tv Book Discussion on Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars CSPAN February 27, 2016 8:00am-9:01am EST
on behalf of the owners and the rest of the staff, thanks for coming out and welcome to politics and prose. right now i have a few logistics to go over. if you can turn off your cell phone or put them on vibrate so doesn't disrupt our time you. we are recording this event. so any interruptions will be remembered. the way it's going to work is to be about an hour long presentation with half the time given to our speaker and the other half to your questions. we have one microphone on the side. we have a question if you go up to it so we can all hear and it again can be caught on the recording. afterwards if you would mind folding up their chairs and significance of the shells or the pillar. that will be very helpful. then we will have a signing immediately following the presentation. now it is my pleasure to welcome stephen prothero to politics and prose.
we at politics and prose love having events like this where we can open up a discussion about things that perhaps are not often talked about, or are considered taboo topics, religion and politics. his new book is titled "why liberals win the culture wars (even when they lose elections) the battles that define america from jefferson's heresies to gay marriage" in it he lays out the reasons for the decline which by the way is generally acknowledged why conservatives to be true. sticking and the political climate today, the polarized nature of it and the conservative grip on congress with both houses controlled by republicans, one has to wonder sometimes the progressive social strides that have been made in the recent years. in his new book he offers a comprehensive look at the flashpoints of culture and religious divides in our nation's history to demonstrate our current situation is not
unprecedented this analysis demonstrates the grappling with division has been integral to shaping to what it means to be an american. with a ph.d in the study of religion in currently at boston university, he has authored other books, two well-known titles of which are god and not one come and religious leaders a. he has appeared on many media outlets including npr, cnn, nbc, and has been on shows such as "the daily show with jon stewart" and stephen colbert, "the colbert report." so please help me in welcoming stephen prothero to politics and prose. [applause] >> thank you all for coming. i'm glad to know that politics is a taboo subject in town. david breaking that taboo, but it's lovely to be back in
washington, d.c. this is where i had my first job after college which was as a doorman at the hotel in new hampshire. i think it's now called the renaissance hotel. let me start with that great question from admiral stockdale at the vice presidential debate of 1992. why am i here? [laughter] and more to the point, why are you here? [laughter] haven't you heard that the culture wars are over? just must after pat buchanan warned the delegates at the 1992 republican national convention that a culture war was being waged for the soul of america, neoconservative columnist irving kristol remarked i regret to inform pat buchanan that those words are over and the left has one.
in 1997, "new york times" reporter jenni scott said the term culture wars has become as anachronistic as a leisure suit. some of you who are as old as i am will remember that reference. culture warriors had arrived she said at appomattox. more recently in 2015 book intellectual historian andrew hardman wrote culture wars our history, the logic of the culture wars 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. [laughter] or as one man called him, el loco. [laughter] why is a businessman so obsessed with mexicans, muslims and administration? or to put it more broadly, why in the midst of run of economic
inequality and the threat of global warming are americans so obsessed with immigration and islam and abortion and homosexuality? what is the 2016 presidential election shaping up as the culture wars election? this book started a few years ago during the ground zero mosque controversy, this controversy about whether a muslim gentleman who owned a skyscraper near ground zero could retrofit it to become an islamic cultural center. and i was sort of naïvely and foolishly surprised and disappointed that mainstream political figures on the right were somehow opposed to this project when it seemed to me that two bedrock principles of conservatism, religious liberty and private property rights, were arguing very forcibly forcibly to do just what he wanted with the building. so started to look back on the
history of these sorts of battles come in this case battle over islam come at a look back at what i know called the contemporary culture wars, the culture wars of the '70s and '80s and '90s, things like abortion and homosexuality, and then a story i am i decided i'd look back farther still. to make sense of the ground zero mosque controversy and that's how this book came about and that's when i discovered one of the arguments of my book which is that the culture wars are perennial in american history as american is, in fact, apple pie. early americans were united in their hatred of the british and their love of george washington. but after washington's farewell address of 7096, and address we might remember when he warned us about the mischief of the spirit of political parties, after that
date americans turn on each other in a series of culture wars about the meanings and ends other not so indivisible nation. on questions as varied as free thought and polygamy and homosexuality and the papacy and the saloon. americans denounced their fellow citizens as enemy of the state and also of god almighty. you might remember reagan's culture war along with the moral majority against the moral relativism of the bad '60s, as he called them. but these had an analog and a precursor in the attacks on the moral relativism of the roaring '20s. in 1928 election featured anti-catholicism aimed at the new york governor al smith, but that at the catholicism was the recycling of sorts of 19th century smears on catholics as traitors to god and country. by the culture wars are not just
enduring the they are also expanding their footprint. in recent years the modus operandi of the culture wars has spread from cultural politics to politics in general. the term culture wars hinges on a distinction between 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, and ordinary politics is supposed to be the stuff of taxing and spending and horsetrading. in recent years as you may have noticed this distinction has broken down. as martyrs were purged from both major parties are left off as discussed above their own accord, ss institutions benefit from political polarization became more influential, those
who were left behind thought life-and-death battles with her so-called enemies over matters that used to be resolved. the outrage that had long been reserved for disputes over family values bled into debates over marginal tax rates and presidential appointments and the debt ceiling. this expansion of the footprint of the culture wars, call it the culture wars of everything, has made our politics even more polarized and our politicians even more partisan. so why liberals win isn't ever by historian of american religions to make some sense of this. so first things first are what is a culture war? what do i mean by this term? as i see it, culture wars have four features. there are public disputes recorded in such sources as presidential speeches, the
congressional record, popular magazines and newspapers. these are not just a private argument you're having over your dinner table although they could extend there, of course. second, these disputes extend beyond economic questions of taxing and spending to moral, cultural and religious concerns that are typically less amenable to negotiation and to compromise. third, they give rise to larger questions about the meaning of america and who is and is not into american. so the country or as it is sometimes said, the soul of the country is at stake in the culture wars. last, they are heated, fueled by rhetoric of war and driven by the conviction that one's enemies are somehow also enemies of the nation. so the term in short refers to angry, even violent, public disputes that are simultaneously moral, religious and cultural 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 culture wars in the united states history than this, but i look at five episodes. the first is the election of 1800. as we've had the last couple presidential elections, a lot of people have said boy, these are the ugliest elections in american history, a most vicious in american history. this is one job historians have. they always raise the figure inside well, there was an uglier one. [laughter] the election of 1800 was the uglier one. it created john adams of the federalist against thomas jefferson of the democratic republicans as they were called at the time. the backdrop, the bogeyman of the election was the french revolution sort of the way the bogeyman of the contemporary
culture wars is the '60s, hear the issues what you think about the french and the french revolution. this included a battle on the house floor that started with a spit tobacco into the eye of another congressperson, that led to the use of a hickory cane and fireplace tongs also on the floor of the house. and it happened at a time like our own which all newspapers were partisan newspapers. the federalist paper called the jeffersonians that very refuse and filth of society. jeffersonian paper called adams blind, bald, crippled and toothless. it went on to say, it went on to call adams, this is something, a putdown that makes you wish that donald trump was calling you low energy. [laughter] and his putdown adams was called
a hideous hermaphroditic old character which had neither the form and firmness of a man nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman. [laughter] meanwhile, jefferson called federalists enemies of our constitution and their tim timen power a range of which is the alexander hamilton, some of you may of heard of him, he's the star of a musical -- [laughter] focus on saving the united states from the things of jefferson. but the key issue with jefferson's religion. was he as a federalist upon from massachusetts said the great archpriest of infidelity, or was he as the connecticut current federalist newspaper said, a believer in the koran. obama was not the first president to be accused of being a secret muslim. the second culture war in the book is at the catholicism of
the early 19th come into the early 20th century. this chapter starts with the burning of the conference outside of boston in 1834 and moves on to the philadelphia bible riots of 1844 in which dozens were killed. protestants labeled catholics moral villains, theological impostors, and traitors to the nation. in other words, they have an ethical, and political critique of catholicism as a danger to the community, to nation into christianity. the third culture war i looked at was anti-mormonism which occurs in the united states both before and after the civil war. this cultural crusade was initially a critique of the book of mormon which appeared in 1830 as a fake, and someone who was a former gold digger who decided to dig up fake gold plates and
create a book that would make him rich. at it extended over time the question of polygamy at the hocrisy in the utah territory. mormons call their critics un-american, for warring religious liberty and trampling the constitution. they defended polygamy on sociological and biblical grounds. if you read the old testament, has anyone here read the old testament? [laughter] a couple of you, okay. you will find the old testament is in favor of polygamy. so this is something that was pointed out by moment. another person by the way who was in favor of polygamy was martin luther. some of you may have heard of him. he had something to do with the founding of protestant schism. he was in favor also on biblical grounds at sea grant the old testament. it seems like god was in favor of polygamy. critics of mormonism said there was no constitutional cover for
this fake religion as they saw. a latter day saints church church wasn't any of the state. they were perpetrating treason against the government, and a total subversion of republicanism. some people even said mormonism wasn't a religion at all, and after we have in the continued debates of islam would they say it's a financial scheme or a political demonstration. this culture war against mormons involve all three branches of the federal government. five presidents deliver speeches against mormonism. the first supreme court opinion on religious liberty was delivered against mormonism by the supreme court. a government issued an extermination order ordering the death of all mormons in his state, and a mob assassination killed the founder of the most successful new religious movement in american history, joseph smith. the fourth culture war in the book is a battle between wet and dry, the battle between drinkers
and teetotalers in the prohibition in the 1920s and 1930s. billy sunday he was famous as a former outfielder for the chicago white sox when he would, to give his revival he would come running from the side of the stage and slide in behind the podium. he was supposed to be the fastest base stealer in the major leagues before he quit his sporting and boozing and became an evangelist. he denounced provision as of the of all saints. terry nation famously performed -- which would go in with a hatchet and breakup of the solutions and protest against a drink, this culture war was not just about booze. it was the wider culture war about jazz, organized crime, about the automobile, sex and racial mixing in a speakeasy that emerged in the '20s and
'30s. the core tension as i read it was between diversity and homogeneity, between monocultural lists, people who of from this sort of centrifugal culture where they're holding onto a unified path division of unified nation versus multiculturalists whose vision of culture was more centrifugal, people who thrilled to the increasing diversity of the country. and the last culture war i look at are what i call the contemporary culture wars which started as i read it in the 1970s and are still going to be. these began i argued with her 1978 irs tax ruling that decided that the segregation academies that emerged in the south after brown v. board of education and particularly after the civil rights act of 1965 no longer able to claim tax-exempt status
because they were designed specifically to undermine a federal policy of educational desegregation. but the issue of the culture wars at this time quickly pivoted from this question of race and education to questions of gender and family. in other words, to abortion, homosexuality and the defense of the patriarchal family with its breadwinner mail. but they also shifted from this racial beginning to religion the accusation that the irs was discriminate against religion, it was a vehicle of an unconstitutional attempt to proselytize for secular humanism. and in this way the cultural conservative including many evangelicals cleverly redesigned themselves not as the bigots that as victims of bigotry.
here again we see two different understandings of american culture, one sort of american family or many. does an artwork like the infamous artwork by serrano his christ, does it have one meaning or does it have many meanings? is the united states a christian nation or in the words of president obama's first inaugural a nation of christians and jews my, hindus and muslims and nonbelievers? is this a country in which only one race is a teleport is in the words of frederick douglass, a composite nation? so that's the form of the book but it looks at these five different episodes. along the way it makes a few arguments, and i want to touch on these arguments and then i will open it up to you on for fun and comments in easy questions. [laughter] the first argument i've already mentioned is the culture wars recurve throughout american
history. nt compromises meant to smooth things over between original state of the united states, the founders left unsettled key questions that would foment discord and even we billion decades to come. one is we know is slated to the other was the relationship between the church and state. americans have been engaging in the cultural equivalent of war at least since the elections of 1796 and 1800. new england puritans, the forbearers from massachusetts where i live, likely played a role by twisting god and governance type and transforming their america into a lion of morals ever on the look out for demons in their ranks. but whatever culture wars were prosecuted in the colonies were muted in the early national period until as i said earlier
george washington exited the stage and we were very to start going at each other tooth and claw. so how then did these culture wars proceed? my second argument is that culture wars are conservative projects, and here i want to read a bit of the book because i understand a book reading is supposed to read a little bit from the book. so instead of summarizing his bike and i will read a little bit from the introduction about this argument that culture wars are conservative projects. this goes like this. america's culture wars are conservative projects instigated and wage disproportionately by conservatives anxious about the loss of old orders and the emergence of new ones. what liberals see as progress, they see as lost and they're willing to fight to defend what is already passing away. culture wars are battles between conservatives and liberals over conflicting cultural moral and
religious goods. but at a deeper level they are consumed, for which liberals are merely props but if liberals were not there, conservatives would have to invent them into they told they often do. there is much debate about whether america's recent culture wars begin on the left or the right, almost as much debate as there is that what the terms liberal and conservative me. many liberals argued that the '60s liberation movements, the new left broadly construed love the first shot from the culture wars. this argument is the staple among conservatives who blame the left for starting the culture wars by banning prayer from the public schools, pushing for multiculturalism and universities are agitating for feminism are black power. conservatism merely defending their turf. i object to the suggestion which i see everywhere that conservative christians started
the culture wars, rights fantasy author lars walker. say what you like. we are the indians. you are the settlers. a longer view reveals a conservatives typically fired the first shots in our culture wars. anti-catholicism and anti-mormonism were not backlash movements against revolutions from the left ear a work right wing reactions to catholic immigration and the invention of the mormonism, into the moral, theological, social and economic threats those communities pose to protestant power. similarly the culture wars of the '20s and '30s were conservative responses to the rise of the saloon, to mixed drinks and interracial mixing of the cultural pluralism brought on by rapid urbanization and immigration. any of you the culture of victimhood so visible on the right, in bill o'reilly's war on the so-called war on christmas,
for example, as a pale imitation of the victimhood culture of left wing politics but this tradition goes back much further to protestants who saw themselves as victims of deism in 1800, of catholicism in the 1830s and 1840s, and the mormonism before and after the civil war. those who insist that contemporary culture wars have started on the left template angry radicals, black power advocates are one example, who wanted to fundamentally transform american society and in so doing resorted to discourse of war. but they missed this 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 anxiety can be activated by a cultural revolution but immigration can also do the trick or or a supreme court opinion, or talk show host. in the call and response of the
culture wars, conservatives almost always issue the call. liberals to do the responding. as cultural projects, culture wars are not just instigated by the right. they are also wage disproportionately by the right. the metaphor of war countries up to relatively equal sides, blue coat and red coats perhaps come advancing on each other in relatively equal numbers. but most of the shots in the concordes and lexington's of our culture wars were fired by those with the most to lose as the nation opened its borders to irish and italian catholics and its arms to gays and lesbians. to be sure, the left respond in each case and provoked skirmishes of its own. but if you're looking for the infatuation with violence, both real and imagined, that characterizes the culture wars, you are going to find more often
on the right but it is the right that is enamored of the rhetoric of war. culture board is its invention and its signature mode of politics. from the french revolution forward, the rhetoric of cultural decline is the most characteristic and consistent way conservatives have expressed their conservatism. so it should not be surprising that the annals of anxiety that give voice to america's culture wars are weighted heavily towards thinkers on the right. and then let's see, just one more paragraph. many have attempted to reduce modern conservatism to anti-intellectualism but modern conservatism has at its heart an idea. i.t. as not states' rights over individual liberty or free markets and limited government or federalism. over the course of american history conservatives argue for and against all these principl principles. the big idea guy modern conservatism is this.
a form of culture is passing away at it is worth fighting for. what activates this idea transforming it into action is a feeling that this feeling is akin to nostalgia but it runs deeper and is more fierce. as america's first conservatives looked across the atlantic to paris they saw the french revolution not as a victory of equality over hierarchy but as a victory of chaos over order. they feared their own rate of 10 or so they thought to restore their beloved past that they turn fellow citizens who supported the french into enemies and they labored to banish those enemies from the american family. animated by this narrative of loss and restoration, modern american conservatism has selected affinities with modern evangelicalism which also offers meaning amid uncertainty the inheritance of loss of restoration, of lost souls and
revivals and of a christian america stolen away. modern conservatism has elected affinities with biblical narratives, too. s. adam and eve look over their shoulders on their expulsion from eden, as they mourn their loss and plot its reversal, they become the first conservatives. [laughter] so that's the argument the culture wars are conservative projects, but coach or wars, and this is another argument of the book, are won by pluralism and multiculturalism on the left. culture wars may be conservative initiatives but in the end, gays and lesbians get married, a papist an infidel to the white house. in every case those who declared war on jefferson or catholics or mormons or the sins of the '20s or the abomination of the '60s go down to defeat. by the way i did not notice when i started the book. i figured this out and i was
surprised by it as i was researching it. i thought that conservatives were winning the culture wars because i live in massachusetts and that's what all my liberal friends tell me. [laughter] but that's not how it goes. so there's an obvious paradox. culture wars are conservative projects that they are won by liberals. how can this be? there's philosophical reasons. you can invoke because the constitutional principle of liberty would seem to be on the side of the left. that are practical ones because the nation is becoming more catholic or more brown as these stories are unfolding. the most important reason liberals when as i understand is because their opponents attach themselves from start to lost causes. from 1800 to the 21st century conservatives picked fights and already losing. once in a given fight was over, surprisingly they had lost.
conservatives mobilized against catholics only when it was becoming clear that the catholic population was growing too quickly to remain on the margins. they attacked a gay marriage only when attitudes toward homosexuality are gravitating towards acceptance. in this respect culture wars are to quote from "washington post" columnist michael person, a revolt from reality. this strategy of prosecuting lost causes makes no sense difficult is to win but that is not the goal of culture warriors. their goal is to gain political power by preaching a gospel of salvation to the fallen and the lost by demonstrate just how far america has descended from the glory of its founding and by promising to recover and restore forms of life now threatened with extinction. that strategy is to speak of losing just enough to keep the base perpetually guarded for
battle is not so much as to demoralize them. and discredit culture wars are perpetually rising from the dead rather than being killed by any given defeat, conservative culture warriors seem to be revitalized by that. to conclude, i see a culture where cycle that propels the nation from one cultural conflict to the next. the cycle begins on the right with conservatives anxious about some kind of cultural change they are experiencing. this insight is different in each case. during the election of 1800, federalists were anxious about the country fall into french
revolution style to inspect during the anti-catholic culture war, protestants were anxious about the ways that immigrants were we making their society. the anxiety catalyzing the anti-mormon culture war concerned the breakdown of family values as represented by polygamy. the drama of prohibition and repeal is about alcohol but it is activated by an anxiety about the confusion of modern life. and then the contemporary culture wars, conservatives give voice to anxieties about the grounding of our population and with it the demise of white christian page article america. in the space of each of these anxieties, conservatives launch an attack blamed their political opponents for the loss they are experiencing ever threatening the health and welfare of the nation. after this first step in the culture war cycle, i don't know why i'm telling you all this because what is there left in
the book? [laughter] i should just leave like a cliffhanger, there's other steps. the next step is some sort of counter attack from the left, some kind of response from the left, they next come some sort of accommodation but we think about culture wars as no negotiation, no surrender, no negotiation. there's a lot of truth to that but typically the way these are result is through some sort of accommodation but for example, the catholic church softened its stance on the separation of church, on its refusal to acknowledge the separation of church and state. mormons give up on polygamy. some sort of combination is involved and the fourth stage, the conservatives lose into liberals win.
they lost on clinton's impeachment. they lost on school prayer. lost an effort to kill the national endowment for the arts. they lost the counterculture which became the culture. they lost the marijuana. they lost i on casual sex. they lost on the traditional family. they lost on same-sex marriage. but liberals did not just when the contemporary culture wars. all the culture wars explored in my book went their way. federalists lost, the anti-catholics lost, and that mormons lost and prohibition was repealed. this they all sound like gloom and doom that we are sort of locke and his perpetual culture were cycle. it may sound if you are a liberal it may sound like good news. if you're a conservative and may also select it is because one of the tenants of cultural conservatism is the liberals are taking over the country and we need to fight with them. but i do see a little hope in
the stories i tell and the book. one piece of it for me at least comes from the fact that individual culture wars to come to an end. culture wars as a mode politics seem to be renew, individual culture wars, battles, but it resulted in wind and, the conflict, typically leads to some sort of consensus and almost always involves some greater inclusiveness and her understanding of what america is and who are real americans. we no longer question whether catholics or mormons can be good americans. the fight over prohibition is over. gay marriage is now settled law. if we look through the lens of this culture war cycle at the battle against muslims being waged by republican presidential hopefuls in this election cycle, it is reasonable to expect this, too, shall pass. cultural conservatives will continue to rage over the threats posed by islam, to the
american way of life, but eventually these populations will become large enough at the american principle of liberty will resound loud enough and muslim-americans would be welcomed into the american family as were protestants and catholics and mormons, at least that's my hope and my prediction. of course, this path to acceptance is typically pockmarked with poisonous partisanship, with a full-length and sometimes with lethal violence. still to look at our culture wars over the long-term is to see not only how americans have been divided but also how they have agreed however grudgingly to define their nation in increasingly inclusive terms. it's no longer liberal to include mormons as fellow citizens. that's un-american valley. the time may not be too far off
when america's will also agree with my spanish friends that efforts to exclude our muslim neighbors on the american family are simply loco. those are my comments. thank you very much. we have time for questions appear at the fancy microphone. rider to my left. thank you. [applause] >> an issue that conservatives are quite anxious about right now is climate change, and it does threaten, it threatens i guess to such an extent that some conservatives just don't talk about it or deny it and i'm wondering you can just extend that to where we are now with liberals and president in 190 nations?
like what they see that, how do you see that playing out? >> thank you. i know in the international summit on climate change came up, the main argument that republicans, republican presidential hopefuls gave was that was a waste of time to why i'm going to talk about this non-issue when we have more important things i care at home to deal with? it seems to me that was my perception is that the as represented by the republican party, presidential hopefuls are ignoring the issue and that they don't really see any good to be gained from talking about it. for me, the way i understand the climate change question is, it seems to be a matter of science rather than a matter of politics. one negative effect of the political polarization that has come as a result of the culture wars is this what the reverend
stephen colbert refers to as truthiness. they would used -- pages we would all agree on questions of science and truth and then we would debate politically what to do about them. but the culture wars have pushed back so far into our conversations, but now it's legitimate to have a major political party and a major western power that doesn't acknowledge this fact of human induced climate change. we are the only country in the midwestern civilization that does that. i guess that's how i would connect it to the issues tonig tonight. >> do culture wars, what's the relationship between culture wars and institution establishments? do they strengthening or do they
deteriorate them, in your opinion? >> i think it depends on the institution. one source of the power of culture wars is when out institutions that benefit from them. so i think both fox and msnbc benefit, fox news benefits from the culture wars because you get a culture battle going like the ground zero mosque controversy or donald trump is going to build the wall or even donald trump himself, packages draw people in come into your news station to watch her news program. i think you do have institutions that are dedicated to culture wars. we also have an institution right now that's worried about the culture was and that's called the republican party. the republican party is in a little bit of a pickle because republicans have benefited at the local and state level, even at the primary level from
playing the culture wars card ever since ronald reagan. and it's become kind of a reflex but as the country has changed, as the demographics have changed, particularly with regard to the participation of that americans in our politics and latinos, hispanics. that's the, more problematic. a couple years ago you at some of republican party leaders saying hey, you need to get out in front of the immigration question, figure out a path to citizenship, et cetera. but now that we are in this election cycle that's when to stop pops up in the ground zero mosque stuff is also popping up in elections. anti-islamic push, they come every four years. they just don't come randomly. they come every four years when republicans are running in the primaries. because they are useful at that level. it's important with any of these
cultural questions to look at who benefits of what individuals, what institutions. one of the interesting institutions to look at now is the republican party to see how it will deal with the rise of donald trump and even with the rise of ted cruz, the fact of his culture war election were so many of the messages that are being put out there in debates or messages that the republican party doesn't want to go forward. it's really fascinating and those of you who live in washington with access to the "washington post" and some of the conservative columnists who write out of this town, it's interesting to see them just each column by george will's it's more and more mad at trump. really their business probable sense that an issue i think it was a sense that the party was
in danger of splitting. i think now the palpable sense is the party is in danger of coming to an end. i don't think that's purely a populist it. i'm working on an app in peace what i talk about this possibility when we culture wars in -- an op-ed piece -- the party just goes out of business because it pushes so hard a lost cause that is so clearly addressing a minority population that is increasingly becoming a minority, that it goes out of business. we saw with the federalist party. we saw with the know nothing party which was very powerful in the 1850s. so that's not out of the question. so yes the culture wars affected the congress and the presidency and the supreme court and our conversations about politics they also affect a lot of different institutions. >> i'm always interested when a historian refers to the american
party as a know nothing party. i mean, it's not the know nothing party. they did not call themselves the know nothing party. they call themselves the american party. it was anyone else who call them the know nothing party. >> that's true for most political groups and most religious groups. christians didn't call themselves christians. mormons didn't call themselves mormons. the republican party doesn't initially called itself the gop. and know nothings is how people refer to the party and to start with horace greeley. i'm not going to apologize for referring to the know nothing party as the know nothing party. we can disagree. >> they don't ever refer to as the american party. however, my question has to do with the current battle in the culture wars and that is the so-called gun rights advocates versus the so-called gun-control advocates which does not seem to be one that the liberals are winning. how do you foresee that going
and fit in with your general thesis speak with you think that's a culture war question, the gun question? how so? >> because there are different cultures with different attitudes versus rural and conservative versus liberal. >> good, i agree with you on the. it's a little tricky because it is a constitutional question obviously. is also -- sari? >> which the conservatives won. >> i agree. i think there are issues on which, to our culture war issues for which conservatives have one about american history including in the contemporary culture wars. the one i would put ahead of of the gun question is the role of religion in public space so from jefferson forward, people who we now refer to as liberals have wanted the public space to be
essentially a secular space where richard lindzen -- where religion would occur in the privacy of their home. and the democratic party went along without all the way through the kerry election. once the republican party decided it wanted to be religious party, aligned with white evangelicals in the late 1970s and they decided they were going to bring, talk about moral values and the bible and even about jesus, something they hadn't done before, that we had this one religious party, and then it was sort of soul-searching that went on among democrats and they said look, why in a country that is 95% believers in god, why are we
the anti-god party? that's not good strategy. democrats like hillary clinton and barack obama started to connect their public policies to the bible, making arguments, for example, against, making arguments for immigration reform on the basis of the good samaritan story. supposed to take care of the former in your midst. should we take care of the foreigners in our midst? in the past they wouldn't have done. i think on that issue, conservatives have won. i agree concerns have one on the gun issue. construeconservative one on era. also a culture where. issue even though the republican party was in favor of equal rights amendment for 20, 30 years in the middle part of the 20th century, particularly with betty ford who was out in front of the equal rights amendment conservatives want on that.
it's not that liberals win every single time but liberals win most of the time. >> aspects take issues with, something we've all heard of called political correctness. spin i've never heard of that exactly. could you explain to me what that is? [laughter] >> okay. >> i'm just kidding. >> okay. what seems to happen, many universities, does not merely an attempt to disagree with one political opponent but to shut them down, to ban them from public discourse. this seems to be more a function of the left as far as i can tell then of the right. one example which is a canadian example, a human rights commission which when someone
speaks biblical -- homosexuality can be fun. i've heard the retribution on universities for that type of behavior. it seems to be an aspect of the culture war where liberals -- free speech, due process and so forth. >> let me ask you something, what you think the effect of the complaint about political correctness is? in other words, what's the goal? when one complains about those people are just enforcing the canon of political correctness, what's the operational effect of that kind of argument? what is the argument trying to do? >> i will tell you how it affected me. i believe in free speech for everybody, okay? i don't believe in political retaliation but i do believe people should lose their job and so forth. what i see political correctness is doing is forcing a dialogue
where people live such issues as freedom of speech and freedom of the press. now, if someone asserts that about someone else i want to hear the other person side but i cannot approve of anybody who -- >> so i am a big freedom of speech person become also a big religious liberty person. i probably write more about religious liberty than any other issue i've written about. i think the claim of political correctness strikes me as somewhat specious innocent it seems its purpose is actually ironically to shut down the claims of the other side. in other words, it has a weird mirror kind of doppelgänger effect. the complaint is your shutting me down from say what i want to say but the purpose of it when we hear it from donald trump, for example, dimensions in every single one of his speeches is
that it's to tell the left to shut the hell up about that particular issue that it is combined with. that said, i am as a university professor, i am very concerned. i am opposed to speech codes on universities. i'm very concerned about this sort of argument that seem to be liberal arguments, left arguments that are going against free speech. and so i share with you, i share with you that concern. i also am aware though that there's a sort of political advantage to be gained from harping on this event. at boston university where i am, i don't think there's a problem of, we had a forum recently about islam and the public space and the first person to stand up stood up and said, you know, and he made a kind of political correctness complaint.
there is no venue for conservatives here to talk about argues about islam. but we think it's a dangerous religion. it's kind of ironic because he was standing there in front of everybody saying what he was assigned. we gave him a microphone to stand up. we didn't ask people ahead of time what they want to say but my sense is i'm not worried about this yet at boston university but am keeping an eye out on. i think it's largely maybe 70% just an effort to roll out of bounds certain liberal claims in the same way the so-called political correctness people are supposedly just willing out of bounds certain political claims but i would rather talk you about this afterwards rather than continue this. i would be happy to talk more about political correctness.
this will be the best question saved for last. >> i'd like to know how you see hispanics in this presidential election, how do you see the democratic party and the republican party appling over the votes for the hispanics? >> i think the battle has already been won and lost. i think the republican party was hoping for a battle for the votes for latinos. they were hoping that marco rubio would emerge as a kind of establishment candidate who would show that the republican party was open not only to white people but also to hispanics. and i think that that hope is now naïve. and marco rubio is racing as
fast as he can to the right as his numbers are going down. just within the last week he's been trying to get to the right of ted cruz on immigration question which is a very, very, very difficult thing to do. and so i think, i think, there's even a piece i think in the "new york times" yesterday about, which i had thought that but it's obvious once you hear it, but just because you are mexican doesn't mean you want to vote for the cuban. that's another issue that is there. so i think the country, i think that latinos are actually very well-positioned to become republicans. if the republican party to get its act together to appeal to them. latinos are more christian than white people in the united states a they tend to be catholic, tend to be conservative catholic. they tend to be conservative on abortion. they are very much devoted to
education if he gave a list of seven or eight features of this population in terms of the politics and the culture, they naturally belong more in the republican party than they did and the democratic party but the republicans have done so much with immigration question and mexican rapist issue and whatever trump is trumping up, i think they really lost entirely for this election. we have seen this but we have seen these shifts before. the muslim vote initially went to george bush, overwhelmingly went to george bush. and then the muslim vote went, i don't know, peter, can you tell me? like 88 are sent or something in the following presidential election to the democrats. you can't tell me, okay. that's about right. i asked the wrong person. so these swings are very, very
possible in a short amount of time and i just think the republicans are kind of botching it right now. >> i just want to say as a native new mexican who's died in the wool democrat, a lot of hispanics are republican and there are still some our democrat and so it's like 50/50. so i do believe that there are a lot of factors to consider. for the latino vote. >> i do, too. i would guess the hispanic vote is going to go something close in this election in this presidential election, i wouldn't be surprised if it goes close to to the one or 70-30, something like that. i think it would be overwhelmingly on the democratic side. if the republicans had played their cards differently i think it could've been closer to 50/50 but i don't think it's going to happen. thank you very much for coming.