As midterms near, Democrats flip the script on the ‘culture war’

About a year ago, congressional Republicans were convinced they had a strategy that would return them to power. The Republican Study Committee — Capitol Hill’s largest conservative caucus — disseminated a memo to members titled, “Lean into the culture war.”

The partisan document added, “We are in a culture war … we are winning.”

In the spring, The Washington Post reported that Republicans “believe they’ve found an edge in the culture wars,” adding, “On the campaign trail, they’re railing against critical race theory and gender identity discussions in schools. In state legislatures and via executive fiat, they are trying to limit medical procedures for transgender children and punishing large companies they view as overly politically correct.”

But in the wake of Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices overturning Roe v. Wade, it’s Democrats who are suddenly on the offensive on hot-button social issues. Consider the House votes we’ve seen over the last week:

  • July 15: House Democrats passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill to codify Roe-era reproductive rights, despite 100 percent opposition from Republicans.
  • July 15: House Democrats passed the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, a bill to protect interstate travel for abortion, despite 97 percent Republican opposition.
  • July 19: House Democrats passed the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill to codify marriage equality in federal law, despite 74 percent Republican opposition.
  • July 21: House Democrats passed the Right to Contraception Act, a bill to create federal protections to access birth control, despite 92 percent Republican opposition.

In April, Politico had an item that read in part, “Whether it’s pandemic restrictions and schools, or critical race theory and political correctness, when it comes to the culture wars raging across America, the right often dances circles around the left. And because of that, many Democrats — particularly those in vulnerable seats — either avoid engaging on those topics altogether or privately beg their colleagues to avoid overly “woke” rhetoric or policy prescriptions they believe could hurt the party politically.”

Three months later, Democrats don’t just see opportunities in the so-called “culture war,” the party is on the offensive, showing confidence, and even picking election year fights Democrats believe they can win.

It’s not as if Republicans were bragging about their “no” votes on any of the aforementioned bills. On the contrary, GOP members were eager to change the subject, mindful of the fact that on reproductive rights, marriage equality, and contraception access, the American mainstream and the party’s conservative base are not on the same page.

Put it this way: Which party is more likely to air campaign ads in the coming months about these votes?

With the help of some Supreme Court justices, it seems Democrats now believe it’s easier to win culture war fights than run from them.