Friday, May 29, 2009

Thought for the Day: One-Issue Analysis Misses the Point of What Ails Us

This strange approach to politics, involving nudges, nods, and winks on cultural issues, reflects the real division in the nation: between those who want to have a culture war and those who don’t. At election time political candidates need simultaneously to "rally the base," which includes a heavy quotient of culture warriors, and to "appeal to the center," meaning the majority (often left of center on economic issues), which sees health care, education, jobs, taxes, and national security as central concerns trumping gay marriage or abortion. The result is a strained, dysfunctional, and often dishonest political dialogue based on symbolic utterances. Hot-button questions that rally particular sectors of the electorate—and draw listeners and viewers to confrontational radio and television programs—preempt serious discussion of what ails American culture and society.

E.J. Dionne, Jr., Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2008), p. 50.