The new culture war is afoot


Republican Glenn Youngkin was elected to be the next governor of Virginia, beating former governor Terry McAuliffe in a state where Biden won confidently.

Longxuan (Barry) Yao, Editor-in-Chief

There is nothing like election night in America; every year, I genuinely love it. After all the talking, the gaslighting, the money, the actual people show up to reveal to Washington how full of it that they actually are. Tuesday night proved to be entertaining, obviously with Glenn Youngkin’s win in the Virginia gubernatorial race but a near tie for Republicans in New Jersey as well, with massive sweeps in suburban districts like Nassau county in New York state. Of course, the right is ebullient, this was almost as good as the election night in 2016. And already, the battle for the narrative as to why the Republicans won so big is on. As far as I can discern in the right, the consensus is this: It’s the culture war, stupid!


In this telling, Glenn Youngkin’s relentless pursuit against critical race theory in Virginia school was what “pushed” him “over the edge,” drove out Trump voters, and won back suburban voters. And there’s something to this, but it is important to parse it deeply to figure out which, and what exact culture war is being fought. A particular thread I found very useful was – by Steven Portnoy of CBS news – by breaking down the exit toll issue by issue.

Steven Portnoy compiles exit poll. Twitter image compiled by the Patriot.

This may look very confusing; the biggest problem in the media and the national discourse is that they do not understand that the cultural war changed some time ago: guns, abortions, and gay marriage, which are so yesterday. As you can see in the question of the Confederate monument and what people have to say around having parents have a voice in education, the new cultural war, which benefits the right, has a big majority, and it lies under a theme of pushing back against political correctness by the activist, culturally left higher elites. But people on the right who are ecstatic over the Virginia result would be fools to think that this is a referendum on social conservatism, or as it was previously defined and understood. This is entirely irrelevant. Instead, today’s cultural war is simply this: Do you like the general social norms around 2014 or not? 


Michael Brendan Dougherty of national review explains it well: “Republican culture war politics work way better when they are a defense of ‘normal people’ versus ideologues. They don’t work as Let’s make America more evangelical.” I would also go deeper: remember, Virginia is not the only big state for Republicans. Joe Biden carried New Jersey by 16 points, and the state’s gubernatorial race result shows that Phil Murphy (D) won the race by razor-thin margins. New Jersey did not have a hyper-nationalized race around critical race theory; this is simply a revolt against the elite in all forms. Culture, of course, but a more resounding indictment of the “expert class.” Here again, it is crucial to dissect the nuance, the New Jersey shows that the electorate at large is sick of COVID restrictions; it is sick of chaos, and rightfully they blame Biden, because he said he would “take us back to normal,” and he hasn’t. He rarely, if ever, appears to be tackling the downstream effects of chaos: the supply-chain crisis, the gas prices,  instead of focusing on passing a bill that pretty much nobody in America cares about.

Democrat Phil Murphy was re-elected to the governorship by thin margins.


Now, look at this. More and more am I convinced of a theory of politics and conservatism: this week’s election was a victory for “barstool conservativism.” Matthew Walther, the author of “Rise of Barstool conservatives” observed Trump’s success that he “recognize there are millions of Americans who do not oppose or even care about abortion or same-sex marriage, much less stem cell research, or any other causes that animated traditional conservatives.” Instead, he “correctly intuited that the new culture war would be fought on very different and more nebulous issues: vague concerns of political correctness and SJWs, opposition to the popularization of so-called “critical race theory,” sentimentality about the American flag about the military. 


Add into that, the original “barstool pushback” against lockdowns, general distrust of public health elite like Dr.Fauci, and you have an exact road map as to why this election went the way that it did. But do not be too thrilled. While the era of socially liberal, fiscally conservative is over, it is far more likely that socially conservative, at least in the new culture war sense, pairs pretty well with fiscal conservatism; that’s the preferences of the suburbans voters that went to the Democrats in 2020, and it will once again be the electoral justification for pretty much the inherent donor preference within the Republican Party today.


Well, yes, this will remain diametrically opposed to the economic interest of many of the rural and working-class voters who find themselves voting red today; the contradiction does not mean anything at all, as long as they rightfully distrust the intention of a group of people that they want to change the way they speak, rule the way that they behave in their daily lives, and sign the country up for a social project nobody has any interest in participating in. “Just be normal,” that’s the battle cry of today’s politics; whoever comes closer to that maxim will win. Joe Biden was closer to normal in 2020; that’s why he won. The G.O.P. today, by simply being oppose to the professors and public health bureaucrats, is closer to that right now. Whoever is closer to that in 2024 will also win, and I think that person’s name is not Joe Biden.

Trump considers to run for President in 2024.