It appears the culture wars of 2008 have returned for a sequel in 2012. You can attribute some of it to the Republican presidential candidates. Sure, gas prices are rising, and there's growing unrest on foreign soil, but why bother with those issues when it's so much more important to legislate morality? The economy has gotten a tad better, and since they can't attack President Obama on that right now, they're directing our attention away from that proverbial "man behind the curtain."(I always have space for a good "Wizard of Oz" reference.)
In 2008, we saw both Republicans and Democrats pander to an evangelical base, then pander to a blue-collar base and then to a moderate base—in much the same fashion that I've been critical of in some black politicians who pander to less engaged or informed black voters.
In the absence of larger push-button issues like jobs, national defense or taxes, this Republican primary has fallen back on the old us-versus-them" motif.
In the case of Rick Santorum, he's telling us that his religion, his family values and his beliefs are the fiber that holds this country together. He has declared that this new "tolerance" for others' religious or moral choices is destroying the way of life for good, decent folk. You know, the good, decent folk who are Christians, who abhor birth control and homosexuality, and want to ban abortion but who support the death penalty. The motif shows up with the suggestion that "snobs" like President Obama look down on hard-working, blue-collar Americans by suggesting that college should be an option. It's Santorum looking on a room full of supporters saying: "It's them! It's those people who aren't like us who are destroying this country."
Funny thing: For all the conservative talk about our founding fathers and how they would have handled these issues today, no one ever talks about the melting pot they worked in or the freedoms that they wished for all people. I don't recall their putting any stipulations on those freedoms.
When a politician attacks a way of life, most times it's because they don't have a plan for managing the more substantive issues.
Be clear: Our way of life is being threatened, all right. But it's not because of contraception or gay marriage. It's because my dollar doesn't go as far as it used to, my college degree doesn't get me as far as it used to, and the gas in my vehicle costs way more than it used to.
But as long as the pimping-and-pandering principle in politics is still in play, that great and powerful Wizard of Oz will continue to hold our attention, even when we should be paying attention to the man behind the curtain who's pulling the levers.
And that's the truth ... sho-nuff.