Bookends to the Culture Wars

Presidents Richard Nixon and Donald Trump are bookends to the culture wars.  They personify how two opportunist politicians can effectively exploit critical social issues — racism and patriarchy, among others – for personal gain.

The year 2020 will be the year that Trump may likely seek re-election as president – and will mark a half-century of the culture wars.  His defeat, if not prior resignation like Nixon’s resignation in 1974, may well signal the death knell of the religious right’s culture wars.

Nixon rose to power in the wake of the tumultuous ‘60s. After signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Pres. Lyndon Johnson warned, “we’ve lost the South for a generation.”  The civil-right movement that emerged in the wake of the Supreme Court’s momentous Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), a case argued by Thurgood Marshall, that legally repudiated the South’s century-old Jim Crow culture.

The adoption of the ‘64 legislation and the ’65 Voter Rights Act intensified Southern white anger over the Democratic Party’s embrace of anti-racism reforms. Nixon, along with other Republicans, made a devil’s bargain with religious conservatives, opportunist politicians and white voters to protect traditional “white skin privilege” through racist appeals and rigged ballots.  This bargain harnessed the deeply felt – and virulent — beliefs in racial identify, patriarchal authority and homophobic fears into a powerful political…

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