Most cultural conservatives are not 'wing nuts'

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The loss of the late Edward Kennedy's Senate seat to a moderate Republican reflects an international trend toward centrist government. In Europe, the sociopolitical movement known as multiculturalism has contributed to the decline of the left.

Before 9/11, the riots in Paris and the bombings in London and Madrid, multiculturalism was accepted as a relatively benign byproduct of politically correct liberal society. As Europeans began questioning the cultural basis of terrorism, particularly as it relates to home-grown jihadists, multiculturalism is being re-examined.

According to The Economist "the death knell of multiculturalism in Britain coincided with the shock of hearing a suicide bomber's testament delivered in a Yorkshire accent -- hitherto more associated with cricket commentary than terrorism."

In his 1987 book "The Closing of the American Mind," the late Alan Bloom argued that multiculturalists in universities sought to replace objective standards in the study of individuals and human society with a highly politicized radical theory that is hostile to traditional Western values.

Chicago professor William Ayers articulated the multicultural agenda in public schools when he wrote that teacher education programs in universities should serve as "sites of resistance to an oppressive system." Efforts by multiculturalists to institutionalize bilingual education ignited a controversy that contributed to the current stalemate on immigration policy and caused states such as Missouri to pass amendments establishing English as the official language.

Mandatory "diversity training" has become an organization staple that presumes to curb the sinister impulses of white males while providing employers legal cover from a burgeoning industry in employee lawsuits. Yet the effort of the enlightened elite to educate the unenlightened rabble has failed to quell the cultural dissonance.

Instead of a popular vote, the attempt to impose gay marriage via judicial mandate has generated a cultural backlash. Many racial minorities resent gay rights advocates who draw parallels between their agenda and the early civil rights movement. A 2008 California amendment banning gay marriage found overwhelming support, especially among African-American and Latino voters.

The left continues to promote an affirmative action policy that many, including a majority on the Supreme Court, consider little more than racial quotas. When confronted with the ranting of black nationalists like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the left urges the electorate to "understand" a legacy of oppression from which many younger people feel removed. Of course, not all of the oppressed are equal. Pro-life women are pretty much excluded from the feminist sisterhood.

The cultural disconnect was evident in a Barack Obama campaign ad that chastised John McCain for his computer illiteracy. Rather than a fountain of wisdom, many parents perceive the postmodern electronic age as a challenge to their moral authority. For them it evokes the image of a self-absorbed adolescent male who sits alone in his room listening to Eminem on his iPod while surfing for pornography on the Internet.

The culture wars are not just about abortion, guns and gays but a popular culture zeitgeist that derives less from the values of Main Street USA than from blue-state population centers like San Francisco and Seattle -- cities that are home to more dogs than children. It is a popular culture in which a substantial number of our most prominent "artists" believe filmmaker Roman Polanski should go unpunished for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl -- a reality-TV popular culture that manufactures chemically enhanced, counterfeit sports heroes.

The financial bailout is an added reminder we inhabit a society of "moral hazard" that rewards the reckless and penalizes the prudent. Taxpayers in flyover America understand that they are subsidizing the fallout from irresponsible lending practices that were much more pervasive on the left and right coasts.

In the 2008 election, Obama did much better among religious voters than John Kerry did in 2004. The president is a devoted father and husband with firsthand knowledge of the difficulties confronting kids who grow up in what were once called "broken homes," a phrase that has been replaced with the less judgmental "single-parent households." The cadence and content of Obama's speeches reveal an affinity for the writing of Lincoln, our most spiritual president and the sermons of the southern, black Protestant ministers who led the early civil rights movement.

In his victory speech Obama acknowledged that his election affirms longstanding American ideals. He failed to mention that it also refutes much of the dogma of oppression and victimhood perpetuated by multiculturalists. If the economic recovery continues to be anemic and health care reform a disappointment, the president's political future will depend on centrist voters who remain much more culturally conservative than the elites who dominate education, government and the media.

Michael Devaney is professor of finance at Southeast Missouri State University.

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