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Culture Warrior in Chief

- Abstract

The introduction of the term culture war into the political debate is usually ascribed to Patrick J. Buchanan, whose incendiary 1992 opening-night address at the Republican National Convention came to be known as the “culture war speech”—although Buchanan never actually used the term. As a result of his association with it, we usually think of “culture warriors” as creatures of the right.

Liberals and the left reacted with horror to Buchanan’s “culture war” talk, and used it to suggest that conservatives had been driven mad, indeed to warlike violence, by their irrational anger at social progress. That idea has resurfaced time and again in the decades since. The 1994 election, in which Republicans routed Democrats, was portrayed as an outpouring of white rage later supposedly made manifest by the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, which President Bill Clinton explicitly laid at the feet of Rush Limbaugh. Sixteen years later, the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011 would be similarly blamed on Sarah Palin and Tea Partiers who put liberals in the “crosshairs.”

About the Author

John Podhoretz is editor of COMMENTARY.