The Spectacle Blog

Is Frank Rich Right?

By on 3.16.09 | 5:15AM

Not sure whether this is one of those broken-clock moments or not:

When Barack Obama ended the Bush stem-cell policy last week, there were no such overheated theatrics. No oversold prime-time address. No hysteria from politicians, the news media or the public. The family-values dinosaurs that once stalked the earth — Falwell, Robertson, Dobson and Reed — are now either dead, retired or disgraced. Their less-famous successors pumped out their pro forma e-mail blasts, but to little avail. The Republican National Committee said nothing whatsoever about Obama’s reversal of Bush stem-cell policy. . . . Culture wars are a luxury the country — the G.O.P. included — can no longer afford.

(Via Memeorandum.) One hesitates to grant that Frank Rich is ever right about anything. There is still plenty of sleaze out there that culture warriors could conceivably leverage for political effect. And the conclusions Rich ultimately draws -- that Obama can, among other things, repeal "Don't ask, don't tell" without fear of political fallout -- may prove disastrous for Democrats, if heeded.

Nonetheless, the "values voter" phenomenon that so transfixed the commentariat in 2004 seems to have faded in significance. Mark Foley and Larry Craig may have assisted this process, but the economic crisis is obviously Issue No. 1 for both parties. Rich is certainly correct that, with Citibank trading for less than the cost of an ATM fee, the primary "value" voters are interested in now is the value of their 401Ks.

If there is any encouragement for traditionalists it is this: Just as there is little public appetite for conservative alarums over cultural issues, neither is there any appetite for liberal alarums. If the Obama administration makes a point of pushing liberal social policies, a backlash is possible, recession or no recession.

As for the Obama administration's economic plan, permit me once again to repeat: It Won't Work. If Obama's handling of the economy is viewed as disastrous, it doesn't much matter what cultural policies he pursues, since they can all be repealed with the stroke of a pen on Jan. 20, 2013. And Frank Rich knows zilch about economics.

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