety that if a voice are weighted heavily towards those on the right. and then let's see, just one more here. many have attempted to reduce the modern conservatism to the anti-intellectualism. it's not the state )-right-paren to liberty or that of liberty or free markets or limited government and the course they argued for and against all these principles. the big idea behind the modern conservatism is a form of culture is passing away and it is worth fighting to revise it. what activates this idea, transforming it into action is a feeling and this is akin to nostalgia but it runs deeper and is more fierce. as america's first conservative base while the first revolution
not as a victory of the quality over hierarchy but as a victory of chaos over order. they feared their own reign of terror so they fought to restore their beloved past. they turned for the citizens who supported the french into enemies and then they labored to banish those enemies from the american family. modern american conservatism has elected modern evangelicalism which offers meanings in the midst of uncertainty into the narrative of the loss and restoration of lost souls that revivals. they have biblical narratives, too. as adamant eve look over their shoulders as they mourn their loss and thought its reversal they become the first conservatives. [laughter]
>> said that's the argument of the cultural wars are conservative projects. but the cultural war is won by the the pluralist and baltic journalists on the left. they may be conservative initiatives, but in the end, gays and lesbians get marriage and an infidel gets the white house and every case those who declare war on jefferson or catholics or mormons or the 20s with the abomination of the 60s go down to defeat. ..
to leave underscore the conviction to stiffen that result to fight that do any. i see in american history of the cycle begins on the right of the cultural change they are experiencing during the election of 1800 federalist to fall into revolution style chaos the protestants were anxious about the way and the grimms were remaking their society. with the breakdown of family values the promise of
prohibition and repeal is about alcohol but activated of the anxiety of the confusion of modern life. and they give voice to their anxieties with the demise played them pilaus they're experiencing and threatening the health and welfare of the nation's at all why i am telling you all this because then what is left to the book lacks? [laughter] i should leave a cliff hanger.
[laughter] >> said a counterattack or a response from the left then some sort of accommodation we tend to think go surrender ordo negotiation foreseeable the refusal to acknowledge church and state so the conservatives lose in the liberals' win and they lost and school prayer with the effort from the counterculture bin lost on marijuana and casual sex and same-sex marriage.
but liberals to the just win the cultural wars they went their way. and prohibition was repealed. so this may sound like gloom and doom if you are a liberal hope hoffmann dash may sound like good news because wind of the tenants is precisely the need to fight with them. but i do see a little hope in the story. one piece comes from the fact that they do actually come to an end.
end when day and end the conflict leads to a consensus with some greater inclusiveness in the understanding of what america is. we no longer question if catholics and mormons could begin americans as we look through the lens of this culture war against muslims it is reasonable to expect that this too shall pass. to rise over the threats to the american way of life but the populations will become law on behalf of a muslim americans will be welcome did to the american family
but of course, this path to newt acceptance has partisanship with hateful language. it to see not only how americans have been divided bed how they agreed and for mormons to be solid citizens. for the efforts to exclude the neighbors so those are my comments we have time for questions at the microphone.
about this non-issue? when we have more important days to deal with. so as represented as they are ignoring the issue there are an end to be talking about. the web understand that question as a matter of politics that political polarization as a result of the culture wars and it used to me we would agree with matters of science and truth
to debate politically but the culture wars have pushed back to our conversations that it is legitimate of the major political party. and of those western a civilization that does that. >> with their relationship today's strength in them or deteriorates? >> but one source for those that benefit from them.
with lettie house and hispanics and a couple years ago so the leaders saying and that path to citizenship. that is a lead that pops up. cementite islamic come randomly? as republicans are ready in the primary because they are useful let that level. but who benefits what institutions and now is how we deal with the rise ha of
donald trump in ted cruz where sell many of the messages better out there that it doesn't want handed it is fascinating and as conservative columnist to see them to just get more and and more bad at trump. with that sense initially that the party was a danger of coming to would end. i am working on the op-ed piece myself to talk about this possibility one way the culture war ends the party
that prosecutes them go said of business because it is so clearly addressee increasingly becoming a minority. we saw the note nothing party but the supreme court they affect the different institutions. >> when a historic refers to the american body it is not the know nothing party. they call themselves the american party. had close political groups
and gay colobus the g.o.p.. so i will not apologize stick but they don't refer to as the american party and my question has to do with the courage to battle in the culture wars with this so-called gun rights advocates that doesn't seem to be one though liberals are witty and into fitted with your general thesis. >> what about the gun question? >> there are different cultures with different attitudes.
>> i agree. is tricky because it is a constitutional question and. and i agree there are issues on which conservatives have won. to put ahead of the gun question is the role of religion and a public stay. in to want the public space to be secular where religion would occur to invoke religious to reasons for public policy.
and the party went along with that. it wanted to be religious party said to bring of llord values something that we had nine dead before. so why it had country that 95 percent believes in god why are we david thai god party? stood democrats like hillary clinton and demand for raw caboclos connect those policies to the bible for
immigration reform. should we take care of those quarters in the midst? so on that issue they have gone the dead issue they also read with the era even though they were in favor of the equal rights amendment. particularly with the betty ford who is out in front of the equal rights amendment. it is a lot that they with every single time. >> and to take issues with
with due process is so forth. with that company does political correctness. and those people are just in forcing the candid of political correctness. >> i believe ted free speech for everybody or political retaliation people should not lose their job. that is enforcing a dialogue such as freedom of speech. but i cannot approve.
>> as a freedom of speech person did a big celebrity person. that strikes me as it seems that its purpose to shut down the claims of the other side. with that doppelganger effect. if you are shutting down but to see it every single one of his speeches is to tell the left it to shut the hell up about that issue. has a university professor some universities have
adopted a and i am very concerned that seemed to be liberal arguments going against free speech. so i share with you that concern. i am also aware there is a politically vintage to be gauged. and to stand up to make up political correctness complete there is no video to talk about our views. it is kind of ironic because he was standing there and we gave him a microphone so i
am not worried about this but i am keeping an eye on it to tell people but you cannot say that but that said largely 70% with certain liberal claims i would rather talk with you about this after words rather than to continue this. can now be happy to talk about political correctness. >> this will be the best question. [laughter]
>> how do see that democratic party? >> eight it is already won and lost. put the votes for lettie does. that he would emerge as the establishment candidate to show the republican party was open not only to white people but also hispanics. but that hope was a tv ad rubio was racing as fast as he could to the right. and trying to get to the right of ted cruz it is the very, very difficult thing to do.
so there is the peace in the the "new york times" but it is obvious to us because you are mexican doesn't mean you want to vote for 8q bin. so let team rules are very well positioned if the republican party could get its act together that led to the house are more precision than white people in the united states. they tend to be catholic or conservative on abortion are devoted to education in a and if you give a list in terms of politics alien culture they belong war in the republican party as republicans have done so
sabah are democrat so i do believe there are a lot of factors to consider. i would guess it will go something close in this election if vico's close. i see it will be overwhelmingly on the democratic side. thank you very much for coming. >> i will be signing books so limit of 20 for each person. [laughter] [inaudible conversations]